Urbino’s culture is revealed through its fashions
Upon arriving in Urbino, I take a seat in the Piazza della Repubblica. The piazza truly is the hub of the town, and the perfect place to people-watch. My first impression of this small town is the quaint, slower-paced vibe compared to that of its more well-known neighbors. As I continue to watch people pass by, I feel as if I am witnessing a fashion show right before my eyes.
The people I see don’t exude the stereotypical “high-fashion” look one would expect from Milan, Italy’s fashion capital. Or even that of Florence, with its bustling city full of art and high-end designers all represented on the same street. Urbino has a distinct style, impressive not for its prestige or how expensive it is, but for its relaxed and innovative feel.
While the late morning light shines down on the cobblestoned streets, I can’t help but notice a young woman strolling toward me. My first thought when I see her is how effortlessly cool she looks, wearing a white T-shirt with embroidered floral detail on the shoulder and black pinstriped trousers. In no apparent rush, she and her friends sit down at the table next to mine and order beers. It’s about 11 a.m., but in Italy, time doesn’t seem to matter all that much. She sips her beer, crosses her legs, and sways a foot that sports a Nike sneaker.
“Excuse me,” I say, holding up my camera. “I love your outfit. Can I take some photos of it?”
“Si, si!” she responds sweetly, light bouncing off her sunglasses. “I am Luana.”
A true natural, Luana Nacci poses and gives me her email address so that she can update her Facebook picture.
“The style here is very….” She pauses, trying to think of the English word. “Relaxed!” I can’t help but think that is the perfect way to describe Nacci herself.
And so begins my study of the fashion and lifestyle of the Urbinate.
For the next few days, I make my way around town and snap photos of every intriguing outfit that crosses my line of sight. The variety is vast, but the common theme is that of creativity and individuality. Wide-legged pants, T-shirts, sneakers, denim, sunglasses. I see simple pieces, but nobody looks the same.
There is an array of vintage-inspired looks that pass by. People seem to be experts in modernizing a look that is in touch with the past. The question is, Where do they get the clothes?
Then I am led to my first shop. Straying away from the piazza for a minute, I stroll along Via Bramante and am drawn into a small vintage-clothing shop.
Rita Farroni, the owner of Old Garage Vintage, has a blonde pixie cut, blue eye shadow, and a scarf around her neck. She warmly invites me inside the cozy shop, and I am greeted by shelves of denim and walls adorned with well-loved leather jackets. Stacks of T-shirts are everywhere. I already see items that are very similar to what I see on the street.
Farroni says that the young people in the town enjoy dressing to express their individuality, which influences the town’s overall style, and certainly drives what she supplies in her store.
“What I have observed,” Farroni says, “is that everybody—especially the students—has their own look.” They don’t seem to be afraid of setting themselves apart.
Farroni, who lives outside Urbino in Monte Calende, chose to open her shop in Urbino because of the students. “Students like vintage clothes,” she explains. “My most popular items are denim, leather jackets, and T-shirts, but the style is always changing.”
As I browse through her assortment of denim, she tells me that most of her clothes, particularly the denim, are imported from the United States. She gestures to the American flag hanging on the wall, a dedication to the birthplace of the clothing she sells.
I am surprised. If the clothes in this store come from the U.S., why does everybody here seem to dress so much better than Americans?
The answer comes soon after I depart the store, a pair of jeans in hand. I stumble upon a young woman leaning casually against a pillar in the piazza, phone in one hand and a cigarette in the other. She is wearing an obviously American T-shirt that says, “We React.” But her outfit doesn’t look the least bit American.
Her T-shirt is accompanied by a gray skirt that falls just past her knees, followed by a pair of white sneakers. Her hair is tied half up in a topknot, and she accessorizes with a beaded necklace and a pair of black sunglasses. Her look is feminine but tough, and leisurely at the same time. Her look is very Urbino.
An array of vintage-inspired looks pass by. People seem to be experts in modernizing a look that is in touch with the past. The question is, Where do they get the clothes?
Her name is Eliza Cavalli, and, when I ask her about her outfit and the style of Urbino’s young people, she echoes what Farroni said.
“I think the people here can just make a look their own,” Cavalli says. And she surely does so.
“Ciao,” she says and smiles as she lifts her camo satchel over her shoulder. This draws my attention to another staple in the wardrobe of an Urbinata.
As students fill the streets between classes, I notice a different bag on each person’s back. Like Cavalli, each student uses this mundane item as an opportunity to throw in her personal touch. Among many different shapes and shades, I see black leather, metallic silver, bright pink, classic brown.
There is one print I see around that looks especially familiar. When I pass by the windows of the Piero Guidi boutique, I find what I have been looking for.
Piero Guidi is a brand of luxury handbags that originated here in Urbino. Guidi’s creative line pinpoints both Urbino’s artistic side and its fashionable side. His signature design is entitled “Magic Circus,” a print that consists of multicolored acrobats, dancers, animals, stars, and flowers.
I step onto the polished floors of the Piero Guidi boutique and am greeted by an assortment of color and class.
“Buongiorno,” the saleswoman says to me through red lipstick that matches the bags around her.
Letting my eyes wander from shelf to shelf, I am mesmerized by the life I see reflected in each of Guidi’s designs. I see all kinds of styles, including the backpacks I have spotted on the shoulders of students around town. I decide to bring one home.
I walk out of the shop with a small wristlet bag in Guidi’s “Magic Circus” design, pleased to have another tiny piece of this town to integrate into my wardrobe.
The next day, I am in the piazza again. Now, this part of town has become my source of inspiration, a new substitute for fashion magazines and Pinterest.
One girl in particular catches my eye. Her sunglasses reflect gold, perfectly matching her platform sandals. Her black culotte pants flap in the wind and her plain white shirt seems to have taken no effort to throw on.
When I stop to tell her how much I love her outfit, she seems humbly flattered.
“Thank you,” she says with a soft laugh. She tells me her name is Eirini Tsakiroglou, and she is a student at the University of Urbino.
“I am so curious as to where the incredible style of the students here comes from,” I tell her. “Where do you like to shop?”
The Piazza Boutique on Via Mazzini, she answers. “I like classic clothes combined with more fashionable clothes,” she explains. “The style of students in Urbino is very simple compared to most of Italy’s fashion.”
Now I get it.
Simple style for a simple place. Laid-back clothes for laid-back people who value sitting down for espresso more than being in a rush. This is what makes Urbino such a gem, and this is what makes the style of its inhabitants a treasure.
Taking a cue from Tsakiroglou, I walk toward Via Mazzini, ready to explore another corner of Urbino’s surprising world of fashion.
This article also appears in Urbino Now magazine’s Urbino Centro section. You can read all the magazine articles in print by ordering a copy from MagCloud.