This week the announcement of the Pope resigning has stunned not only the Catholic Church, but all over the world. It has had a very positive impact on Italian television as well… finally they have stopped showing the hundreds of political interviews in advance of our elections, although here in London I am also spared! And I can enjoy the doors open in front of my desk for some fresh air and sunshine.

He used to say he didn’t like ruins. And truly his way of looking at cities was unique. He crisscrossed the globe finding the essence of the new urban landscapes from Milano, where his first photographs were taken, through Rome to Moscow;   Rio and Beirut… roofs, walls, buildings, streets, arches. A lover of the cities in all their diversity. Here in the picture a Berlin Swimming pool.

Alfa was the first “important” photographer I worked with, when I took my first steps into fashion, in 1968. We shared so many moments and emotions, as far as Africa, as close as around the corner.  His culture was boundless. Always surrounded by his books,  he would tell me stories behind stories, and teach me how to see his way. Since he passed away, I have always wanted to show

his work at the Gallery, and finally, because of the great archival work

done by his son Paolo, this is now possible. A wonderful show to see,

and a great catalogue to remember him has also been published. Thank you Alfa.

Alfa would often recall his first fashion shot. It was of a Land Rover in Florence in front of the Palazzo Strozzi, where all the fashion shows and events were held at the time.

He used to say it was Mirella Petteni on the Land Rover. Only she can say! Is it her?

The culture and humour of both of them is emblematic in this picture, where the contrast of the two worlds- fashion and street- meet in the Alfa Castaldi portrait of Anna Piaggi, all dressed up in front of a crashed car in London.

Stefano Boeri has announced this week the formation of the Association Anna Piaggi (a shot of her exhibition at Albert and Victoria Museum) as the starting point for the future Museum of Fashion, here in Milano.

We all have been dreaming of this for years. Grazie Mr. Boeri. Thank you for keeping your eye as much on the future of Milano, as the past.

Another great step for Milano would be to add a fashion school to the Museum of Fashion. A school not so much to explain creativity, but to teach the traditions of craftsmanship. To master the skills and encourage the artisan tradition for which Italy is praised all over the world in knitwear and well crafted leather shoes.

The London College of Fashion has a Cordwainer’s Department to teach shoe making. The name descends from Cordoba Spain, where leatherwork has always been prized.



Who is going to wear the red shoes next? It has been a tradition that the Pope wear red shoes since ancient Rome. During the Byzantine Empire only three people were allowed to wear red shoes during official events – The Emperor, The Empress, and The Pope. Benedict’s red shoes are made by Adriano Stefanelli, an artisan from Novara. He was the cordwainer also for Pope John Paul II.

Over 600 years ago, Celestino V resigned to bring peace to the Church, much as Benedict is resigning to bring new energy to the Church. It took two years then to find a new Pope, but today with the amazing times we are living in, and all the Cardinals emailing and texting each other, it should be less than a month for the decision.

Posted on: Sunday, February 17th, 2013

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