Another amazing day spent in Milan, Italy! One of the first places we walked around in was the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II shopping mall. It is one of the world’s oldest shopping malls filled with some of the world’s classiest (and most expensive) stores. Prada, Louis Vuitton, and Versace were some of the first that I noticed. The Galleria itself is an enormous glass vaulted arcade. For good reason, the clientele at such shops are not casual browsers and seem to have much posh. Something that did not seem to fit into this atmosphere was a McDonald’s restaurant. Although it was technically outside of the Galleria, that was not the high-class fancy restaurant I expected to see in that area.
We did a lot of window shopping outside of stores in the Ticinese area. We stopped in a small garage looking shop called Gravi. Although from the outside this did not have the luxurious appearance, it still had luxurious and quality products. Gravi, the owner, hand makes his bags at the store with leather. He is a very talented artisan who takes great care in his work and began making bags at age fourteen. He immediately gave his attention to any customers, showing that personal relationships are important to him and to the success of the gaining buyers in the supply chain.
Because the store makes the bags themselves, it is considered backwards vertical integration in that sense. We even got to see the process of how he makes the bags. We watched him carefully cut the leather (made from a veal) and then use a machine to make it thinner. He then folded it and glued the sides to create the seams. The leather is mainly imported from Tuscany, Naples, and Venice. Some of the leather, such as the leather made from snakes, lizards and ostriches is imported from other countries that allow the killing of these animals. This widens the array of suppliers in the supply chain, making it more complicated to manage.
People travel to this small shop from all over the world because of the skills of Gravi and the quality of the leather bags. Places like Prada and Louis Vuitton may last forever, but not the small artisan shops. Most of the stores like Gravi’s have moved outside of the city because rents are very high in Milan. Because these leather bags are only sold in this specific store, that does limit some of the end users in the supply chain. Other stores such as the ones in the Galleria have much more freedom selling online and in other countries.
Another store that has the freedom of selling online is the more modern leather shop called IF which opened in 2012. This store, like Gravi, makes its own bags in the store. It looked much different from Gravi though! When I first walked in, my eyes were automatically attracted to the numerous amounts of colored bags hung on the walls. Shades of blue, pink, red, purple, and more exploded into sight. I also noticed several English slogans decorating the walls, such as “Beyonce is my religion.”
IF’s specialty are leather backpacks that look like draw string bags. We also observed how they make these bags, and Cassie even got to specialize her own. The leather is already there, and is tied up at the store using ropes and wooden holders (of any color). The personalization is something that differentiates IF from many name brand stores.
Like the name brands though, IF sells its products in the United States and in Japan. They also have more than one location in Italy. Although they have this in common, IF still tries to set themselves apart from name brand stores. They only make their products from suppliers in Italy. One of their slogans is, “Don’t Care About The Hype.” The lovely storekeeper explained that this promotes products that are of Italian quality, not necessarily ones that are only known by name.
Throughout the day, I have learned that there are many ways to portray “high quality products.” It is obvious when window shopping in the magnificent Galleria, but you never know where you may find a product even better than the ones you see in the windows.