In all honesty, yesterday when we landed in Italy I was a little shocked because it was not the scene I expected. When I think of Italy, I envision elegant architecture, high end fashion, cobblestone streets, canals, and unique apartments and shops. Today was exactly all of what I dreamed of and more. When we left the metro and walked right into the middle of the city center, I was overwhelmed especially at the beauty of the Duomo. It was possibly the most breathtaking work of architecture I had ever witnessed. Although we truly appreciated this along with the canals, Da Vinci monument, opera house, city hall, national bank, and of course gelato, today was also a day of fashion. How could it not be? We’re in the fashion capital of the world! From the galleria to the smaller handbag shops, we recognized differences in their customers, approach, and supply chain.
The Galleria is majestic, particularly because it houses high end stores such as Prada, Gucci, Versace, Louis Vuitton, and Giorgio Armani. The supply chain of these stores are more complex especially because the products are not customized directly in the store. We did not learn the details of the supply chain for these stores because they sell a variety of products which require different materials. Due to the product variety and abundance of necessary materials, the complexity of this supply chain increases. This does not give these stores the opportunity to offer customizations for their customers. Instead these stores receive their products from a variety of distributors internationally, not just in Italy. Thus, the complexity of transportation also increases to include boats, buses, and planes. In addition, these stores attract high end shoppers that have the ability to afford more expensive products. If a customer seeks more personalized, affordable products, he or she should consider the stores we visited that I describe below.
After the Galleria, we received a completely different taste of Italian fashion. First, we visited a smaller handbag store with an artisan who designs the handbags and customizes them from scratch. This supply chain consisted of the suppliers of leather which include leather makers in Tuscan and Naples. The leather travels to the artisan from these cities to Milan through trucks. These suppliers have to ensure that their leather comes from tanneries which have no legal or ethical issues. Some of the animals that provide these skins include snakes, crocodiles, lizards, and cows. Once the tanneries dry these skins, they sell them to the leather makers such as ones in the cities mentioned above. Then, once the artisan receives this leather he begins to craft his handbags. He customizes these handbags based on the customers’ desires. The artisan creates his handbags with leather as the primary material. Then he sells directly to the customers who are the end users of the supply chain. This supply chain has less components than the high end stores because the artisan creates these handbags from scratch and sells directly to his customers.
After visiting this shop, we visited a store called IF which specialized in handbags using a similar approach of customization to cater to the customer. The manager in the store did not explain the steps in the supply chain in comparison to the specifications we learned in Travi. However, after some research and our experience, we realized the bags are created in the stores in Italy. Since this is an international franchise, these bags are distributed to additional stores globally. Their products are solely Italian and follow a similar pattern as the supply chain for Tavi. The tanneries dry the skins of the animals and send them to the leather companies which then distribute them to the stores through trucks as their primary source of transportation. IF uses the modeled bags and ropes to allow customers to choose colors and customize their purchase. Unlike Tavi which allows for complete customization of its models, IF has ready made models. However, the customers can chose certain elements such as colors and style.
Through our exploration of fashion, we discovered that producers face tough decisions. Should they focus on high end, standardized products with complex supply chains like Prada? Or should they make them more customizable and affordable like Tavi and IF? All I know is that as a broke college student, I don’t think I’ll be able to shop from Prada in Milan any time soon, but I did buy a beautiful tote from IF to remember the prominence of leather and customization in Italy’s fashion industry. Exploring the differences in the style, approach, and supply chain between these stores allowed me to realize the immensity of the fashion in Milan. I am looking forward to exploring the depth of this fashion and of course the breathtaking architecture in the near future.