Amsterdam

I was in Amsterdam the last weekend of January. The brisk, rainy weather was a shock to us all but we found ourselves dancing in the street at the beauty of it all anyways. We toured the Anne Frank house which was a somber, staggering piece of history. We also toured the Van Gogh museum which was my personal highlight. The paintings are beautifully displayed and his biography is told artfully through the displays of his distinctive periods.

After the Van Gogh, we did a sunset canal cruise. Seeing the city slowly light up from water-level was truly unforgettable. The vantage point was unbeatable and it was conveniently included with the museum ticket. Afterwards, we wandered around looking for food– the strategy? Following our noses. The street food in the Red Light district is delicious with wide varieties of frites, waffles, and sausages. The warm, hearty food tastes great in the cold winter weather.

I was fortunate enough to have traveled here with a large group of my friends so we decided to check out the nightlife. We went to various bars and techno clubs the first night. The second night, we wanted a more permanent venue so we bought tickets ahead of time to club NYX. There was multiple floors, which each featuring a unique DJ and music genre. The staff were helpful and friendly and we had a great time.

The people in Amsterdam were so helpful and much more patient with us tourists than in other areas we had visited. The weather was bleak but the beauty of the city was still not expunged, even by the constantly ominous clouds. The food was incredible and the warmth was always much appreciated.

Luxury Fashion & the Coronavirus

The fashion industry has been both an unsuspected victim and hero in the spread of the coronavirus across the globe. The coronavirus originated in Wuhan China in December of 2019 and then quickly spread to Italy by February of 2020. By March 7th, the entire country was placed on lockdown with trips outside being only permitted for necessary shopping or work purposes. The shows of Milan fashion week were in the precarious center, having been scheduled for February 18 – 24th. Many designers decided to proceed with their shows, not wanting potentially unnecessary precautions to ruin months of dedicated work. Giorgio Armani aired on the side of caution, electing to carry out the show inside of an empty theater to be recorded and posted online after. The Luis Vuitton group, LVMH, instructed its employees in Hong Kong and China to stay home from both Milan and the upcoming Paris fashion week shows. The closing awards ceremony scheduled for Sunday evening was canceled by the National Chamber of Italian Fashion along with the Monday market for emerging designers. The Lombardy region which Milan inhabitates, was placed into lockdown around the show’s closed doors as the numbers of cases rose hourly. 

As the coronavirus spread to Paris in late February, fashion houses preparing for scheduled shows faced the same difficult choice. On the first day of shows (Feb. 24) there were only 14 cases in France and by the March 3rd conclusion, there were over 200. The United States Louis Vuitton and Chanel communications teams were instructed to stay home. Various other guests also opted to stay home; 20-30 percent of media guests canceled on attending the week’s penultimate Lacoste show. The fashion directors for Saks Fifth Avenue and Bergdorf Goodman, as well as The New York Times reporting staff, left Paris before the week’s conclusion as swirling rumors spread increased panic alongside rising numbers. Meanwhile, Anna Wintour stayed in the quickly emptying city alongside other Condé Nast editors to discuss future steps. Most shows continued as planned despite decreased attendance but future shows have been postponed indefinitely including Dior’s May 9th cruise show in Puglia, Gucci’s May 18th cruise show in San Francisco, and Ralph Lauren’s April New York runway show. Every fashion brand has had events and orders affected worldwide as the reality shifts daily, the spread of disease propelling forth a new version of normal. 

The purchase orders that are normally made following the debut of collections at fashion week have suffered as human interaction has been increasingly discouraged in favor of safety. This compounds the manufacturing problem initiated at the onset of the coronavirus since Chinese manufacturing companies went into stand-still as lockdown procedures were implemented. This left brands struggling to fulfill orders and meet demands. Now that many Chinese employees have returned to work, however, they find their orders canceled as their buyers now face the same economic constraints of lockdowns in their own countries. Customs closures and delayed payments prevent delivery of goods as this complete reversal shows companies who begged China for goods only a few weeks ago now turning down their orders due to decreased cash flow. The large scale economic effects of this disruption of supply chain and subsequent decline in external demand are poised to change Chinese manufacturing permanently. 

The fashion industry is a front-runner to suffer the consequences of this economic upheaval due to China’s strong participation in the purchase of luxury goods. Since January, luxury boutique storefronts have been closed in mainland China, closing the world’s largest luxury marketplace (according to “South China Morning Post”). Last year, Chinese buyers made up 40% of luxury good sales worldwide according to Jefferies Group investment bank. In addition to this already existing dominance over the market, they are also the fastest-growing luxury shopper demographic, creating increases in sales year over year. Fears of racism and disease have now kept these shoppers home, creating rippling effects throughout the larger luxury fashion industry. 

Many luxury fashion houses have already pivoted their resources to better serve consumers in this time of pandemic. LVMH group, L’Oréal and Estée Lauder have commandeered their manufacturing plants to make hand sanitizer. Meanwhile, Prada, Christian Siriano, and Chanel have charged their factories with producing face masks and hospital gowns. In an unexpected twist, nurses on the front lines may find themselves wearing custom-made designer gowns. Their altruistic efforts will be undoubtedly remembered at the end of this tumultuous time. The luxury fashion industry is just one of many facets irrevocably affected by the coronavirus, and designers are being forced to pivot and expand. Old ways no longer work and this disease has revealed long-hidden cracks in a structure previously presumed to be concrete. These losses in revenues will force brands to contemplate the future of fashion and how to develop a sustainable structure in which all demographics feel represented and protected.

Sunset with a grain of salt

One of the best things to do in Rome is walk from the Colosseum to the Piazza Venezia at dusk.

Though the beauty of the walk must also be taken with remembrance of the Via dell’Impero’s violent history. The road was constructed under Mussolini’s command in 1932, just seven years before he signed the Pact of Steel with Adolf Hitler. The road was symbolic of the Fascist regime’s self-proclaimed connection to ancient Rome. This tie was illustrated throughout the city on propaganda posters in an attempt to unify the Italian people. Mussolini sought legitimacy for his newborn ideology through suggesting it was the natural descent of the Roman empire. He paralleled himself to Caesar and Augustus and rallied the people in the hopes of returning lost riches to a fallen nation.

Despite Mussolini’s claimed reverence for history, the construction of this road lead to the demolition of many ancient churches and parts of the Roman forum, as well as many tenement buildings– displaying thousands. The road additionally negatively contributes further to Rome’s chaotic and tangled traffic routes. The road begins at the Colosseum and ends at the Piazza Venezia, the symbolic center for Fascist power during WWII.

The beauty of this view is undoubtably tarnished by its dark history but cannot be completely eclipsed, especially when looking out over the Roman Forum with Palentine Hill rising against the setting sun. Fortunately, these ancient sights still remain to be appreciated today; despite Mussolini’s widespread destruction and terror.

 

My sunset walk through a small handful of photos:

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Heading the Piazza Venezia is the Victor Emmanuel Monument which holds the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. This monument celebrates the king who gave the city to Mussolini who later gave the city to Nazi forces, murdering over 8,000 Italian Jewish people. It is difficult to stand in awe of these places while knowing what they stand for and the people who suffered as consequence. Rome is an ancient history that has seen Emperors, Kings, death, innovation, defeat and conquest. Mindful thought must always be taken when you are surrounded constantly by thousands of years of conflict and visual history. While never excusing or applauding the atrocities that took place under Mussolini’s rule, it is still pleasant to appreciate the sunset from the top of Piazza Venezia as the Italian walls that have seen it all soak in the luscious last rays of sun.

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Trastevere, Roma

On January 6th I moved to Rome for a study abroad program with three of my closest friends. Our seven person, tiny Italian apartment was in the heart of Trastevere on the West bank of the Tiber River. The neighborhood has a rich history having first been populated by fishermen and migrant communities– it’s peripheral proximity to the heart of the ancient city making it an ideal melting pot for rich communal ties to bloom. Away from the tourist center, Trastevere bolsters hearty supplies of traditional Roman cuisine: suppli, trapizzini, cacio e pepe, and fried artichoke are among my favorites.

 

Each morning we took the tram over the Tiber and got off just before Pizza Venezia. We then walked through the alleyways North towards campus. The cobblestones are ancient and uneven and due to Roman reluctance to pick up after their (adorable) dogs, you always have to watch your step. We walked past boutiques, mini-marts, art studios and restaurants while trying to avoid getting hit by speeding mopeds. Right before we would exit out of the cramped alleys onto the large street that lead to school, we would cross through the Piazza Campo di’ Fiori.

This Piazza hosts a daily open market selling everything from flowers, dish towels, assorted balsamic vinegars, fresh fruit and spices. The name translates to “field of flowers,” the market filling the square daily with that precise image. The salesmen are quite aggressive and when paired with the restaurant salespeople pacing the piazza perimeter, it can be too overwhelming to actually delve in amongst the tents. Throughout our time living here though, we made friends with some of the regulars and they began to recognize us each morning and afternoon on our walks to and from school. Once our appeal of “newness” had worn off, the harassment eased as well.

Just down the street from school is Piazza Navona (left) and the Pantheon (right). During a gap in between classes I would sometimes walk over with my lunch to sit and people watch in the sun. It is mind-boggling how something so massive and ancient could be so undisturbed and yet completely incorporated into the everyday routine of modern life.