Florence Immersion – Fashion and Luxury MBA

AuthorMariana is a Fashion and Luxury MBA student set to graduate in May. Before coming to Stern, Mariana worked in a client service role, and managed her own team and account. Post-MBA, she would like to go into the luxury goods space. She is currently VP of flagship events at the Luxury and Retail Club, as well as a member of the board of the Latin American Business Association.

After three weeks of winter break, the Fashion and Luxury cohort met in Florence, Italy to kickstart what would be one of my favorite weeks of the MBA so far. I had previously been to Florence but had never witnessed it through the eyes of renowned companies in the fashion and luxury space. Not only did we learn about Florence’s rich history while visiting the Galerie Uffizi, but we also witnessed the magic that happens behind the scenes of luxury and fashion houses like Gucci, Brunello Cuccinelli, Benetti Yachts, and more. Every day, each visit surpassed the previous one. All I could think about throughout the trip was how privileged we were to live such experiences. 

Our first company visit was to Calzaturificio Stella, a third-generation family-owned shoe manufacturing facility. Here, renowned brands such as Aquazurra, YSL, Fendi, Jimmy Choo, and Maison Margiela entrust their footwear production. We witnessed the process of creating the shoes from their prototypes and samples to their development, assembly, and packaging. During this opportunity, we began to understand the importance of craftsmanship and how most of the work is still done by hand with some help from machines. Later that day, we also visited the Aquazurra and Panerai boutiques, immersed in their rich history and innovation within their respective industries. Additionally, our visit to the Santa Maria Novella perfumery provided insight into its remarkable lineage, which dates back to 1221. Here, we had the opportunity to sample their perfumes, further enriching our understanding of Florence’s rich cultural heritage and legacy of craftsmanship.












On the second day, we rode the bus for two hours to Solomeo and got a tour of the Brunello Cucinelli HQ offices. We got to see the design, commercial, and sample teams in action, gaining insight into the meticulous craftsmanship inherent in every garment and the detail that goes into them to ensure they are of the highest quality. We learned that Brunello Cucinelli fosters the craft of seamstresses and seamsters through a dedicated school for younger generations, where, once graduated, they can be employed in the company. This visit was one of the highlights of the trip, given the beautiful landscape of Umbria and the delicious lunch we were offered on the Brunello Cucinelli campus.

We also visited the Manteco factory, renowned for its wool manufacturing for many fashion houses like MiuMiu, Valentino, and Bottega Venetta, and other fashion brands like Zara and Mango. During our visit, we gained insights into their sustainability initiatives, witnessing firsthand their innovative wool recycling processes aimed at producing high-quality products at more accessible price points – I thought this was one of the most educational visits of the trip. Later that day, we visited the Gucci Artlab and Gucci Archives. Gucci Artlab particularly captivated me, as we saw all the Gucci creative prototypes for shoes and leather goods, showcasing the meticulous craftsmanship behind each design before they undergo final approval from the design team. The Gucci Archives in the Palazzo Settimanni were also fascinating as we saw pieces from the 1930s still in pristine condition. 

The next day, we visited Tivoli, which specializes in providing and manufacturing leather goods for many European fashion houses. We heard about their supply chain and service offerings from their CEO. We then commuted to the Ferragamo Archives, where we saw many of their historic shoes worn by celebrities and royal personalities for the past century. We also went to their Palazzo (Spini Feroni), where we heard from James Ferragamo himself and listened to how they managed to keep a successful family business for three generations. 

One of the last visits of the trip was to the Benetti Shipyards in Livorno; here, we had the chance to hear from their marketing director on how they have consistently stayed the #1 luxury yacht brand for the past 20+ years. We also got a shipyard tour and daydreamed as we witnessed these beautiful boats. We also visited the NYU campus and got a tour of the priceless artwork and beautiful campus gardens.

The last visit of the trip was to Castello di Verazzano winery in Chianti. The beautiful views from the Tuscan region lay the perfect landscape as we got to try several of their wines and eat a delicious feast to say goodbye to such an incredible journey. The tour guide even gave us all a small portion of grappa to try at the end, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Since this visit, I have only looked out for Chianti Classico wines in NYC. On the way back to the hotel, our cohort belted out songs for the hour-and-a-half trip back to Florence and went for gelato to close the trip. 

Needless to say, this was a memorable trip where our cohort bonded and had the privilege of visiting spectacular locations and witnessing the supply chain and manufacturing of such renowned companies with our own eyes. Throughout the trip, we knew that graduation was only a few months away and that we had to take advantage of this time we all had together. I wouldn’t change anything about this trip, especially not the moments I enjoyed with the cohort that now feels like family.