Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Milano: The Milanese (Part IV)

A city without its people is like a ravioli without the filling, like a pizza without topping, like a girl without pretty shoes! Milan, like any other metropolitan city has a mix of different kinds of people and cultures, but unlike other metropolitan city, there's a strange sort of homogeneity which is rather prevalant. Milan is probably the most international city in Italy, yet its foundation remains stubbornly Italian. If the cobbled streets don't remind you of where you are, the immaculately dressed, high-heeled, slim-waisted, stunner of a waitress definitely will!

People's Style

As I walk out of the metro at Piazza Duomo every day, my eyes dance around, prancing off and observing all those people who walk around me. Once overcome the grandness of the place, I steal a moment or two to notice those in my vicinity. Whether its the businessman in the chic Armani suit, or the little kid holding a big read baloon, whether its the skin-tight jeans wearing teenager, or the moderately dressed middle-aged woman carrying a Fendi bag...they all exude an obvious fashion sense, which i've never witness in any other city in the world! According to some statistics, (let's not be picky, I have NO idea where these stats come from!) an average earning Italian spends 40-45% of his/her income on clothes. I'd doubt this statistic anywhere else, but in Milan, this percentage seems to be just right!

I've learnt a lot about people's fashion on my gazillions of shopping trips with friends. Specially during the blessed sale times. As crazy as it might seem to me, spending 300 euros for Prada shoes seems to be quite acceptable here. I've gone roaming around Via Montenapoleone, the fashion Mecca, and have been absolutely dazzled by the displays, and the prices that accompany them. But to a Milanese, the 50% off tag is enough to go and purchase the most excuisite fashion accessories and garments. Oh, but don't be mistaken. The people I usually go shopping with are "poor" students, who thrive during sales. These branded fashion stores sell all year round, to the fashion-worshiping Milanese. Its us "poor" students who go buy 600 euro shoes at half price ( tsk tsk) or D&G jeans for 75% off ( sigh...).

Milan is home to some of the biggest fashion labels across the world. Names like Giorgio Armani, Benetton, Cavalli, Etro, Fendi, Salvatore Ferragamo, Gucci, Max Mara, Trussardi, Prada, and many more, are based here. I guess it's no wonder then, to see Fashion penetrating right down to the day-to-day wear of the Milanese. Walk into a Bocconi University classroom and this theory is instantaneously proven. From sunglasses to bags, from shoes to caps, from fur coats to low-cut jeans, everything is labelled! And these people would not have it any other way! Imagine my plight on the first day, when the girl sitting next to me was holding a Louis Vuitton bag, while I vehemently tried to hide my modest little jhola-bag bought from some godforsaken run-down shop on the streets of Delhi!

The Milanese Attitude

Eloquence seems to run in the air in this city, and the Milanese wear it with pride. Although accompanied by a genetic humility, they also hold a very obvious vanity in their demeanour. Two and a half years in the city has made me learn a considerable lot about the people, and their attitude sticks out like a shining sword.

Walking into a Bocconi classroom, again, once over the initial shock of the glaring brands, you tend to notice the behaviour of the people. There is a certain poise in the manner of speaking, it has a refined sound to it. Students being students, there is of course the general mocking and joking around, but still, somehow they even manage to be hooligans with some amount of style! I guess the Armani jeans and the Gucci shoes contribute to that....

Often known for their flamoyance and uhm, snobbery, the Milanese, like Italians from any other part of the country, are proud people and love to be what they are. They loudly criticize, happily drink and lovingly banter till they can scrape up energy. I feel, compared to other places in the country, the Milanese are a lot more open and accepting and willing to go international and let outsiders integrae with them. I admire them for their flexibility and the eagerness with which they want to expand out of their horizons.

The Milenese attitude is as infectious as the fashion sense, but heck, what do I have to fear? Can't hurt to be stylish, can it?

That's all for now....will come back with more snippets soon!


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