The perpetual student: Danilo Venturi

An interview with the director of Polimoda

Mary Gray
December 12, 2017 - 14:08

Florence-based fashion institute Polimoda is frequently cited in style world-strongholds such as Women’s Wear Daily, recently came to a new agreement with the Council of Fashion Designers of America and regularly piques the interest of VIP visitors during the Pitti Immagine fairs. Its industry clout makes one thing clear: this is no small-scale, purely Florence-focused school.

Founded by the Fashion Institute of Technology and Emilio Pucci, Polimoda has longstanding ties to the United States. Its star-spangled roots and relationships will take center stage at the school’s upcoming All Stars event on December 14, a rare, by-registration-only chance to celebrate on the exclusive campus. We caught up with Polimoda director Danilo Venturi to discuss his path to steering the influential institute, projects in the pipeline and, of course, the party.

 


Danilo Venturi at his desk | Image courtesy of Polimoda

 


The Florentine: You were a student at Polimoda before you became an instructor, eventually making the leap to Director. Tell us about that transition.

"My natural curiosity is what has and will always drive me to continue my quest for gathering new knowledge and information."

 

Danilo Venturi: Coming from an undergraduate degree in Political Sciences, and having had a few years of working experience in the field of radio broadcasting and as a music producer for fashion, I decided to pursue my masters degree at Polimoda. Before coming back for lecturing full-time, I worked at La Perla and have had a range of experiences in the industry. I was approached by Linda Loppa to develop what is now known as the Masters in Brand Management, Polimoda’s current cult course. Coming back to Polimoda felt like a very natural transition, as I wanted to share and add value to the learning of the next generation. Polimoda is unique in that it is human-centric and empathetic. We are more than just an institution; we are a family. This case can be seen in the fact that many of our professors are ex-students who have come back to share their industry experience and knowledge with students.

 

 

TF: Being in the fashion world, do you ever feel like a perpetual student?

 

DV: I think curiosity is a key characteristic for growth and transformation. My natural curiosity is what has and will always drive me to continue my quest for gathering new knowledge and information. In the world of fashion it is important to keep abreast of the fast and ever-constant changes that occur in the industry. The industry is impacted by socio-economic factors. It is important to have a holistic understanding of many more elements and industries outside of fashion, because it’s not only about garments. Fashion also has an influence in that it can be a force of power, therefore understanding sociology, psychology and politics, to name a few, is critical to gaining deeper insight into the factors at play in the systemic currency of the fashion industry. Lifelong learning is important in the self-motivated quest for knowledge.

 

 

Sara Kozlowski of the CFDA at a Polimoda Rendezvous | Image courtesy of Polimoda

 

 

TF: Polimoda recently established a new agreement with the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA). What does it entail, and what are your thoughts on how it will impact the school’s future?

 

DV: This is an incredible opportunity for students to partake in a programme led by Sara Kozlowski, Director of Education and Professional Development, who has been appointed to mentor the final-year students of the undergraduate course in Fashion Design. Over the course of the next year, she will mentor and lecture on crucial subjects such as Shaping the FutureDesign Thinking and Strategy Design. Senior Fashion Design students will benefit from her attentive supervision from project to runway, helping them catapult their ideas into viable futures. Through this collaboration, Polimoda wishes to further strengthen its long-standing relationship with the United States and is set on encouraging an ongoing exchange where Italian heritage and American know-how shape global-minded students. This mentorship program will culminate in Polimoda’s signature end-of-year Fashion Show. Thereafter students and graduates have the opportunity to participate in CFDA incubation projects. Above all, it’s a way to give our students new possibilities and perspectives.

 

 

TF: The new CFDA partnership is perfectly timed with the upcoming All Stars event on December 14. Apart from that agreement, what inspired the idea for the party?

 

DV: As mentioned in our invitation, Polimoda has a longstanding legacy of American heritage. We were founded by FIT {Fashion Institute of Technology} and Emilio Pucci, our new campus sits alongside the American Consulate, and we have a strong body of American lecturers, students and alumni. Taking into account that the event falls between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the festive season provides a fitting occasion to give thanks and to extend our appreciate for the past, present and future connection to American institutes, lecturers and students.

 

 

Crowds inside Villa Favard | Image courtesy of Polimoda

 

 

TF: There seems to be an urgent need these days—not just in fashion institutes—for interdisciplinary education. The All Stars event is not just about celebrating “fashion influencers” and industry figures, people from all fields and backgrounds are invited. Do you recognize an important connection between these two things?

 

DV: Now more than ever, you cannot look at one industry or job profile in isolation. We are living in an age of hybrid figures and hybrid job requirements; therefore naturally education needs to meet the peculiarities of modern industry. In Brand Management, for example, Photoshop and Excel are given the same weighting, as it is vitally important to have an equally strong understanding of both because there is no business to account if not out of a big picture. Having a holistic approach and skill set will only make you stronger and more competent in a global environment. If the current spirit of the time is chaos, then a deeper understanding of {varied} disciplines will help in order to make sense of different matters.

 

 

TF: At The Florentine, we’re still crazy about print publications and fine design, so we’re really curious about the launch of Polimoda’s Almanac. Why this project and why now?

 

DV: Actually the project started out of the necessity to create a printed catalogue that every university uses for presenting its programs and courses. But all fashion schools today offer more or less the same programs and what makes Polimoda different is our ability to produce content—that is why we decided to add a number of articles to the publication. Polimoda has close ties with the industry: our professors are working professionals who bring their experience and knowledge directly to our students, and we regularly invite fashion insiders to give guest lectures and workshops, so you will read pieces written together with industry professionals alongside more insightful and creative short essays on fashion, education and Florence. The visual part is also very important—almost all the imagery inside the Almanac was done by our photographer Federica Fioravanti and expresses Polimoda’s values—no staged photography or models, only real people in real environments. Moreover, the printed publication is also a way to connect to like-minded people, who consider fashion seriously and value quality of content over mere glamorous decoration.

 

 

TF: How does Florence as a city influence your vision as Polimoda’s director? Do you think it helps or hinders your international outlook?

 

DV: Both. However, in a positive way. Florence has a unique advantage of acting as a shelter to the rest of the world. This dream-like bubble distracts you, and in turn helps to shift your focus inward and towards your immediate surroundings. At the same time, there is a constant exchange of international energy and inspiration coming into the city. The culmination of internal and external influence helps to foster a balance in the dichotomy of creative and business, as well as local and international mindfulness. This makes me focus on what is important on a micro and macro level; concentrating on the immediate environment of students, while at the same time thinking of the link to the industry at large.

 

 

TF: Favorite hangouts or spots to take a break in Florence?

 

DV: I live in the area of San Frediano. As you may be aware, it was recently named one of the top ten coolest neighbourhoods in the world. This is where I tend to spend most of my free time outside of Polimoda. The area has managed to keep an aura of authenticity in a city that can fall prey to tourist traps. Here you will find original Tuscan style trattorias as well as Manhattan-style coffee shops. Elderly folk will meet on the benches in the same square where students listen to music and work on their laptops. The area is a paradox of sorts, and welcomes a diversity of people from different backgrounds and ages. This leads to a multitude of hangout spots, providing a constant variation of options, which is one of the reasons why I enjoy spending my time here.

 

 

Villa Favard, site of Polimoda's campus and All Stars party | Image courtesy of Polimoda

 

 

TF: Tell us why the All Stars event should be on our readers’ end-of-the-year event radar—even for those “uninitiated” into the fashion world.

 

DV: Part of our philosophy is based on the idea of unity and doing things together. We also strongly believe in collaboration and not competition, for this reason we would like to welcome readers to embrace the feeling of being part of the Polimoda family for an evening, to experience the essence of #polimodapeople. Our President Ferruccio Ferragamo will open with a speech to address the evening. Preceding this, there will also be a lecture in our Aula Magna by Jonathan Kyle Farmer on SHRINKing Fashion, for those who are interested in broadening their fashion perspective. Overall, the event emphasis aims to promote culture, collaboration and cheer. We would like to invite readers to come and experience the splendour of our world-famous villa, connect, network and simply just get into the holiday spirit by enjoying the great music and atmosphere on offer. We can’t wait to welcome a new season of international connections and see what 2018 has in store for Florence and Polimoda.

 

 

The Polimoda All Stars event is open to the public, but registration is mandatory. Book your spot now.

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