Let’s talk couture

Salute to a day filled with fashion and the most beautiful scenery we’ve witnessed so far in our trip.Today we visited one of the most breathtaking views of nature: Lake Como. We enjoyed a boat ride on this beautiful lake surrounded with the Alps and embellished with villas and other architectural feats.  However, since I am currently in the fashion capital of the world, let’s talk couture. This morning, we visited  Mantero, a family owned business that has grown to specialize prints, designs, and accessories. We observed the creation of this outfit, from its raw materials and design sketches to the final products. Many of us also purchased their products from the store near the production headquarters. Can you blame us? It was quite difficult passing on the opportunity to own silk scarves and elegant ties.


One of the most important aspects of this business that I learned today was its industrial approach: vertical integration. I observed that silk plays a prestigious role as clothing material in the fashion businesses of Lake Como. Montero’s upstream supplier was a silk company that bought silk from China. Eventually, Mantero bought this company and became its own upstream supplier. Now, Mantero is responsible for purchasing silk from China, where a majority of the silk worms population resides. In addition, although they work to sell their products to major players in the fashion industry including Chanel, Gucci, Giorgio Armani, and Prada, they also operate their own outlet stores that house their works. This exemplifies vertical integration for Mantero due to its own identity as the upstream and downstream player in its supply chain management.


Speaking of supply chain management, we learned the detailed process of how Matero’s accessories come to life. Their process begins with creating or taking sketches for designers. Next, Mantero uses screen printing and weaving to execute the designs into actual fabrics. Once this is complete, they ship the designs to warehouse and then transport those designs to other designers or to their own stores. Some primary raw materials include silk and paint. They provide their own silk which arrives from China. This silk then transforms into a beautiful accessory through the process I describe above. Thus, due to vertical integration in the supply chain, Mantero is the upstream supplier of silk, the producer of accessories, and the distributor to other designers or their own stores. Since the company does not produce its own dyes, it receives them from independent countries in Europe which are the upstream suppliers for just this raw material.


In addition to the supply chain process and the concept of vertical integration, we learned some other interesting information in regards to the technology that Mantero uses. When I refer to printing the designs above, I mean both screen and digital printing. Digital printing is a newer, computerized process in which the computer processes the design and produces it directly onto the fabric. In contrast, screen printing require creating a stencil for the design and then using this to apply the layers of ink on the surface for the prints.In addition to the distinct methods of print, other interesting information includes how Mantero has preserved books of design from over thirty years ago. In fact, the company refers to itself as the “ghostwriters of fashion.” This term stems from the fact that Mantero often repeats the prints from their historical design books that they believe will succeed the best in the industry. Mantero has over thirty designers and some of the largest that I was surprised to hear include Gucci, Prada, Calvin Klein, and Chanel- just to name a few!


Through our questions, we also learned more details about Montero’s approach to sustainability. They already follow the guidelines of a certification company in order to limit the number of environmentally unfriendly materials and processes. They routinely provide this certification to customers. In addition, since they acquire and produce their own silk, they reduce much of the transportation that would be necessary if they received finished products from a variety of countries. A statement I remember was in reference to the paradox in the customers’ desires for a greener environment versus more sustainable clothing. Often, customers push for more natural dyes, however, they complain when these dyes ware out the designs of the accessories. I was surprised to hear the sustainability issue from a company’s perspective because in class, we analyzed it primarily from the perspective of customers and analysts.


Overall, I found it incredibly fascinating that we could witness the production of high end fashion from the raw materials to the finished products. Through the production room, warehouse, design room, and trucks, we witnessed every step of the supply chain in action which helped us better understand the process of Mantero. I truly appreciate their aim to better their sustainability and also their ability to recognize which designs will exert the strongest influence on fashion trends. I definitely hope to visit again one day and spot their designs on the catwalk!


The behind the scenes of the fashion industry was overwhelming, yet breathtaking. I finally understand the time and thought process required in producing all the fashion trends that we take for granted almost every day. So here’s to appreciating fashion and of course, Florence tomorrow! Until next time- Ciao!

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