Today was the fourth day of our Italy trip! With each day, I am continuing to become closer with our group members, our Plus3 advisors Diego and Luca, and with Dr. Duquin and Dr. Patzer. This has made the trip an even more enjoyable and adventurous experience. I really cannot get enough Italy and it’s culture! Today we took a private bus to Mantero Spa, a fashion company in Como, Italy, which specializes in cloth making. This family owned business operates as an upstream supplier, selling its completed fabric accessories to fashion companies around the world. It is also important to note the company’s impressive vertically integrated system all the way down to the simple logistics. Mantero Spa does everything from weaving the silk bought from China, to selling their completed products to various fashion companies.
As mentioned, Mantero Spa is a family owned and operated business, and was was first established in 1902. The company is currently managed by the fourth generation of family members since the beginning of businesses existence. First, the company buys the highest quality of silk from various producers in China. This is because silkworms are scarce in Italy, but in high abundance throughout China. Other than the purchase of this silk from China and ink from other Italian companies, every other step in the production their accessories is done within their own company at their single workshop site. Because they actually make the entire product of their own, Mantero Spa is considered a vertically integrated business. After Mantero Spa reaches a deal with the Chinese company, the first step in the production of their accessories is to weave the silk into fabric. This process is done in the company’s weaving department. Once the fabric is made, the next step is to apply the ink by printing it. Printing can be a long and difficult process based on the extreme precision and carefulness that must be applied to fabrics. When printing, they can exercise two technical screening techniques. One technique is called “original”, which was how most of the fabrics were printed in the past. In the present day, a new technique has emerged called “digital”. This modern technique has been proven to be a cheaper alternative when comparing cost to the “original” technique. Our tour guide also mentioned that when printing, virtually every color imaginable can be produced on the fabric. Because every color can be made, this makes it harder on Mantero Spa to get the right consistency to produce an exact color match that many fashion companies demand of them. In addition, some companies give their design idea to the Spa, expecting them to replicate it onto their fabrics. This exerts even more pressure onto the company as they must precisely replicate the designs to maintain their high reputation in the fashion world as well as keep their competition as low as possible. Their competitors consist of the many other fabric makers not only in Italy, but throughout the whole entire world. Because of this, the industry is vast and competition is high.
The Spa also works on their own designs that are created daily within their company. They get many of their design ideas either from previous nineteenth century ideas, or by scrolling through French, German, and British archives or books. Pricing is determined based on the number of screens that must be used to produce all of of the different colors needed to create the design. I also learned that if the exact same color is in there more than once, it only counts as one screen. The number of screens are determined by a sign machine, which then prints out the design. It is often difficult to say how many screens will be needed for the same design because every color reacts and appears differently on different fabrics. It may be that you need a smaller amount of screens on one fabric than the other to produce the same colored image. The final step in the production of Mantero Spa’s designed accessories is to wash and dry the printed fabric. Washing is required to eliminate the leftover color that is in the print. It is then dried to solidify the colors which essentially completes the design. The entire process of cloth making takes about twelve weeks to complete for a single design!
The company’s approach to their process has proven to be efficient over the years it has been active, as they have continued to be a producer of ten to fifteen major companies, such as Louis Vuitton, as well as over one hundred smaller brands. After the site visit, we continued the day with a boat tour of lake Como and the many beautiful villas surrounding it. We also ate lunch and to many group members surprise, each got our own personal pizza. The group finished the day with a tour of Como and a ride on the incline, which gave an unimaginable view of the entire city. Again, this was another successful day here in Italy! I’m going to rest up now because we have a long bus ride Florence tomorrow! Ciao everyone!