Today we had the pleasure of visiting the beautiful city of Como. Como sits right on Lake Como in northern Italy. In fact, if you climb the Brunate Funicular (basically a Duquesne Incline on steroids), you can see Switzerland from the top of the mountains there. Como is a very beautiful area, with a historical downtown area and of course, beautiful lake front properties. On the boat tour we took, our guide was mentioning some of the famous owners of the villas on the lake. The one and only George Clooney has a property on Lake Como. These properties can be up to 15 million euros to purchase, and then even more on top of that because of the property taxes in Italy. Before visiting downtown however, we had a site visit to the Mantero Spa. Now this was not the ordinary spa you think of. There were no facials or deep tissue massages. This company is actually focused on the production of fabrics, and this is done through a very cool process.
Founded in 1902, the Spa has been operating as a family owned business for over a century now. It is actually in its fourth generation of being family operated. Of course, through expansion, there have been some other additions to just the family members operating the business. This company relies on a number of different people to help make the company go. The purpose of the Spa is to print fabrics for their clients (anywhere from Chanel to Gucci to Louis Vuitton to other smaller companies). The client will come to the Spa either with a specific idea in hand, or they may come with a broader idea to be narrowed down later. The final design is then decided on between the client and the Spa, and then the print is sent to production. The print is made, the fabrics are washed, and they then go through a quality control process to ensure that nothing but the perfect products are going out to the clients. In the deciding of the design, there are a few factors that go into it. First is the design itself. The Spa maintains an archive of all the designs ever created for their clients. They have also acquired a large amount of archived designs from other companies they have bought throughout the century of their operation. Once a design is decided upon, colors must be discussed. The Spa also maintains color codes for every color ever created, so if in the future, a client wants the exact same replica of a previous product, the colors can easily be recreated with no issues. After the decision of color, the type of fabric must be decided on. The Spa weaves its own silk, so silk prints are their specialty, but they will also print on other fabrics as well. The fabric decision also affects the color because of the different reactions that take place on different materials. Finally, the type of print must be decided on. There is screen printing, which utilizes the layering of many screens (each with its own specific color) to get the final print. The other method is a digital print, which uses a computer to put the print on the materials. The production of the prints can take anywhere up to 3 or 4 months.
In terms of supply chain, the Mantero Spa is vertically integrated. What this means, is that the company owns most, if not all, the factors of production. They only have to buy the very basics for fabrics other than silk, which I mentioned is their specialty (so they own these already). Everything is done internally, from designs to storage (which is only five miles off site) to logistics to product control. These means that every piece of the puzzle is important. The product managers, color masters, weaving department, and commercial departments all have the same importance. If one thing were to go wrong, the client would not be receiving the best quality product available, and there is no one to blame because of the vertical integration. Because of their vertical integration, the Mantero Spa can be considered a primary supplier and producer for its own supply chain. The only suppliers they have are for the basic goods outside of their specialty. This also means that the company must be ready for changes in the market demand. There may be a time when digital printing overtakes screen printing, or any other demand changes that the company must be ready to overcome in order to continue pleasing customers.
Because of the intellectual property that we saw today, we were not able to take any pictures of the site itself. All of the designs belong to the Spa and its clients only (they tend not to sell designs, only exclusive to customers). The designs then are not allowed to be published. In fact, we even saw some of the prints for the upcoming seasons of the largest fashion companies in the world. Because they print all of the upcoming fashion trends, the Mantero Spa can be considered the “ghost writers of fashion.” It must be nice to know what’s in style before it happens.