This morning was bitter sweet. We left the beauty of Verona at 9:20 AM to make our way back to bustling Milan where we started our adventures in Italy. On our way back to Milan we stopped at Sartoria Cavour Tailoring Company, had lunch at a small restaurant in town, then visited Mario Foroni Knitwear. As I sit in the bus nearing Milan, I am reflecting on how interesting both companies were today. Their business structures and unique labor forces are what truly made these companies stand out.
Sartoria Cavour Tailoring Company is a small men’s fashion company primarily producing custom tailor-made suits (jackets and pants). Made up of 37 employees, this company specifically tailors items for individual clients, but they do work with Ralph Lauren Polo as well. As of now they are trying to recover from the recession and are struggling since the economy has been stagnant for a while. Currently, they are trying to expand into the US market. Although there is a great deal of competition for online tailor-made suits, he noted that many of those turn out to be disasters since manufacturers can not guarantee a proper fit through measurements alone due to individual clients’ imperfections. Since this is a custom tailoring company, production dates back to age-old traditions and are made entirely in Italy. They use the best quality materials from locations around the world including Italy and England. It is hard to properly “mass manufacture” items that are so personal. Even though the company is small, a sufficient number of skilled workers on staff facilitates the production of a basic jacket in about 3 hours and a more complex design or style in four or more hours. Therefore, the average number of items produced is about 60 jackets a day. More specifically, 25% of the items are tailor-made garments for individual clients and the rest are mass produced for companies. (It used to be that only 3% were for individual clientele sales, but due to competitors going out of business, those customers are coming to them instead and increasing that percentage.)
The skilled labor force at Sartoria consists of 37 employees, which is a proportionately large number of employees for a small/medium sized business. Many of the workers are women in their 40’s which is concerning because fewer trained workers would be able to operate the equipment and the run process as those employees resign or retire. Sartoria would need to hire new people quickly because it takes 2 to 3 months to do the basic training and then about 2 years to be considered skilled craftsman- although they do continually try to increase their present workers’ skills set. The younger generation does not necessarily want to work with companies like this because they could work in retail or at a company that is not so labor intensive.
Mario Foroni MF1 is a knitwear company specializing in the creation of couture knitwear designs for some famous designers around the world including names like Versace, Valentino, Gucci, and Kanye West and is lead by Foroni and his wife. MF1 is similar to Sartoria, but it is bigger and utilizes machines to produce more garments and at a faster rate. They have 75 employees in Italy, but also have over 300 more employees in their 60 factories around the world. Many clients start as small companies with MF1, but as their brands expand, more space is required to produce these products and locations in Mumbai or Bangladesh are utilized. Within production, they stressed that you have to be aware of economics, politics, and market fluctuations to remain competitive in a complex industry. They have a design, production, and archive room which all demonstrated the amazing quality of the products produced. MF1 was a larger company than Sartoria and had the manpower and equipment to produce more for a larger customer base.
The labor force at MF1 seemed to be more diverse in age and there were more employees. Training to a level of competence takes about 5 to 6 years. MF1 is focused on making sure their workers are patient and passionate about their work. Some people will come in to this workforce with natural talent and others will have to work hard to master the craft. However, after we finished touring the archive rooms of white/cream and colored clothing, we had the opportunity to see the “school” where students will learn the craft of knitting. The school was a large empty room with a few tables and sewing machines. It was not made clear as to how many people actually train there, but it is intended to become a school the future.
Tomorrow we will be examining later stages of the supply chain when we visit Bottega Velasca and Fiege Logistics Center…Ciao for now!
|| Alaina All’Estero – “Alaina Abroad” ||