The Duomo area in Milan is filled with culture and historical buildings and statues, but it is also home to the world’s most notable shopping district. The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is home to the very first Prada store (originally named Fratelli Prada or Prada Brothers) along with many other notable high end shops of Italian designers, including Gucci, Armani, and Louis Vuitton. Along the streets outside of the Duomo and the Galleria are many smaller shops. Some are chains while others are Italian originals, and it was very interesting to see the differences between all of these unique stores. It is also interesting to note the different levels of the supply chain that the various businesses are on. Many are simply retailers selling to direct customers, but some are uniquely vertically integrated. Also, it was fascinating to be able to observe the types of Italians and others who were shopping at these stores.
First, the high end stores in the Galleria were quite amazing for me to see. Since the designers are notoriously Italian, it was really interesting to see their Italian stores in the first mall to ever be established in the world. The stores found in the Galleria are well known worldwide and have been moving toward vertical integration over the past few years. Notably, Prada’s shift to vertical integration was fueled by their desire to become more competitive in the luxury leather market. They are able to control the production of their leather, lower their costs for the leather, and maintain its high end quality. Despite some of these shifts in the luxury leather industry, the famously known stores in the Galleria generally do not have much control over their supply chains, especially in regards to their garments. Due to the products’ high demand worldwide, the brands must use methods such as mass production in factories to keep up. This can potentially reduce the quality of their work and products. Also, the clientele of these stores are practically the socialites of Milan. Just from observing the people in the Galleria, I could tell they were wearing high end brands; they were very trendy and formal at the same time. Many of the women were wearing high heels, pants suits or skirts, and were carrying expensive Italian designer handbags. You could tell that these people were not only wealthy with plentiful disposable income but were also very concerned with their looks (as they live in the fashion capital of the world).
In contrast, the stores outside of the Galleria in Milan had a different feeling about them. They were much smaller and less elaborate than their high end counterparts. We visited two small shops in particular: Gravi and IF Bags. Gravi is a small shop owned by a craftsman who creates all of his own wallets, purses, and luggage and therefore is almost completely vertically integrated. He purchases his leather from a tannery and therefore is not his own supplier of raw materials, but he uses those materials to ultimately make the products to supply his small shop. He is the manufacturer and the retailer. It was fascinating to see his little workshop and the amazing creations that came out of it. The craftsman has complete control over what his bags will look like; he can create his own designs and can also make the visions of others come to life. He can also control the quality of his work as he monitors every step of the process. These factors make his products a unique type of high end that are both expensive and of a high quality. A similar but slightly different store is IF Bags that has taken a whole new approach to vertical integration. All of their products are made by them with leather they purchase from tanneries, making them their own manufacturer. However, their drawstring bags are customizable and the consumer actually becomes the producer through this process. This is a unique twist to the traditional supply chain that gives IF Bags an individual appeal to consumers. In order to compare Gravi and IF Bags, they have a similar clientele base. Both stores sell quality, house made (in different ways) products to the more common Italian. I could tell that the people shopping at these stores most likely had less disposable income than those in the Galleria, but they were willing to spend money for quality goods. They were still fashionable usually, but definitely not as trendy or wealthy as the others. This can also be said of other similar small stores outside the Duomo area.
In conclusion, I learned many things about Italian fashion by visiting the Duomo district and outside of it today in Milan. It was very interesting to see how fashion is integrated into the culture and how we can apply the structure of these stores to supply chain management.