May 24, 2010

The Greatest Compliment of All

One of the tremendous advantages of living in a foreign city for an extended time is becoming fluent in the local language- and for me, one of my goals was to pass as “one of them”. This takes total immersion of mind and body, a good ear, the confidence to use new words and phrases every day, and the courage to try out and adopt the local accent. Forget speaking with an American accent. Train your ear, listen hard and repeat. Over and over again. Eventually what initially seems forced, becomes comfortable.

After graduate school in Florence, wanting to stay for a while, I worked for Macy’s . They had their own buying office in the city at the time, not far from Piazza San Marco. My friend Debbie and I were the “americanine”, the little American girls working there. We were so happy to have jobs in Florence, and did whatever was necessary in the office- we answered the phones- that job is called being the “centralino” or operator, we ran the telex room (any readers old enough to remember what that is?) we typed orders, and when American buyers came over from the States for trade shows, we travelled with them, translating and showing them around. And what perks- luxury hotels, fashion shows, shoe shows to die for- and I wore sample size!- Italian was my language, all day. It was heavenly.

After a while, reality set it, and I knew it was time to make a decision- like the old song says “Do I stay or do I go?” For a gazillion reasons, time to go-but with a heavy heart.

So I got on the plane, with eyes red and swollen from all the crying and all the goodbyes, with a pile of Italian fashion magazines in my bag, and I suppose after all this time, looking somewhat Italian.

A flight attendant came by offering candy, magazines, and newspapers. In Italian, she asked me if I wanted something to read, and in my heavy Florentine accent, I told her I had some magazines, but would like a newspaper, please.

And her response? “I’m sorry, they’re all in English.” And she walked on. What a compliment. Mission accomplished.

A presto.
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May 18, 2010

How do YOU buy online?

How do you buy merchandise online? Do you only buy things you’ve seen in stores and are just looking for a lower price? Do you have favorite sites where you’re sure to find what you need/want? Are you "just browsing?"

Young adults have told me that they don't really care about the look and feel of a site-- but for me, and I think for all of our clients here at Serena Italian Imports, it’s crucial. You all want to know us. Before buying from a new site, I always read About Us – just like going into a brick and mortar store, I need to have a feel- what is this place about? Who are these people? Can I trust them? Are they like me?

I buy as much as I can online- from shoes, to boots to thigh hi’s to body lotion. Sometimes I know exactly what I want, and other times, I have a general idea. Take Gianni Chiarini leather handbags for example- maybe you’ve seen a few in some department stores, and others online. You know the leather is soft and supple- but you’re not sure- it is the right size? Is the color well represented? We do the best we can to show you – and describe for you - our merchandise. I take chances online often. What’s the worst that can happen? And the rewards far exceed the risk.

So get to know from whom you are buying. We love letting you get to know us! You can always e-mail us or call us at 617-329-1439. Here’s a photo from our website kick-off party in December. The prosecco flowed and even the strictest dieters couldn’t resist the cake.

And tell us your own tips for shopping online, on our Facebook page discussion:

A presto.

May 10, 2010

Creating Elegance with Simplicity, Without Spending a Fortune

Elegance, fun and simplicity- they can go hand in hand- and very easily. One of the tips I learned from my years living and shopping in Italy is that lots of pieces that are in your closet right now, you probably don’t need. Less is more. When I worked for Macy’s buying office in Florence, sometimes Italian women would come to work a few days in a row wearing the same clothes- and they had slept at home! Can’t say I’ve ever dressed that way.

Italian homes are smaller, their closets are way smaller than ours and they know that some special accessories or a new leather handbag can add simple elegance. A pin, a shawl, a strong necklace or a pair of earrings can freshen up last year’s outfit – and give you a lift.

And keep your colors neutral- whatever neutral palette is best for you- is it black and grey? Is it brown and beige? I use my clothes as a background on which to add texture, a burst of color, a particular necklace that I love, a pair of boots- or even a special red lipstick that goes well with my coloring.

Please- don’t try to make your bag and shoes and necklace and scarf all matchy matchy- and wear just one or two special items at a time. Sometimes a bag and a scarf are all you need. That’s where the clean elegance comes in. Nonchalantly all put together.

So have fun dressing; life is too short not to. A presto.

May 4, 2010

My First Buying Day aka "What On Earth Am I Doing?"

In 2006 after what I thought was much planning and thought, I was off to Florence, on Mother’s Day, tearfully waving goodbye to my family at the airport. Feeling a bit bold, but mostly like a selfish mother and wife who was leaving her teenage children and husband to fend for themselves, I sat down in the waiting area, opened up my trusty journal and wrote to my heart’s content.

Thinking that I had to do this “Italian style” right from the start, I had decided to fly on Italy's national airline, Alitalia. In Milan, we were told there would be a slight delay in our connecting flight to Florence- well that delay turned into a cancellation of the flight, and instead, a six hour bus ride. I have no idea how a 3 hour ride could turn into 6, but it did. Great beginning.

The following morning I headed to my first stop, a silversmith whom I had met the prior year, and with whom I had exchanged several e-mails and lots of info. He had sent me prices, I had calculated all of my costs and was ready to place an order. Quite the business woman am I. Upon arrival, what became evident, was that the prices he had sent me didn’t include the price of the silver! They only included his labor! The silver cost fluctuates for him depending upon the market and thus fluctuates for his clients. So the final cost per item was going to be almost double what I had originally planned.

Nowadays, I’d say “thanks but no thanks”, walk out the door, and go have a cappuccino somewhere, but as this was my first stop, it felt like my entire identity hinged on this first placed order. So that’s what I did. Most of it has now been sold, and the silver is all very pretty and well made, but if anyone is looking for some sterling….

We now carry Sambonet stainless steel, with simple lines, very reasonably priced, that doesn’t have to be polished. Let us know what you think.

Early AM breakfast

View from room at Hotel degli Orafi