A long and interesting article about Gucci’s chief creative, Alessandro Michele (https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/15/t-magazine/alessandro-michele-gucci-interview), documents the continuing relevance of the liberal arts.
As explored in V&R, Chapter 1, Hume argues that the engine of commerce is the refinement of the arts & sciences yet one hears all the time that the liberal arts are moribund. A recent case in point is this nihilistic piece (https://thefederalist.com/2018/10/16/humanities-degree-dying-thats-good-thing/).
After languishing for years, Gucci is back, really back. The brand is booming in large part because of the aesthetics of Mr. Michele. The NYT article begins with all the standard fashion article tropes — Michele is sensitive to the swirling cultural change around us, the need for diversity, the voice of the street, and the ever greater articulation of sexual variety and identity, etc. It is important to be culturally alert, no question, but the article becomes genuinely interesting when it explains that Michele is a native of Rome, and what this means.
Michele explains that his parents never tired of exposing him to the history, art, and learning of Rome: “I walked through these antique ruins from the very first day of my life.” His fashion education at the Accademia Costume & Moda was an immersive experience in the past: “His fascination with yesteryear is even more intense than his and other designers’ more common flirtations with the present pop culture. And it’s coupled with his insatiable appetite for reading, roving, learning.”
A fascinating insight is given by Gucci’s signature model, Hari Nef. Her job interview with Michele was two nerds coming together:
“…she had recently graduated from Columbia University, “this program where I had been required to read Virginia Woolf and the Greek tragedies and Homer and Aeschylus. These were all fresh in my head, bouncing around.” Michele was game. They bounced around in his head, too. “Frankly,” Nef tells me, “these were nerdy topics I was rarely able to engage with people in the fashion industry about.””
Thinkers of the Scottish Enlightenment specify the essential role aesthetics plays in commerce. Undergraduates need to read the Scots and also hear about people like Michele and Ms. Nef to understand that business will reward their sophistication in the liberal arts.