Church and Hand Bags, Day 2 in Milan

After starting off the day with a lesson in Italian from a wonderful, Italian woman named Julieta, we went to see the main part of Milan. We saw the Duomo and then began towards our two different shops still within the main part of Milan, but not within the center. The center had incredibly expensive rent and only housed things such as Prada, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Armani, etc. The businesses we visited were the smaller businesses run by locals which apparently is becoming much more uncommon nowadays.

The first shop was run by an interesting older man who had many tattoos, leather jeans, and an eccentric outfit. He was a master craftsman. He put a lot of emphasis on his ability as a leatherworker and said that he had been doing it since he was 14 years old. He made custom made bags out of leather for the customer. Clients would come in and buy from him either pre-existing bags or he could make them to specifications that the customer had. The shop itself is a small shop that only goes back 10-20ft and then behind it is his workstation where it’s very cluttered but you can see all of the leather and the models that he cuts from. You can pick your own leather when he’s making your bag.In term of supply chain, we asked him if he sold to other stores and he said that he used to, but realized that it’s more profitable for him to just sell it himself at his store. He also put a lot of emphasis on the fact that he was getting everything that he had from Italy in terms of supplies and that he was selling within Italy. This means that his entire supply chain is within Italy and I think that this is an important characteristic when catering to an Italian crowd. They seem to care about this a lot more than Americans. I think it’s probably because the Italian economy isn’t doing as well as the American one and the unemployment is much worse, so whenever they know that they’re supporting fellow Italians they are more likely to buy. Everyone who was coming into the shop to check out things seemed to be older and I think that this makes sense with what I was saying. They know that they have to give back to Italy and are less concerned with the price so long as the quality is there.

The second shop was a much younger shop. It was established in 2012 during Fashion week by two young girls. Their idea was to have a completely customizable backpack. Their storefront is a big, open area where you can see all of the bags on display. It seems really modern and reminds me of something I would see in America. I think that it’s definitely catering to a younger crowd that wants things to be more trendy, modern, and inspired by America. When asked about where she got her leather she said that it was all Italian. This is just like the other man’s store. This makes sense because this allows her to tell her customers that it’s supporting other Italian business which makes them more likely to buy. One difference is that she said that she is selling all across the world. She said that she is selling her bags in Italy, Japan, and the United States. I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with that from a supply chain point of view. She’s still giving back to Italy and the more she can expand her business by selling overseas, the more she can bring back to Italy through her business. The better that she does, the better Italy does.

I noticed that these businesses, even when they’re catering to a younger audience have a focus on custom products. For the older audience it tends to be a completely custom, bring in your specifications and we’ll make you whatever you want. With the younger stores it’s more of, here’s a bunch of colors and styles, mix and match as you choose. Either way, they want the Italians to be able to make something specific to them. Perhaps this ties back into fashion. The Italians want to stand out and not just have something that everyone else has so they’re all trying to be tastemakers in their own right through their clothing. This could make sense why they’re the fashion capital of the world. It would also explain the constant need for customizability within Italian clothing and products. There seem to be a lot of trends like this in general with Italian fashion which seems to bridge the generation gap in subtle ways. It might seem like they’re different at first, but at the core the Italian beliefs hold true.

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