Eun Young Park (Rei)[/FONT]
BY MELINDA GALLO (ISSUE NO. 122/2010 / MAY 6, 2010)
A fashion designer with an atelier in Florence
Originally from South Korea, Eun Young Park (Rei), lived in Japan and England for many years before ending up in Florence. When she was 10 years old, her father moved the family to Tokyo for five years. She was enrolled in Japanese schools and had to learn Japanese quickly in order to keep up in her classes. After returning to Korea, she studied Japanese language and culture at the Hankuk University of Foreign Studies in South Korea. Rei didn’t follow her dream of becoming a fashion designer until after she completed a bachelor of arts degree. She enrolled in Hong Ik University and obtained a master’s in fashion design.
With her diplomas in hand, she moved back to Tokyo, where she started working as a fashion designer for a company making clothes for teenagers. Then she found a job with a prestigious Japanese company, designing outfits for professional dancers. Rei was finally living her dream working as a fashion designer in Japan, but after working up the ladder, she felt there was a down side: the hours were strenuous. Even though she loved her job, she couldn’t keep up the pace of working every day from 10am to 5am.
Rei thought that maybe she should branch out again and learn English. She applied to language schools in the United States and England, and was accepted into a program in London. With a good handle on the language, she studied fashion design at Central Saint Martins College in London. She stayed in London and worked for Vivienne Westwood, where she helped out in the design studio. In her spare time, Rei continued working on her own designs, sewing her creations herself.
While further developing her own designs at the University of Westminster, Rei came to Italy on vacation, bringing a few samples with her. She had liked Florence immediately because it was a small city with an international flair. She walked around Florence’s downtown area and soon found three shops that agreed to sell her designs for her. She began traveling between London and Florence, each time bringing more of her pieces to sell.
In 2001, Rei decided to move to Florence to work as an independent fashion designer. With this move, she was forced to learn yet another language. While she studied Italian, she worked in sales for a women’s clothing store in Florence and continued designing in her free time.
Just two years later, Rei opened an atelier near Santa Croce, in via Palmieri 22r, where she designs, sews and sells her own line of clothing. She specializes in tops, skirts and dresses, and makes custom pieces based on her designs. The Florentine woman, Rei noticed, always wants to look her best no matter what age or size. She finds that they generally accentuate their positive qualities instead of hiding the negative ones.
After having had experiences in different countries, Rei claims that her work in Florence is the most fulfilling because of the freedom she has to express herself. She doubts she would have been able to start and maintain a similar atelier in Japan, England or Korea because of the strong work ethic and greater pressures for success. In Florence, she is able to keep her life more balanced, thus allowing greater creativity in her designs and more joy in her life.
BY MELINDA GALLO (ISSUE NO. 102/2009 / MAY 21, 2009)
Spreading the word about the flavors of Florence
Florence is home to many expats: those who have longed to live here, those who have found love and moved here, and those who have come to Florence and felt immediately at home here. Many people arrive here at a point in their lives when they seek to redefine themselves: whether they were not completely happy, were searching for something new, or were looking for love, it seems that those who come to Florence are reborn. Florence will always be the cradle of the Renaissancee for the art world, but it also welcomes people of all walks of life who are seeking to follow their hearts.
Grace Joh never would have imagined that taking an Italian cinema class would lead her to live in Florence. Because she wanted to understand the Italian movie C’eravamo tanto amati without the subtitles, she decided to enroll in an Italian class while studying at UC Berkeley. She ended up enjoying Italian so much that she decided to minor in it, graduating in 2005 with a major in journalism.
While studying in Berkeley, she had been exposed to many different ethnic cuisines, which in turn piqued her interest in baking and making pastries. She wanted to experience living abroad for a year before beginning her career because she felt it could be beneficial for her as a journalist. She chose to attend the yearlong baking and pastry program at Apicius International School of Hospitality (www.apicius.it) in Florence.
Grace chose Apicius mainly because it was in Italy. She had visited Florence once while touring Europe, but didn’t know anything about the city or even if she’d enjoy living here. Like many people, she associated Italy with good food, a healthy lifestyle and fashion. She had no expectations about what life would be like in Florence and was surprised when she realized how at home she felt here. At first, she lived with other foreign students and then later shared an apartment with a few Italians who exposed her to a multifaceted view of Italy and Florence.
After she completed the program, Apicius asked Grace to stay on and work for the school. She started out in the Communication department and, after two years, has been promoted to the position of instructor and publications coordinator. She now teaches classes in food communication and journalism, and she coordinates the operations of Apicius’ Ingorda di Florence Campus Editore. With another colleague, she oversees the publication, PR, marketing and sales of cooking-related books. Some of the latest titles that she has worked on are The Four Seasons of the Tuscan Table, Innovations: New Appetites in the Tuscan Kitchen and Aper-tivi…amo.
As if a full-time job wasn’t enough for Grace, she is also working on a master’s degree in institutional publicity, multimedia communication and event-planning through the Department of Letters at the Università degli Studi di Firenze. She is writing her thesis about Apicius’ annual dinner at the James Beard Foundation, which presents the flavors of Florence, both contemporary and traditional, to New York City.
Although Grace never planned to live in Florence, this native Californian now considers it her second home, a place where life has presented her with a unique opportunity that has taken her down an exciting new path.
BY MELINDA GALLO (ISSUE NO. 115/2009 / JANUARY 28, 2010)
Welcoming guests to Florence
Florence is home to many expats: those who have longed to live here, those who have found love and moved here, and those who have come to Florence and felt immediately at home here. Many people arrive here at a point in their lives when they seek to redefine themselves: whether they were not completely happy, were searching for something new, or were looking for love, it seems that those who come to Florence are reborn. Florence will always be the ‘cradle of the Renaissance’ for the art world, but it also welcomes people of all walks of life who are seeking to follow their hearts.
Born in Japan, Atsuko Kato decided to move to Italy after taking a family vacation to Europe in 1992. During that trip, she visited Venice and Milan, but not Florence. Yet within three years, she was studying hotel management at a school in Florence.
Even though Atsuko studied American literature at university in Japan, her plan was to work as a hotel receptionist. After telling her boss in Tokyo that she would like to one day teach hospitality, he placed her in a training job almost immediately, even though she had hoped to continue working in reception for a few more years before teaching others.
While working in Tokyo, Atsuko made a few steps toward her dream of living in Italy: she studied Italian in her free time and applied to the Istituto Internazionale di Scienze Turistiche in Florence to earn a hotel management diploma, which would give her the necessary credentials to work in Italy.
After the first few days at school, Atsuko was disappointed that she didn’t understand more of what was being said in her classes. She considered dropping out and attending an Italian language school instead, but then she came up with the idea of bringing a tape recorder to school to record the lectures. Every evening, after she returned from school, she listened to her recordings and jotted down notes. Within six months, her Italian improved greatly and she was able to understand her classes much better.
Upon graduating two years later, she found a job as the hotel receptionist at a family-owned four-star hotel in Florence. After a year, she was approached by the Excelsior Hotel, where she had done her first tirocinio (internship) a few years earlier. Hired to work in reception, she remained for eight years. In 2007, Atsuko was approached by Villa La Vedetta to become the events manager as well as the front office manager.
Last year, she was hired to be the guest relations manager at J.K. Place (www.jkplace.com), a luxury boutique hotel in Piazza Santa Maria Novella. This charming hotel with only 20 rooms treats its guests as if they were family. Atsuko offers the guests assistance and guidance for enjoying their stays in Florence. Her specialty is shopping: she is able to point guests in the right direction, whatever they might be looking for.
Now, after living in Florence for 15 years, Atsuko considers herself not only at home here but also a part of the city. Having let the city influence her, she now notices that she has taken on many Italian traits, like being more flexible and living in the moment. She also recognizes that her appreciation of her Japanese culture has increased as well. Her time in Florence has not only allowed her to make her dream a reality, but it has also helped her blossom into a vibrant and confident woman.