This afternoon we took a short busride from Verona to an industrial area outside the city to hear from representatives of the Consorzio della Moda, which translates to Fashion Consortium. This organization is made up of a group of forty-six smaller textile production companies that work together to share resources, education, and business opportunities. The Consortium itself provides several advantages for its members: it offers training, provides marketing and exposure resources, and offers small businesses space to create their product. In particular, we visited the site of the fashion company Mero & More, which is a member of the Consortium. To address the theme of industry analysis, this company, like others in the industry struggled to blossom in the inhibiting bureaucracy and has difficulty finding Italian workers in a country that encourages its students to shoot for high-paying positions.
The Consortium is not a business as Mantero is, nor is it an educational facility like the Scuola del Cuoio is, more rather it is a network of similar businesses that offer support to one another. In the United States, an equivalent organization would be a regional trade union that also acts as a consulting firm. A budding mom and pop shop textile company may seek membership in the Consortium if they feel they need help succeeding in the stagnant economy, for example. Back in the recession of 2008, many companies turned to the Consortium to seek training on how to operate on lower budgets. The Consortium addresses this need by putting the business in touch which financial consultants or with other members of the network who have struggled through similar issues. At one point, the Consortium realized that the schools of Verona did not offer a quality educational program to encourage the youth to join the textile industry, so they set up programs in trade schools around the city. Some members of Consortium are so small they have trouble attracting worthwhile business from large clients looking to have clothing produced, but membership in the Consortium gives them an edge: the network puts their name out at large international expos and thus they are more easy to find as part of this group. As people are increasingly turning to online shopping, a popular service of the Consortium is helping train member businesses in the technology needed to sell their products online. This way, Italian businesses can reach markets in the United States, which is a notoriously tough market to crack. Since the economy has picked up since 2008, consumers have trended toward buying high-quality clothing from Italy even though this is not the most expensive option. As a result, the Consortium provides advice to its clients on how to take advantage of this opportunity. They advise that fashion producers continue to produce the best quality product, but they must invest more in marketing their name and brand to attract more business. Overall, the Consorzio della Moda reads the fashion market and provides advice and training for its member so that they will better service global changes.
To hear from the Consortium representatives, we went to the site of the textile production company Mero & More, a member of the Consortium. This site was notable because it showed another valuable service the organization offers: space. There are areas set aside in the warehouse of Mero & More that act as incubators, bringing together aspiring designers and stylists to work together on ideas using the Consortium’s equipment. The managers of Mero & More explained some issues they and other like companies are facing these days. Most notably, they must import labor from abroad because Italians in the region of Veneto are increasingly turning to careers in management rather than textile labor, drawn mostly by the paycheck. Introducing textile specializations in trade schools was their attempt to resolve this problem. Another challenge these companies face constantly is answering the fast turnaround time of a trend or line of clothing. Workers must produce 20 potential design options every week to keep up with the constantly changing clothing demand. We asked the representative what we would have to do to open up a fashion company here in Veneto, and that brought us to the biggest obstacle for fashion companies today: the bureaucracy. The amount of paperwork required by the government to start a new business can be enough to scare entrepreneurs away from the industry. The Consortium can help in these situations by coaching up-and-comers through the process.
Though it was only our first encounter with the Consorzio della Moda, we gained a good understanding of how the organization helps fashion producers in the region. Through networking, training, and marketing, the Consortium can help even the smallest companies overcome the hurdles that arise as they try to compete with global businesses. In a difficult and ever-changing industry like this, networking groups like the Consortium will always have an important place.