Day 4: Mantero Spa
Today was our first company visit to Mantero Spa in Como, Italy. This region is absolutely breathtaking. Taking a boat tour of Lake Como, visiting the ancient Roman ruins in the city of Como, and browsing the small local shops showed a different aspect of Italy, much like the company we visited today showed a whole new aspect of the fashion industry. Como is quieter and not as modern as the city of Milan just as Mantero Spa is the silent innovator of the fashion industry.
Mantero Spa is a family run business that does nearly everything regarding business internally. It a large company that produces fabrics and accessories for luxury fashion brands, and even sells some of the product in a store attached to the factory. Regarding the supply chain, this company is a producer and supplier for luxury fashion houses, but it also has component suppliers. The company values both tradition and innovation.
The company begins the production of its products by acquiring the materials it does not make itself. While Mantero Spa does weaving of fabric in its warehouse, it is not enough for the demand. Therefore, they ship in high quality pre-woven fabric from China. They work a lot with silk, it they also use different types of fabric based on the customers wants. If a client desires Italian woven material they ship in the thread from China instead and weave it in their warehouse. Mantero Spa also ships in the ink they use, however they only ship in the basic colors and they mix the rest specifically for desired needs, each color associated with a unique color code. Some of the ink is from Germany, while some of it is some of it is from Italy.
After having the materials, they must design the print. This happens in two ways. Either the customer comes to the company with a desired look or the company designs from scratch. However, they have hundreds of archives designers can gain inspiration from. From actual final prints to books of hand-drawn designs from around the globe that are many years old, these designers are able to continually able to revive past trends and most importantly start new ones.
Once the concept is designed, it can be printed onto the fabric in two ways, either digitally or with the traditional screen press. With digital printing, the computer reads the design that is inserted into the computer and prints it on the fabric very quickly. While with traditional screening, colors are layered on top of one another to create the final design. The main reason a customer goes with one or the other is currently pricing. With a more complex design, more screens and therefore money are required to complete the final design; therefore, it is more efficient to use digital printing. Other companies use the screen printing because it is more traditional and keeps to their own company values of high quality and standards.
A completed printed fabric then must be washed and finished to ensure quality. Finally, the fabric is distributed to its luxury clients, such as Chanel, Louis Vuitton, or Dolce and Gabbana. They work with roughly 100 clients, but only 10-15 of them are considered big players in the fashion industry. They use these fabrics to design their seasonal collections. Mantero Spa also produces accessories such as scarves, ties, bow ties, etc. which are also sold to luxury brands. This complete process takes about 3-4 months to get the final product to the customer. The luxury brands then produce the clothing that is ultimately bought by shoppers.
I found this company fascinating. Our tour guide focused on their mission of creativeness and open-mindedness. Every day new fashion designs are being created, which is hard to imagine. As an example from our tour guide, “How many times can polka dots be done?” Surprisingly, very many.
Fashion is a very difficult industry because it is constantly changing with trends and styles, but what is truly changing is the fabric designs which inspire the final look. I agree with our tour guide who called Mantero Spa the “ghostwriter of the fashion industry”. Not many people buying clothes from luxury brands know that the fabric came from Mantero Spa. They hold the industry in their hands by creating the most important part of clothing, the fabric itself!
Not only is the challenge in designing the fabric, but producing it as well. There are limitations in the screen printing process such as colors must be carefully chosen for all the components on the fabric. If they are too close to one another, or are the same color in some areas, or heavily complex, then it can be very difficult to create a quality product. The company must also address sustainability. They do this by using green supplies to wash and finish their products. Mantero Spa also receives green certification for companies that request so, meaning inks and fabrics are green friendly. This however, has quality issues. Colors fade, customers become disappointed, and can ultimately cost more money.
With all the challenges they face, I think that Mantero Spa has an incredible business approach. It is a part of every aspect of the supply chain and continues to innovate every day. I learned a great deal about the challenges they face with producing consistently high quality products and their business approach beyond what was learned previously.
I am eager to visit the other companies to see how they approaches compare to that of Mantero Spa’s.