When I started my master, I thought I was really aware of what true luxury was. I closed my eyes and I saw Chanel, Dior, the jewelries in Place Vendome, the splendor of Via dei Condotti. I did not know that a gem of luxury craftsmanship was hiding in a picturesque courtyard of Florence.
In these months, I have learned that being show-off is the contrary of real luxury. The Scuola del Cuoio is such an élite place, only for leather connoisseurs, that it is hard even to find it. The location itself brings back to the glorious past of high level craftsmanship. Faithful to the concept of the Renaissance ‘Bottega dell’Arte’, the Scuola del Cuoio is located in a historical, frescoed palace close to Piazza Santa Croce. The see hosts the school, the boutique and the laboratory.
The strong boundary that connects the Scuola del Cuoio to its historical legacy began during the Renaissance, when the Medici family donated the friars of the Convento di Santa Croce the dormitory where the Scuola is now located. The dormitory was projected and built by Michelozzo and decorated by artists belonging to the school of Domenico Ghirlandaio. The friars took care of the dormitory for centuries, until the end of the Second World War.
By that time, one of the most pressing necessities of society was to provide the war orphans with working skills to make them independent. The friars decided to commend the dormitory to this noble scope and, together with two famous leather artisan families, the Gori and the Casini, they began the Scuola del Cuoio. Its humanitarian commitment is still alive, since the Scuola, with the help of the Italian Ministry, hosts re-educational programs for prisoners and offers scholarships for Third World countries students.
The Scuola del Cuoio had a large success. The finest quality of its products, combined with its social and humanitarian aim, made it one of the most emblematic excellencies of Made in Italy. Royal families, politicians, ambassadors and movie stars have visited the laboratory through the years and have bought the leather goods. Moreover, the most luxurious hotels in the world, the embassies and the high level firms keep asking for the exclusive 22 carats gold gilded objects, one of the specialties of the Scuola del Cuoio.
The Scuola is now managed by the three heir daughters of Marcello Gori, always connected with the friars of Santa Croce. During our visit to this unique place, we had the opportunity to meet Francesca Gori, the creative head of the family. She is mostly known for her handbag collection “Francesca’s Jewels”, the highest expression of luxury and originality. No industrial process is involved in the creation of these masterpieces, Francesca herself sits in the laboratory and sews each bag. Her philosophy is to create unique pieces, that means that it is impossible to find two identical bags in the whole world, unless the client specifically requires it. When we met her, she was working with an amazingly soft tangerine crocodile leather and an impressive calf turquoise one. She was about to complete the bag with a precious Sudan earring. The particularity of these bags is the fact that they are all completed with a jewelry item Francesca found during her travels.
Passion, uniqueness, tradition, quality, exclusivity. All these adjectives are not sufficient to express how enchanting the Scuola del Cuoio was. It made me really think of a hope for Italy, to always be the country of excellence and strong values.