“The Ghostwriters of Fashion”

Mantero Seta was an incredible experience and has allowed me to understand vertically integrated companies and the company itself so much more in depth beyond the research I had done about the company in the pre-trip presentation.

As I have continued to mention as a common theme I have seen throughout my time at Italy, the Mantero Seta is built on the ideal of both tradition and innovation. This combines both new and modern thinking while still keeping the company family-run and owned as the company continues to grow. The company supplies fabric and scarves for a variety of huge companies like Louis Vuitton, Chanel, and Prada. The company is also vertically integrated, and only relies on a few outside companies as component suppliers to complete their processes. Because of this, Mantero  Seta is involved in essentially all parts of the suppply chain.

The process starts in the Mantero Seta’s archive, which is one of the bigget archives in the world. This archive houses all of Mantero Seta’s designs from 1902 on, as well as some older books of patterns that were hand painted and are used as inspiration. In addition to a digital archive to search for specific prints, colors, and patterns, proposals from German, French, and Spanish are also housed in this archive. Mantero Seta is also very flexible and works with their customers to produce a pattern the customer requests, although this is extremely uncommon. By designing the fabric patterns, the company acts as a component supplier by supplying the idea/pattern.

Mantero Seta then gets the colors desired by the company or produces color options for the scarf. Every shade and color must be accounted for, and the Masters of Color are in charge of making the color composition based on the sketched version of the scarf and color palette for the season. Every color gets a color receipt, and these color receipts are printed on every piece of fabric to ensure the appropriate color. Mantero Seta gets its ink exclusively from Italian and German companies, their component suppliers.

After the colors and design are finalized, screenprinting or digital printing must be confirmed. Usually, designs under pressure, cheaper prints, and easier prints are often sent through digital printing while more delicate and intricate designs and certain materials like velvet must be screen printed. The silk is brought in from their component supplier, a Chinese silk company that was Milano based, because it would take too long and be too difficult to make silk themselves. However, it has become more difficult for the company to find such high quality silk.

The screening process begins by deciding where each color appears on the design and a screen must be carved and deisgned for each color. The screen is essentially a huge metal frame with gel and micro holes. The silk is glued to the conveyer belt and the gel ink is put on the screen and printed onto the scarf color by color. The process takes a long time due to the color having to be built up. A new screen must be used for every color, and a screen can only be used for a different color of the same design is it is washed first. This process makes Mantero Seta also the primary producer.

After the design is completed, washing, drying, and a final quality check must be completed. A quality control worker checks the product after every process to ensure the scarves are perfect. Overall, the entire process from beginning to end takes approximately 3-4 months(12 weeks for production and product development). After perfection is ensured, the products are shipped to a warehouse where they are labeled, packaged, and shipped wherever in the world the product is needed, since the company is international. Because of this, Mantero Seta is similar to a primary consumer before shipping away the product.

I had not known any of this information before arriving at  Mantero Seta, even though I had done extensive research before arriving. Because of my research, I was able to ask about the company’s sustainability and steps the company is taking to be more ecofriendly. I was personally surprised how difficult it was to be sustainable in this market, especially due to clients’ contradicting demands and requests. For example, we had learned today that clients will request the process be 100% green, but are often disappointed when the dye fades and the product fades as well. By using an all-natural ink, the product is destined to fade. However, we did discover that they are doing everything that they can to make sure they continue to become more sustainable, and they even have research continuously going on to make sure sustainability is increasing. For example, Mantero Seta offers to print scarves that are similar in shade but not exact to preserve the previous ink and not to waste as much, but many companies antcompletely identical scarves rather than unique pieces that other companies promote.

After this tour I had a much greater appreciation for all printed fabric. After seeing the complex and incredible processes that the article of clothing must go through before it is wearable, and am grateful for the new wealth of knowledge of vertically integrated companies.

P.S. we weren’t allowed images in the factory due to copyright issues, so here is a picture of the beautiful Lake Como and city of Como on the incline!

Leave a Reply