Day 9: Our third business visit and boy was there a lot to learn. Today I had the opportunity to visit a company that I would have never imagined: the Consortium. This is a family owned collection of companies whose average revenue is between 5 and 20 million euros. Instead of collaborating with high fashion companies, they work with local companies and focus on wholesale distribution. A board of directors oversees the Consortium which stemmed from a need for project management. The purpose of this company revolved around providing a platform for local Italian companies with ideas for products, but no means of execution. Forty-six members participate in the Consortium. These 46 members are composed of different local Italian stores in the Veneto region. The board of directors of the Consortium asks specific member companies to assist those who have product innovations with no means of production. Then these companies or individuals that need assistance rent out a space and services of the assisting companies such as sewing, design, and photo studio.
The services that the Consortium provides includes managing the projects and the programming of the activities of the companies seeking assistance. The members of the Consortium also promote marketing and branding through supporting commercialization. It allows the companies to connect to the fashion industry internationally so their products can prominence and profit in other countries. This strengthens the communicative strategy in the fashion sector. The members also form new professional profiles that add to their present expertise. These profiles assist the reputation of the companies in assistance and also the reputation of the Consortium. The members also strengthen computerization for easier management of other companies. They provide the companies in assistance with the opportunity to study other fashion trends due to the members they learn from and work with. Ultimately, the member companies provide the companies they are managing with a platform to launch new brands and clothing lines.
This company is analogous to the general fashion consulting firms in the United States. For example, Robert Burke is a New York-based consulting firm that specializes in retail and fashion. They provide services in global and domestic retail development, brand and retail strategy, and investment advising. The services that this company provides are relatively similar to those of the Consortium. Consortium and Robert Burke both emphasize branding and international prominence in order to succeed and gain profits. Their clients vary in terms of the type of their consumers. For example one of their clients is Target which is a store where more middle-class families afford. This is similar to the approach of Consortium. However, Robert Burke’s client list also includes Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger which is more suitable for the upper class. Similarly to Consortium’s services and advantages, Robert Burke emphasizes market research, customer profiles, brand identity, and wholesale distribution. Robert Burke is just one example of the many fashion consulting firms in the United States. In all honesty, I was unaware of the concept of fashion consulting and its prevalence until our site visit today. Strange that I had to travel abroad to familiarize with an industry that exists right at home!
As described briefly above, companies gain ample advantages from joining the Consortium. For the companies that seek the assistance of the members of the Consortium, they receive space, materials, and technology to execute their ideas. For example, on our tour today, I observed that the facility included a design, photo, and fabric production studio. These amenities are clearly essential for the companies to produce their idea into an actual fashion line. In addition, local companies look to the consortium to reach a wider range of distribution. It also allows for rebranding, digitalization, and specialization of local companies. From the perspective of the members of the Consortium, the companies have the ability to sell products internationally. Due to the rise of fast fashion, consumers often seek cheaper prices at the sacrifice of quality. The sacrifice prevents local Italian companies from selling their products out of the country. Once the companies join the Consortium, they have the ability to connect to each other’s contacts. For example, if one company has retailers that they often sell to, other companies can also contact these retailers. This expands the market of the companies in the Consortium. It also provides member companies with the ability to interact with each other while managing projects for the companies that they agree to help.
In regards to the national environment, a variety of economic and social trends affected the establishment of the Consortium. In the mid 200s the economy slowed down and thus consumers sought cheaper prices internationally. People lost interest in Italian style and quality and instead only focused on prices. Fast fashion such as brands including Zara, H and M, and Forever 21 rose due to their emphasis on lower prices despite the cheaper quality. Thus, local Italian companies took a hit in profits. The Consortium stemmed from the necessity of these local companies. This private entity emphasized competing with the rise of fast fashion companies. Eventually shifted to focus on more than just price. The consumers yearned for fashion made in Italy. This shift in economic trends in regards to increased prices and social trends in regards to emphasis on quality has allowed for the rising success of local Italian companies. However, due to competition and continual rise in fast fashion, these local companies still seek the help of the members of the Consortium in order for digitalization, specialization, and wider distribution. In regards to general political trends, between 2006 and 2011, corruption plagued the Italian government. In addition, the country’s relationship with the European Union suffered. However, slightly before, and especially after the election of Paolo Gentiloni, the corruption has decreased and ties with other European countries have grown stronger.
The company visit today provide us with a completely different perspective on the fashion industry. Today’s experience combined the consulting field of business with the world of fashion. I am looking forward to continuing the exploration of this industry tomorrow. All in all, Verona has treated us better than we could have ever asked for. It has been a completely different aesthetic from the canals in Venice, city life in Milan, and tourist overflow in Florence. Instead, this small town with a Roman-inspired city center has been absolutely perfect for shopping, roaming, and eating. It shocks me that it is our last night in a city other than Milan. Once we reach Milan, it means home soon, but that’s a thought that I will definitely put off for now. Until next time- Ciao!