Some of the biggest fashion brands, design & fashion schools and world-famous embroidery workshops have put down roots at Porta Romana.
The IED (European Institute of Design) has set up house here. Inspired by the visionary concept of Francesco Morelli and founded in Milan in 1966, the IED perfectly fulfils the intention of its founder to be a new kind of school for the creative professions of design, fashion, visual arts and communication. The mission of the school is to train creative thinkers in a variety of different sectors, helping them to see design through an ethical prism, to acquire technical skills and embrace innovation. Today the IED has several branches all over town, including the one in via Sciesa. The numerous students (from Italy and abroad) have fun seeking out their own personal identity and contemporary style in the classroom or the lab.
A bit further on, visitors will be able to admire the Milan branch of the Academy of Costume & Fashion in via Fogazzaro. It is an industrial space enlivened with a stylish touch and is sub-branch of the famed Roman Academy founded in 1964.
Rosana Pistolese, a costume designer and fashion historian at the time, set up this renowned Institute. More than fifty years later in 2019, it was celebrated as one of the best fashion schools in the world. The Milan sub-branch in Porta Romana not only trains tomorrow’s fashion managers, but also prepares professionals for the communications sector and it offers 3 excellent master courses that focus on: sustainability, the music industry and communications.
Could a fashion school be far away from the general headquarters of a huge fashion house like Prada? The answer is no, of course. Enter 10,000 square metres of an old industrial estate acquired by the Prada Group in the year 2000.
There is a stark contrast between the idea of a luxe high-fashion brand and the rough-and-ready aesthetic of an early-twentieth-century industrial site: almost all the interiors are spartan with cement flooring and the plain appearance of an old warehouse. But this neutral unfussy background is perfect for all of Prada’s activities, including fashion shows, photo shoots, exhibitions and events.
But the neighbourhood of Porta Romana also houses another top player in the fashion industry.
The “Pino Grasso Ricami” (Pino Grasso Embroidery Workshop) is to be found in a quite ordinary building. The story of this atelier, which is recognised internationally for its levels of excellence, comes straight out of a book. It all goes back to the fifties when Pino Grasso from Milan dropped out of medical school and turned to embroidery work. Once he learnt the ropes in France, he opened his own embroidery workshop in Milan in 1967 and began to churn out some extraordinary artwork, capturing the attention of most of the big names on the Italian and international fashion landscape.
When you step inside his atelier, you enter a world of artisanal genius: it is fascinating to watch deft hands of embroiderers hunched over fabric breathe life into masterpieces which will be sent off the maison in question and elevate haute couture or prêt-à-porter collections.
The walls are hung with sketches and drawings of all sorts of dresses and photos of famous film stars who have worn their creations on the red carpet.
Today, the reins of the workshop are held by Pino Grasso’s daughter, Raffaella. The same high standards of quality and creativity have been maintained to ensure that the company stays afloat on an increasing fierce market competition in which production is often shifted elsewhere.
The bar must be kept high and Raffaella is convinced that specialised schools are a fundamental part of the embroidery sector too if the wealth of knowledge and consummate skill acquired over the decades working alongside the greatest designers is to be rationalised and passed down.
Her Pino Grasso Embroidery school is open to both beginners and pros. Courses are held on the atelier premises and participants will be taken on a fascinating journey through the world of embroidery, from drawing to punching and crochet, guided by teachers who also happen to be top embroiderers.