It was all smiles and laughter last week when Costanza Menchi and Cañada students got together for a reunion celebration. Costanza, a fashion historian specializing in Italian fashion, has been our guide for the Study Abroad in Italy course the past three years. Costanza’s warm and engaging personality make her informative lectures and tours a true pleasure. And being a Florence native, Costanza has many long-standing relationships with local craftspeople and fashion experts of all sorts.

Costanza was also able to visit the Cañada campus—including the fashion department—during her stay. “I was very impressed with the classrooms, the facilities,” she reports.

Cañada faculty members Kathleen Lorist and Ronda Chaney, together with Costanza, listen to happy memories and funny stories from the students.
Costanza apologized for her tendency to be long-winded. Costanza: We loved hearing you talk, especially with that charming Italian accent of yours!

Costanza explains that the big fashion brands in Italy (think Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana, Ferragamo and the like) are having difficulty finding young people who have the kinds of skills necessary for higher end, expertly made clothing, footwear and accessories. The remaining artisans are nearing retirement age, and their skills are in danger of being lost. Meanwhile a sluggish Italian economy makes it difficult for young Italians to land the kinds of design or managerial jobs they envisioned while in fashion school. Costanza is working to create a nexus between the companies’ need for younger, skilled craftspeople and Millenials who need jobs.

Luckily there is hope. “There is a rebirth—a renaissance—of the little atelier and studio right now,” Costanza observes. “There is a new generation of artistans who are combining the old traditions with new technologies.” She also reflects, “Ten to 15 years ago, students couldn’t relate when I talked about craftsmanship. It wasn’t cool or interesting to them. Now it’s cool.”

Thank you to Sally-Ann Rudd and her family for hosting the party at their lovely home!

Sally-Ann accepts a handcrafted gift, made by an Italian artisan, from Costanza.

And thank you, Costanza, for serving as our guide in Italy for the past three years. We would be lost without you … literally!