Tuesday, September 10, 2013


Edoardo Nesi's book, Story of My People, is an emotionally difficult book to read. It takes you right into the Northern Italian city of Prato and its ghost-town of empty factories and of factories turned into sweatshop dormitories. Nesi's book also reminds me so much of my hometown, Detroit. In one of my first blogs, I wrote about visiting Prato and seeing first hand how the spirit was cut right out of its textile craftsmanship and its community.

As Nesi points out it had a long tradition of the highest level of work, patronage and commercialism that dates back to the 15th century, the days of Cosimo and Lorenzo de Medici. In fact, it was a chance to see Lorenzo's final villa located close to Prato, that brought me there in the first place. And it was the overwhelming sadness of the current Prato that made me flee once I had visited the villa – a villa which Lorenzo planned but never lived to see built.

We are coming to realize that globalism for the sake of chasing the lowest price will not only lead to corporate riches but also to the grief of individual societies and to the destruction of highly-developed and century-honored trades.

For Detroit, the motto is "Speramus meliora, resurget cineribus." (We hope for better things; it will rise from the ashes.) This is from a quote from Fr. Gabriel Richard after a terrific downtown fire in 1805 that included his parish. And people of Detroit are talking about that motto today.

In my opinion, for an understanding of the true spirit of Detroit, the best book is Detroit City Is the Place to Be by Mark Binelli and for Prato, it is Nesi's Story of My People.

In the most recent decades, Prato seems to have done more fine menswear stripes and plaids than paisley motifs. But since the teardrop is a symbol for life springing forth, maybe someone in town will weave a little paisley for me? I also recommend that Mr. Nesi read the story of the Highland Park firemen in Mr. Binelli's book. It will give him heart but also might make him cry.

The urban struggle and struggle of the spirit are not new. Marsilio Ficino – translator of Plato into Latin and mentor to both of his patrons, Cosimo and Lorenzo de Medici –wrote in one of his loving letters to mankind: "Labor so that you may be good and shine with beauty; suddenly all things are good and shining with beauty for you." This, even when the outer world looks like hell as it often did in Ficino's Florence. JP