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I’m standing in a gravel parking lot outside of a palace awaiting a billionaire. He pulls in minutes later, parks his car and steps out with that huge, genuine smile I’ve come to know well enough.

Buonasera!” He calls as he gets out of his car, asking how I’ve been, commenting on how the rainy weather has finally cleared and what a beautiful day it is. The last time I saw him was just a few weeks ago as we crossed ways on our bikes along the Arno. Dapper in a full suit, he had chimed his bell as we passed each other, calling out “ciao’s” over the bustle of the center of Florence.

I chat with him as we walk into the museum. He is the special guest of the ceremony I’ve helped put together for my students from New York. For them, this man is everything they want to be. He is their image of success (well, kinda, more his Dad, Salvatore, but it’s fine). But for me, Ferruccio Ferragamo is just another friendly Florentine – maybe just with a much nicer pair of shoes.

My days “mingling” with the fashion icons of the world. They ended the last time I walked out of the frescoed palace on the river that hosts one of the top fashion schools in the world and was also the office for my “fashion” job for three years. I say it in quotes because I honestly had and have no idea about fashion in the grand sense of the world, and the three years that I learned about it certainly did make a mark on me. I now understand the worth of good-quality fabric, for example, and hate fast fashion as much as any fashion-forward person in the know. I’ll probably write about these things later, at some point. But some things in the fashion industry still escapes me. It’s weeks like these that remind me.

This week the Pitti Fashion Show is in the city, taking up every beautiful place and having fancy parties for only the select few. Men strut around like peacocks in heavy layered suits with bright colors, hats, leather shoes, and (because…fashion) no socks. It is ninety degrees out and you are walking around a city built of stone. This is not fashion. This is crazy. The attitude that infests the streets when Pitti is in town is nauseating. Everything is “exclusive.” Expensive. It’s a show of “wealth” that the Medici would’ve admired, but it’s the toxic “better than you” stance that so many Pitti people and the fashion industry in general have, that exhaust me. Clothes shouldn’t make you look down on others. Exclusivity is terrible.

One of the billionaires of the industry rides a bike to his office. He talks like he lives next door and wants to know how your tomato plants are doing. If he can seem like a human even if he owns half of Tuscany, (that’s an exaggeration…but only kinda) then the people that just work “in fashion” should be a bit more humble too.

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