I had a friend invite me to go to the “Armani Silos,” yet I had no idea what it was. She said it was the first sunday of the month, so it was free. I couldn’t pass down free, plus it was a good excuse to get out of the house and take a break from studying.
The Armani Silos might as well be known as the Armani Museum. I had no idea what to expect, but I was awestruck. The first floor is a temporary exhibition that at the moment feature photos of athletes in armani sportswear. Most of these were olympic athletes in celebration of the recent Rio 2016 Summer Olympics. The floor was designed with the surface of a running track, even having painted lines to simulate the lanes.
Walking up the stairs we begin to see garments from past Giorgio Armani collections. They were some of the most exquisite, and well-crafted items I have ever seen in person. Most of them were beaded, a laborious task. They had gowns and outfits, accessories, and more from the fashion shows since the birth of the Armani Brand. Check out the gallery below to get a glimpse of what this showcase has to offer.
I came to Milan because it’s “The Fashion Capital of the World.” It’s where famous Italian designers and houses grew their reign, where inspiration meets innovation, and where craftsmanship is valued to great lengths. I take great appreciation in that people actually care about what they wear and while I can’t afford a lot of the clothing I see in the shops, nothing stops me from admiring through the windows like a child at the gelateria. Fashion wise, it is amazing how different Milan is from Austin, and from the US as a whole, in many more ways than I had thought.
I went to a fabric store in Milan, and it wasn’t quite what I wanted. The ones in the US let you stroll around and choose your fabric in private, letting you use your five senses to determine if it’s the right one for you. While waiting to get your fabric cut you can shop for needles, thread, embellishments and more. Here you tell them what fabric you want, for example jersey cotton, and they give you some options. Prints aren’t very common in these smaller fabric stores. You’d either have to find a larger store or get it custom-made. The fabric stores also don’t always sell other sewing supplies. You have to go to these “Asian dollar stores” or the supermarket for those. These “Asian dollar stores” usually have no name, but they sell just about every knick-knack you will need for cheap and they are always run by an Asian family, with everything sporting that “made in China” label. I miss getting to browse the large warehouse-like fabric stores in the US. I feel weird having someone watch me as I inspect and choose a fabric; I feel like I lose my inspiration and creativity under pressure.
Shops of Milan
I was at the Milan Centrale train station the other day to get my bus pass. The train station doubles as a mall and I decided to walk around and see what they had. Later I walked down a big pedestrian street with a lot of similar stores. I went in to compare. This one shop in particular, Tally Well, had a similar assortment of clothing in each store, but their prices and displays were a lot different. The train station was cheaper and had a warmer tone to all its clothing and displays. The Tally Well on the street had edgier clothing, with blacks and whites being in the middle of it all and kitschy t-shirts with graphics like “I love you / you’re problem”. The contrast of these two stores really explains a lot of Milan. The train station is safer; anyone can go in and feel like they can buy something; the atmosphere is inviting. The one on the street feels more Milanese; edgy, forward, powerful, and fashion fierce. It’s for people who are serious about fashion and they way they express themselves.
I met a guy on the tram. He lives outside of Milan but defined the city in a very simple way: “Milan is very expensive for the expressive person.” While a lot of clothes aren’t ridiculously priced, it still comes at a cost due to the fast fashion concept. Zara restocked every 2 weeks. That is people going in every two weeks to buy clothes to show they are the most fashionable of them all. But it doesn’t stop there. People in Milan want to look rich, but often aren’t. My Italian teacher explained it this way: “Men in Italy wear their pants low so you can see their Armani underwear waistband. They all want to show off, but 80%, if not more, of those are fakes. The purses you see on the street? Most of them are fakes. Italians want to look rich, but they don’t want to work.”
Walking the Fashion Quadrilateral
Next to the Duomo, the largest gothic cathedral in the world, is the Galleria. Built in 1865 to commemorate Italian unification, it features several pricey boutiques and restaurants. Here is where the very first Prada store was opened in 1913. All the shops in the galleria have the same lettering in their signs: Gold letters on a black background. Walk out of the galleria towards Via Montenapoleone and you’ll enter “The Fashion Quadrilateral.” You know you’ve reached it when Ferrari’s zoom past you like no big deal, and when there are security guards in front of every shop and building. Here is where flagship stores of every famous brand you can think of reside, Armani, Versace, Alexander McQueen, Gucci, and more. You’ll hardly see any price tags, but if you do, you probably can’t afford it. Some stores you have ring and then be buzzed in. Others have more employees than customers walking about, intimidating window shoppers from going in. Several haute couture fabric stores lay around, selling a meter of fabric for more than what your entire outfit is worth.
As intimidating as the price tags read, walking around the the fashion quadrilateral is an exciting and beautiful experience. Not only are the clothes and accessories beautifully designed and crafted, but their displays are made with just as much quality. I was excited to walk down Via Montenapoleone during Milan Fashion Week. Everything is buzzing, people are everywhere, and everything is sparkling with beauty.
The Everyday Dress Code
In America you might see a few people stand out or dress super stylish, with the rest of them wearing basic t-shirts and jeans. In Italy it is a bit different. T-shirts are can be seen around 20% of the time, but instead of a graphic tee you’ll see a nice blouse with a quiet print. Looking down this tram I can only spot one pair of bright sneakers, they’re not even Nikes, they’re Adidas. Looking around some more I notice the types of colors worn. Nothing is neon and nothing is bright, except for one outfit worn by a child. I see someone wearing black & white and conclude it is the brightest outfit on the tram. I see greens and reds and blues and more, but everything is a darker tone than what you would see back in the USA. The only exception may be some business casual shirts colored pastel blue.
I picture myself on a bus in Austin, what would I see people wearing there? A lot more burnt orange, a lot brighter colors, and a lot more t-shirts and “norts” (Nike shorts), etc. Comfort seems to be a lot more important in American vs. Style in Italy.
Italians are very prideful about their country, and when it comes to clothing, if it’s made in Italy, it has to be good. While a lot of their knock-offs may come from China, it still appears Italian thus they still feel patriotic towards their country. Italians take pride in the goods coming from their country and I think that is where a lot of their love for fashion stems from. I see women walking their dogs in stilettos down the street and I think, “Only in Milan.” Comfort is for within the home and style is for outside the home. I’ve been trying my best to keep up with the Milanese fashion, but alas I don’t have the budget or the closet space to keep up with their stylish fashion. In fact, I’m so behind that I don’t think I would have enough time to shop for even all the basics I would need in my wardrobe. I have 3 and a half months left to figure out the Milanese fashion culture, challenge accepted.
I went to an event at the start of fashion week by Italian clothing company, MaxMara. Their new line featured Gigi Hadid as their model and to promote the line they were having a “See Gigi” event at their flagship store. I decided to go with some friends just to see what was up.
The event was supposed to start at 6pm, but of course it didn’t. We spent almost another hour waiting on her arrival. The crowd kept growing, yelling at random times the way fan-girls tend to do. Everyone was pushing and shoving, but all we could see were what looked like executives or VIPs on the top balcony of the store.
Thing about this event was we weren’t even sure what “See Gigi” really meant. Would there be autographs? A meet and greet? Would she just say hi and show off some clothes? We didn’t want to leave because we already had invested so much time, so we stayed put, feet aching.
VIPs started showing up, more and more. Still no Gigi in site though. These VIPs kept taking our picture…. seemingly amazing that there was such a crowd. How dare you take our pictures while smirking in unbelief? I am not a zoo animal. I am not here for your entertainment. I am an average person that just wants to spot a celebrity, how dare you treat me like a peasant.
This is one thing that I’ve noticed about Milan that really bothers me. While something like that may happen in every city during fashion week, this feels almost normal here in Milan. The rich or well-dressed know they look good and they strut their stuff looking down on all the average folk. The wealthy here aren’t very kind. Their body language and attitude is one of, “I’m better than you.” Always. To be treated like a zoo animal is not fun and not cool.
6:48pm on the dot she finally showed up. She was on the store’s upper level waving and sparkling all around. She was dressed in a nude/beige bodysuit with nude/beige heels. Over her shoulders she had a full length gold sparkling trench coat that complemented her blonde hair fairly well. She waved, the crowd chanted her name, she blew a few kisses and then turned around.
Oh great Gigi, yes I know the back of your coat is sparkly, but I didn’t wait an hour to see where the hair on your head meets your neck.
She was taking photos with all those VIPs, who suddenly went from, “I’m better than the peasants,” to “Omg photo with a celeb!” The crowd was angered, they continuously chanted her name, begging for something more than just an air kiss. My group wasn’t very happy either. Sure we got our photo and proof that we saw her, but is this how the company is going to treat us? The model was late, the event was catered only for the wealthy, and Gigi was barely able to acknowledge the crowd.
I’m sure it isn’t her fault, she did try, but the company could definitely done a few things better to please their future customers (maybe not anymore) along with the likes of their clientele.
Kirken Korshær Genbrug; Translation: Church Army Recycling
European Thrift Shop with good prices. I wanted to mention this store specifically for anyone who is looking for cheap clothes in Copenhagen. I needed a jacket, but I didn’t want a nice jacket. I needed something cheap that wouldn’t hurt if it was lost or damaged.
I originally went to the Rødes Kors – Munufea, which is a thrift store owned by the “Red Cross.” They have several locations, but this one is somewhat bigger. There is a Rødes Kors a block or two away with only clothing, clothing which is nicer and higher priced. I found a few items at this Red Cross and bought them, but I thought I would give the Kirken a try.
I immediately noticed that the Kirken Korshær Genbrug had lower prices than the Rødes Kor. Most of the stuff was comparable quality or better. I found pants at the Rødes for minimum 50 kr, while I found pants at the Kirken for as low as 35 kr PLUS 50% off.
Address: Falkoner Alle 32, 2000 Frederiksberg, Denmark
What do I recommend you do while you’re in Copenhagen?
#1 thing: Bike the City This gives you a unique perspective of the city, all while exercising and feeling great (yay endorphins!). There are a lot of bikers here so remember a couple of rules: Use your hand signals to signal going right, left, or stopping.
Stay as far right in the bike lane as possible and only get on the left side to turn or pass someone.
Don’t turn right on red.
Don’t get into the street to make a left. Instead, cross the street and wait for the light to change to green going the cross direction.
I used the Bycyklen to bike around the city, it is a bike sharing system. I would suggest buying a monthly subscription only for 70 kr (~$10.75) and that gets you unlimited 30-minute bike rides. If you go over the 30 minute limit it charges you 6 k (~$1) per hour. If my ride was going to be over 30 minutes, I would just check my bike into a station to get the timer to reset and then take it out again and go alone. I like these bikes because they have an electric motor which help you bike, as the bike is quite clunky and heavy, and also because they have a screen that gives you information. It is connected to wifi and a service network and tells you where the nearest return stations are, how to navigate places, how long your trip has been. Don’t forget to cancel the monthly subscription after you leave Copenhagen.
Den blå planet – If you like looking at fish, this place is for you. This is the national Denmark Aquarium. The map makes it look rather large, but it’s a bit smaller than it looks. There were several presentations I attended throughout the day like a squid direction, and sea otter feeding. The only issue was the shows were conducted in Danish, so I asked a couple of questions in English afterwards. They had some Dory-fish and some nemo-fish , sharks and sea otters. I love aquariums so I still had fun, but there is only so much fun to be done when looking at fish alone. I would recommend going with your favorite fish buddy. Check out Den Blå Planet here.
Carlsberg -“Probably the best beer in the world.” This brewing company has been around since 1847 and is sold all over the world. Visit Carlsberg is a tourist spot featuring the original brewhouse. It talks about the history of Carlsberg beer and how beer is made. They have carriage rides and you get 2 free drinks with purchase. I paid 70 kr (~$10) as a student, but adult tickets are 85kr (~$12.75). Check it out here.
Tivoli Gardens – This is a beautiful amusement park. The rides are fun, but the atmosphere is what is so great about the park. They have several fountains, a duck pond, birds roaming around, a cute lawnmower roomba (dressed like a rabbit), and a bunch of restaurants for you to choose from. They have several free shows throughout the day, as well as having several paid concerts/events throughout the year (tiesto for instance played in march). For more on Tivoli check out my blog post and the official tivoli website. Entrance 80 kr (~$12). Unlimited rides pass 220 kr (~$33).
Copenhagen beach – If you’re lucky and you get a sunny day, check out Amager beach. It’s not the nicest beach, there’s some kelp, and the sand is on the darker side of yellow-beige, but if you like the beach it should make for a relaxing day. If it’s not nice out, don’t go. The atmosphere will be a little on the gloomy side. Don’t forget sunscreen!!
Eat a hot dog – Just do it. They are so good. Cost around 25 kr (~$3.80).
Canal tour – I didn’t learn that much on the ride, but it was a nice relaxing boat ride around the canal. Cost between 40 and 60 kr depending on the company you go with (~$6-9). Check out here.
Copenhagen Zoo – I hear there is a zoo. I didn’t go, but I’m sure it’s fun. They have over 3,000 animals, so a lot for you to look at. Check it out here.
How much does Copenhagen transit cost?
Copenhagen is rather expensive as a tourist. If you’re a local, you get perks and deals that make transit cheap for you. As a tourist though, transportation can be confusing and expensive. The city is divided up into zones and the price of your ticket depends on how many zones you are traveling through. I believe each zone is 12 kr (~$2) and the minimum is 2 zones. This cost adds up!! Which is why I recommend renting the bike and biking through the city.
How much does Copenhagen cost in other ways?
I stayed with a friend, so I saved on housing. Hostels cost around the average of $20-40 a night and a hotel may cost anywhere as low as $100 a night to an average of $250 per night.
We also bought a bunch of grocery and saved money on food. You’ll pay on average around 30-50 kr (~$5-8) on a lunch and at least 70 kr (~$10-11) for a decent dinner meal. We ordered domino’s delivery one night and payed almost 300 kr (we payed around $40) for 3 medium pizzas, 2 lava cakes, and delivery. This lasted me for 3 meals and him for 2 so that was a good deal.
What is Copenhagen culture like?
To be blunt: Very white. I would say between 85-90% of people there are white, and that is shocking! As an American (in Texas), I’m used to some diversity.
My grandma told me not to wear my short shorts in Europe, but I saw quite a few people dressed in some simple Jean shorts and a casual blouse of some sort. Athleisure-wear can be seen around Copenhagen, but a lot of people do bike in their business suits and work clothes. I would say they are more stylish and diverse in their fashion taste than Americans.
Hearing people speak Danish was a surprise to me. Of course I was expecting it, but I couldn’t imagine what it’s like to not understand everyone around me. Danish is a very harsh language with some very hard-to-pronounce words. I couldn’t even say the street names, so I ended up just making up an English equivalent to it. For example, the street Godthåbsvej, I called it “Gods thibby say.” Not correct at all, but it gave the street some meaning to me.
Danish food is quite bland. Coming from Texas where all we eat is tacos with salsa, the food wasn’t all too exciting. Danish pastries are delicious, although most sugary foods taste great to me. My favorite food in Denmark was definitely the hot dogs. I’ve mentioned them above, again I highly recommend eating hot dogs. If you’re vegan, find a vegan hot dog stand with a tofu dog. They exist I promise. We went to a Mexican restaurant one night and while the salsa had some kick to it, the food was still a little bit bland. Needed more peppers.
Danish alcohol, primarily Carlsberg and Tuboug (also owned by Carlsberg) are the popular “commercial” beers of the country. Unlike American “commercial” beers, these beers don’t suck, and actually taste rather nice.The drinking age is 16, but most places won’t serve alcohol to those under 18.