Make Every Moment Count
Are they ready?
PHOTO COURTESY & SPECIAL THANKS

Story by Mena Lombard & Alfonso de Hoyos-Acosta
Mario Braghieri & Istituto Marangoni Miami
Costa Rica Fashion Week
Miami Swim Week
Panama Fashion Week
República Dominicana Fashion Week

“Are they ready?” a masculine voice asks me. I look up from the shoe I am adjusting, and a guy wearing a headset and carrying a clipboard is looking at me. I smile at him while nodding, and he smiles back and says loudly, “let’s rock this!”. He turns around and starts walking at a fast and steady pace while I make sure we are all following him. Going through the impressive backstage at the Antigua Aduana in the city of San José de Costa Rica is mesmerizing, as dozens of people are getting ready for the other shows that will follow this one. The rush and excitement that invades the air are not only palpable but also something extraordinary to witness. We go past the makeup section, behind the video cameras, past the lights and sound controls, and finish at the tent where the setup for what is about to take place is shown in pretty polaroids, neatly organized and presented on a black-colored board that is as large as a window. Next to it is a woman talking into her headset and looking at a flat-screen TV. She holds her hand up and starts a countdown with her fingers. The show will begin in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1…

FROM LEFT TO RIGHT - Camila Ballesti. Juanita Gutierrez, Paloma Balvin, Michael Acierno and Amanda Prida Morales

The students from Istituto Marangoni Miami are opening the second day of Costa Rica Fashion Week, a runway that showcases designs from various Latin American fashion brands. Costa Rica is the fourth of seven different destinations of the “Miami Fashion Movement Tour,” where six current students from Istituto Marangoni Miami are traveling, as the rockstars they are, to different runways showcasing their creations on the best and most beautiful catwalks of the region. This tour kicked off in Miami during Swim Week and will finish in the summer of 2023 at Buenos Aires Fashion Week. Amanda, Camila, Juanita, Mariana, Michael, and Paloma average 24 in age and 100 in quality and creativity. They are sharp and accomplished, fun to be around, and are yet to graduate.

It is impressive to see the level of professionalism of these future designers. Even during the last seconds before the show begins, students make sure their models look spotless, checking every garment, every accessory, and every detail. They all have been shaped and modeled by the Marangoni name and its long and impeccable history. The mix of quality, creativity, and Italianness is evident in every garment in the lineup. Every design’s fit, attention to detail, and craftsmanship are truly remarkable.

Away from the tent and along the sides of this beautiful runway, the audience is sitting where they are supposed to be, regardless of their self-importance. There is a palpable buzz in the closed warm air as the dozens of bodies press together and lean forward, eager to be amazed or delightfully criticized. Then the music starts, and the models start flowing out like a river with occasional slashes of surprise and awe.

The students wait, hearts in their throats, for a reaction. Any reaction. As their last model returned, the backstage crew quickly pushed them away and instructed them to leave for the next designer to move in place. For all the soul-searching and organized terror, they described a euphoria when their show was over. They felt fulfilled and tingling with relief and pride.

Presenting at one runway show is stressful enough, with a multisensory experience of models, last-minute adjustments, and operational staff scrambling to keep to the schedule. So why would anyone sign up for a multi-country fashion tour? Same reason people climb the Everest, take a train across Europe, or cruise around the world. For the experience and the adventure.

And with the goals of experience and adventure in mind, Istituto Marangoni Miami put together this tour as another way to onboard its students into the real fashion designer’s life. This commitment begins at the very Istituto’s DNA, trickling down through every person holding a Marangoni badge. I have witnessed it firsthand from two of the school’s design instructors; Mario Braghieri and Mena Lombard. Watching them teach their students and being able to interact with them is to understand how deep these values run for everyone that holds, practices, and passes the Marangoni philosophy.

Fashion designers are an interesting breed; almost all describe that from the womb they were fascinated by sewing, cutting, or color coordinating. At the same time, others describe a more twisted and winding path that ultimately led them to fashion design. But there is a common thread that links them all. Fashion designers share an incandescent passion for art, design, and construction. One has only to glance at the reverential joy on their faces as they describe their creative process or aesthetic to understand that these people are different; they have a unique talent that sets them apart. They constantly look for ways to improve their work while their brains seem to stick to problems until they dream up a solution. Successful designers have a natural skill for pushing behavioral buttons to elicit desire and longing. They know how to delve into the infinitely complex, messy, and diverse layers that make up a human’s desire for beauty. And they work hard to present what they create on long, respected catwalks.

Such catwalks, a goal for every fashion designer out there, are glamorous, slow-paced, and beautifully choreographed. Behind the curtains, they are loud, fast, and unnerving; with an army of people working frantically to ensure the designs are presented exactly as the designer imagined. Behind the curtains, the glamor dims, and you see what is happening: You see the work.

I look away from the notes I am taking on my laptop and rest my eyes on the breathtaking views of this city’s skyline. I am currently on the 6th level of what is known as the “Miami School of Fashion,” the impressive building located at the heart of the Design District that is home to Istituto Marangoni Miami. This beautiful construction stands proud and elegant among the air of luxury and sophistication surrounding the area. The entire 6th floor is an impressive workshop where teachers and students are hard at work. Sewing machines in the back, a computer area next to it, and several white cutting tables are surrounded by beautifully dressed mannequins and carefully created mood boards. Since we are all back home from the last tour stop, I came to pay a visit to the students to talk about the learnings from the first half of this incredible experience.

When asked about it, the students reminisced funny anecdotes of frantic organization, last-minute changes, and heart-thumping confusion. Models trying on garments, peers and teachers making adjustments, hair stylists working fast with their brushes and curlers… They remember the moments before each show as a flurry of last-minute activity and madness—organized madness, but madness nonetheless.

Organization, keeping calm, and thinking ahead were the lessons that the students stated they learned best. At times the shows progressed as expected, even with the last-minute horrors. But other times, there were hitches of some sort. Sometimes models were late. Other times accessories would grow legs and get misplaced. Or a hem got ripped right before the runway. After this experience, these three lessons are now an inherent part of these students’ characters, and they show so much appreciation for them.

But more than that, what stuck with me the most was the mutual admiration and respect between instructors and students. In every iteration with all these future designers, at some point or another, they would express their gratitude for their teachers’ guidance, patience, and support. And those teachers were very keen to share not only the new goals they have in mind for every student but also their pride in their achievements. I can see how learning at Istituto Marangoni Miami is an experience unlike any other.

It is worldwide known that Istituto Marangoni’s mission is to shape the excellence of the future of fashion and design. The school is fully committed to giving its students the best education and the most opportunities, and this tour is a perfect example of that. Istituto Marangoni Miami produces professionals with experience and exposure as an important and impressive element of their resumes. The pledge to education and excellence that characterizes this fashion school goes beyond the runway. The fact that the students travel with their design teachers, who have mentored the development of these collections since their inception, illustrates it best. These instructors fully participate in the events, working backstage with their students, giving industry talks during the educational portions of each Fashion Week, and providing mentoring sessions to current designers. That is true passion, involvement, and commitment to the evolution of the fashion industry.

Amanda, Camila, Juanita, Mariana, Michael, and Paloma are now lucky enough to have experienced multiple runway shows filled with excitement and anxiety about what would unfold. They got the opportunity, denied to so many others, to see the lights go down, hear the music start beating, and their bodies shake with anticipation while asking themselves, “Will they like my clothes? Will they applaud?”. They have gone to gorgeous cities and created lasting friendships born because of this tour. They met people they would never have had the pleasure to meet had it not been for these trips. They had deep conversations leading them to question themselves and find new answers to what they represent as designers. Not bad for a fashion tour.

The next stop of the Miami Fashion Movement Tour is Guatemala Fashion Week. All six students have already started working on the additional looks they plan to showcase for the tour’s second half. And they are making them on top of the classes they are currently taking. These students are used to pushing the envelope because that is how Istituto Marangoni has shaped them. They want to keep themselves on top of the fashion game and know very well that Mario and Mena would not have it any other way. Amanda, Camila, Juanita, Mariana, Michael, and Paloma are very much aware of the fact that they are not only representing themselves but also the school that has given them the knowledge, tools, and opportunities to develop their ability and creativity. It is touching to see how proud they are to hold high the Marangoni name. And it is exciting to see how much they want this.

 

Are they ready?

They are the stars of the Miami Fashion Movement Tour. They are Marangoni students. Of course they are.

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