Day 4: “Archiving” Memories of Mantero Spa and Como

Today we woke up bright and early to make the hour-long journey to Como by bus.  Once we were there, we visited the family-owned and operated Mantero Seta Spa established in 1902. This company is now run by the 4th generation of the Mantero family. This company is vertically integrated for the most part because they produce their own fabrics in one of their manufacturing units in China, design and print their own fabrics in Como, and cut and wash their own fabrics on site. They supply approximately 100 clients with ten to fifteen of them being “large players” such as Gucci and Chanel and the rest are smaller based companies.

Mantero Spa has two components delivered to them for production purposes from what we were told: They get their silk from their own location in China because it is not readily available in Italy and it is otherwise very costly to produce on site. Beyond the classroom, I learned that they are not reliant on silk worms for silk since there are so many different forms of silk production these days. The different color dyes are supplied from Italian and German companies.

The high quality production does everything internally. Some similar companies only print/design, but the Mantero Seta does it all (prints, designs, sells in their own retail shops).

They have thousands of archived fabrics from Germany, Britain, and France dating back prior to 1902. Their pattern samples were amazing to look at, especially from the older books because I liked trying to imagine what those patterns were used for back then.

As far as product design is concerned, they have standard design patterns/weaves, but in some cases custom designs are created for a few customers who propose their own ideas or find inspiration in fabric swatches from the archives. They can make sketches or finalize size for fashion designers. Though they use inks from outside suppliers, they mix custom inks to create custom colors and keep records of every color code so that three years from now they can make a color again.

Once the designs have been established, the production process begins.  They have a screen printing process of manufacturing and an electronic printing way of printing on fabric. The screen printing way is priced per screen and is the more niche “old fashioned” way of producing these fabrics. The digital printing way is faster and sold per meter.  I was interested in seeing how much space in the warehouse set aside for the screen printing compared to the computerized printing. There was far less space allocated for the computer printing process.

Their product is distributed to clients such as Gucci and Chanel, who then distribute to their own target clientele. As previously mentioned they do work with smaller companies, but they also have their own retail store on site.

I believe that their approach can be described as “a well-oiled machine,” because they seem to have the processes mastered very well which has been established over the lifetime of this company. I find the screen printing to be absolutely fascinating because we could see the screen on the silk and the dye being run over the screen leaving a beautiful design on the long moving roll of fabric.  It made me feel as though that method of fabric dying would be more expensive due to the artisan nature of the process as compared to the digital printing of the designs. I think that as a company, they are doing their best to be sustainable and eco-friendly because many of their customers want to obtain sustainability certificates.  Our tour guide did note that they are happy to help their clients out – yet sometimes choosing a natural based dye can cause the fabrics and designs to fade. She did refer to the whole process as rather industrial in nature. Their approach is smart because they focus on the customer’s needs and wants and help them figure out the best option for meeting their needs.

We weren’t allowed to take pictures within Mantero, but the vivid images I have of the materials produced are amazing works of art.  While I have been in Italy, I have admired all of the impressive architecture that withstands the test of time.  Just as the Duomo has endured the ages, Mantero Spa has really tried to accomplish a similar ideal of creating products that, even though may take longer to produce and be more expensive, will maintain their longevity based on impeccable quality and design.

The “organizational culture” of Mantero is very well structured since the business is family-owned and has been established for a while.  The woman who gave us a tour explained that the entire process is pretty industrial, yet they continue to strive towards creativity every day.  For example, new designs for polka dots, which have been around for centuries, are being added to their archives every day. This organization has a strong desire to maintain its reputation and strives for continued success by maintaining standards of quality and creativity, thereby protecting the honor of the family name.

After our informational session at Mantero Spa, a boat/walking tour of Como, and an amazing view from the top of the mountains overlooking the beautiful lake, I am excited to head to Florence tomorrow morning!


|| Alaina All’Estero – “Alaina Abroad” ||

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