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What I Learned in Milan, the New York of Italy

Group of BBA students standing in front a church in Milan, Italy

This past Spring Break, I traveled to Milan, Italy, with my classmates as part of an immersive learning experience for our History, Culture, and Management of Luxury Brands course. 

We had the opportunity to visit many different companies and factories, such as the Associazione Italiana Commercio Estero; leather producer Linea Pelle; Maserati; Dolce & Gabbana, textile producer Mantero; Valentino, Milano Fashion Institute; and shoe producer Roveda 1955. It was interesting to hear from industry leaders about the rationale behind their decisions and how they correlated to our course lectures. 

The trip to Milan was a significant experience that exposed me to the world of luxury brands and allowed me to appreciate their purpose better. We talked a lot in class about luxury and craftsmanship and how an extensive background builds brand identity and attracts more people, but going to Milan made me realize there is a story behind every luxury good. Whether it is how the item was crafted, who crafted it, where it was crafted, or the historical significance of the particular piece, there is usually some outstanding purpose that draws people in.

Everything in the luxury industry is done with intention. For example, luxury brands limit their digital experiences to push customers to shop in person. At Dolce & Gabbana Casa, their team did an excellent job of describing the processes of creating goods and highlighting the exclusivity of their products to build up consumer desires.

A lot of what I learned in this course took place outside of the classroom. For example, I was surprised that Milan's unique culture has given it the title “the New York of Italy.” Most of the population living in Milan either were not born there or are the first generation of their family to live there, making for an exciting melting pot of fashion, design, food, and culture. One of the highlights of the trip was going to Chinatown. I’ve been to Chinatown in New York and Chicago because of my love for the cuisine, and it was surreal to see such a large-scale representation of a different culture within Milan. I’ve had the opportunity to travel to other places like the Caribbean and Africa, but I have never seen such a large display outside of the United States.

I originally came into this course with preconceived notions about the simplicity I thought existed within the luxury business world. Throughout our course readings and discussions, I was surprised to be exposed to such an intricate and complex system on which the luxury world operates. I have left this course with a newfound appreciation for luxury brands and their rich stories, diverse traditions, and strategies.