Thursday, December 19, 2013

Expat Interview #2: Claudia, Fashion & Design Buyer, Berlin

Here we go with another expat interview! I am so excited about this project and very happy that we are having a second interview in such a short time-frame, because there are so many interesting stories to tell, so many smart and brave expats out there, that I can't wait to meet and introduce to you.

Today I have the pleasure to interview Claudia, an Italian senior buyer who has been working in the fashion market for years, and is now into design in one of the coolest capitals of the world, the eclectic Berlin. We will be discussing the decline of fashion and street style. Don't miss this interview, she's a force of nature!


Hi Claudia, thanks for having this interview! Would you mind telling me a little bit about yourself?
My name is Claudia Caldara, I am 33, I come from Puglia, the deep South of Italy.I have a degree in Fashion Marketing and I have earned a Master in Marketing for Fashion Buying and Merchandising at the Ent-Art Polimoda Fashion School of Florence. I have always been fascinated by the fashion market and I believe fashion, art and food are all part of our Italian DNA.

You have been an expat in Berlin for almost 2 years, and you seem very happy about this choice! What do you love about this city?
The first time I visited Berlin I was on a short trip. It was the end of March, it was freezing compared to Italy, but I immediately fell in love with this city. Living here happened by chance, as almost all good things in your life. The impact with Berlin was strong, emotional, full of vitality. What got me so attached to the city is the incredible creative energy you can feel just by walking down its roads, talking to the many young people who came here from all over the world. Here I have friends of all different nationalities: French, Korean, Americans. Berlin is a young and cosmopolitan city.

There’s recently been a big wave of expats among young Italian professionals. How do you feel about that and what do you think draws so many people abroad?
The much debated crisis in Italy is a generational crisis. People my age and even a bit older - young adults - have inherited a system built by their parents and grandparents which have lately lost all its credibility. We migrate in search for a better life, a better future than that lying ahead in our home country.

Being a senior buyer both in the fashion and design field, of course you are a seasoned trend expert! Tell us a little about what’s trendy in Berlin.
Berlin holds a lucky spot, 'cause most of the new fashion and design trends come from Northern Europe, especially Scandinavia, and they all flow into the city, that welcomes them, cultivates them, and spreads them.
The fashion mood here is dominantly street-wear. Nike for example launches special make-up editions exclusively for the German market, which is a sign of the importance of this trend. Leader design websites such as Fab.com or Monoqi.com have their headquarters in Berlin. This all shows how fundamental it is to be in Berlin if you wish to make a statement in the fashion or design world.


Claudia and her previous team at Zalando, in Berlin

Do you think Italy is still a reference for style, like it used to be? What do you think are our strong and weak points? And which country is the current trend-setter?
Italy in the collective imagination is still viewed as the land of high quality. But it has two main problems. The first one is that we are not hatching any new creative talents. There was a dramatic halt where we stopped creating, daring, letting our creativity free, and this was our strong point in the fashion market, together with the unmatched quality of the products. And this brings us to the second problem: Italian products are manufactured in China, Portugal, Turkey, Romania. Nothing is left of the "Made in Italy".

I know you recently started working for an e-Commerce website selling Design items. Design is currently a big hit…do you think it is going to replace fashion?
I firmly believe design is the future. It is a consequence of the cultural revolution that is happening lately: you think less of external appearance - clothes, shoes, accessories - and more of making your home or workplace a unique, special, refined place. People look after products that are colorful, efficient and high-quality. Ikea is not satisfying people's needs anymore.

Do you think that your Italian origins have an influence over your buying choices and career? I mean, Italy is regarded as the Style Mecca and we are more likely to be fashion-aware than other countries are… Is this a valuable asset for you, or is it just a cliché?
Being Italian is what allowed me to get where I am. In Italy the education is excellent, and we have fashion (and food, and art) in our cultural DNA. It is part of our economical and cultural identity.

Tell me about your professional plans for the future: what are your goals and how do you wish to achieve them?
I actually prefer not to have specific goals anymore, especially in this period of my life. I prefer to enjoy the positive feeling and the vitality that come from the huge love I feel for my job. There is honestly nothing else I'd rather be doing.

Tell us about your roots. How do you feel about Italy and being Italian? What do you think of the current situation in the Bel Paese? And how do you think me, or you, or any other expat can help? I mean…some believe you have to stay if you want to help our country get better.
I feel deeply sad about the current situation in Italy, and like me all the other Italians abroad I spoke with. We've got the feeling that this is never going to change, as Italy is like a terminally ill. I can't help my country, I would not know how to help it, I can only bring with me the positive values that are part of being Italian. To make it worse, leaving Italy was not a choice for me, but a necessity in order to be able to live a normal life.

Do you think you will ever go back to Italy?
I don't know.

I have one last question for you… if you could turn back time, is there anything you would do differently?
Yes, I would leave earlier.

Thank you so much for your time Claudia, and for the outspokenness and transparency with which you discussed your thoughts on fashion, design, and Italy. Best of luck for everything, I hope we'll be able to do something together again in the future!


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