Mantero Seta: Ghostwriters of the Fashion Industry

Today we visited a company that specialized in making silk scarves. They make more than just that, but it’s the most famous aspect of what they do. They work with the fashion industry in the production of their silk scarves. They help by aiding them in all the decisions that they have to make on both the creative side and the production side and they do the producing almost entirely themselves. It’s quite incredible how much of it they actually do; they’re very vertically integrated. They control almost every step of the supply chain. They have a company of their that they buy the silk from in China, they send it to Italy and do the designing and dying in their factory in Como. In order to be able to do so many different tasks they have an extremely large factory with various sections for each task.

The first step once they have the basic fabrics is that they need to help the company they’re work for, like Gucci or Chanel or whatever company, to decide what design they’re going to go for. In order to do this, they need to have a large archive so that when the company comes and brings in an idea, they can bring in a bunch of things that sound similar to help with inspiration. They also have an entire creative department to help them come up with ideas. There are other people who provide some more inside information about the actual production aspects of what they’re doing so that it’s not just all about what it looks like, but they also think about how they’re going to be able to make the scarf or whatever it is. This helps them form a closer relationship with the companies because they’re working hand in hand at every step. This is what makes their supply chain extra strong. Their large archive also is a huge help. Because they’re able to remember exactly how they made everything since 1902, they can quickly remake whatever they made in the past. If they had this done at another company or didn’t have archives of everything they had, it would be extremely hard for them to do this. This is key because the high-end clients that they work for require things to be able to be remade.

Prior to visiting this company I didn’t exactly understand how high end companies really worked in terms of making their products. They seem really diversified. Brands like Prada or Louis Vuitton do a lot of contracting out for both the manufacturing as well as creative process. I knew that they didn’t do everything themselves and that they do outsource a lot of production, but I didn’t realize to what extent. Mantero Seta helps to create a lot of actual designs themselves for these brands. The brands provide input in the way that someone hiring a web designer would; it’s a hand in hand creation with the person who’s actually going to make it for you. People don’t realize that it’s somewhat like this in nearly every creative industry. Almost all of the pop singers nowadays have people helping them write their music and make them sound better and their lyrics better. People in the fashion industry here are having people help them with their designs and make it for them. Almost all artists have some help coming up with their ideas and with making them into a reality. No one can do it by themselves. The only reason why Mantero Seta is able to do so much of it themselves is because of their incredible control over the supply chain. Louis Vuitton maintains an extremely high standard of quality by diversifying all of the different places that it gets ideas and that it has help them with production. Mantero Seta does the same thing by having nearly everything under their control instead. Both ways seem to have their own merit as both companies are doing extremely well.

While seeing all the sectors within Mantero Seta, the organizational culture began to become rather clear. There was a clear divide in each section. Within the creative division where they actually came up with the designs it seemed to be very casual and free form. The desks were all near each other without any boundaries and the people were dressed rather casually. This makes sense because it promotes working together and being relaxed and creative. In other areas, such as the factory itself, people were dressed and acting much as you would expect of someone operating the machinery. In the sections that had typical business tasks such as managing the archives or doing other similar tasks seemed to be nearly identical to what you’d expect in America. They were dressed in typical business apparel. They worked together as you’d expect. What I noticed was different than in America was that the areas had very stark contrast. In America you can’t really tell what part of the company each person is just by looking at them whereas in Italy you could practically say exactly where someone worked just by how they were dressed. It ranged from blue collar worker all the way to business formal. I think that this just has a lot to do with the fact that fashion and expressing yourself through your clothes seems to be a large part of Italian culture. It’s interesting to see little nuances that separate the work culture across nations.

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