Today our group said goodbye to Verona and we did two site visits on our way back to Milano. The first company that we visited was Sartoria Cavour Tailoring Company located on the outskirts of Verona. The company was started 30 years ago by two tailors looking for a venture investment and to utilize their respective skill sets. Both of the owners are tailors in their own right and come from a family of tailors that have passed the trade on through generations. The company prides itself on producing all handmade products that are sewed in their factory. The quality and price of their products reflect this and the company explained how they would want their products to last at least 10 years so the customer gets in quality level what they are paying for in price. The company has 37 employees in total which does not sound like many in terms of standard manufacturing companies in the US but it is actually quite a lot when looking at the Italian fashion industry and how most firms range from small to medium size. The firm explained how they are just now entering the US market but it is difficult to carry out online measurements and tailoring because so much of the process happens on human to human interaction (especially since everyone has imperfections with their body and those are hard to quantify with plain measurements). One of the owners explained how the artisanal work of being an actual tailor is slowly dying and being replaced with different alternatives that attempt to cater a similar experience to customers who do not have the time or money to access a legitimate tailor. The factory takes 3-4 hours to produce a single jacket and can produce a total of around 60 jackets per a day. The majority of this production is supplying different designer brands and labels with large scale efforts while only 15% of their orders come from individual customers. This number is much higher compared to previous years and the owner suggested that this might be due to other tailors closing down their stores due to lack of demand, thus allowing his own firm to grow in size. The most impressive aspect of the factory for myself was how the company produces such a high quality product in such an efficient manner, meaning that they are “mass producing” artisanal work. The company struggles to find employees but when it does they put their employees through a 2-3 month training program to learn the basics, the owner explained how it can take up to 6 years for their employees to gain a full mastery of the skill.
The other company that our group visited today was MF1 (Mario Foroni Knitwear), this company differs greatly from the tailoring company. They produce clothing prototypes for other factories to then mass produce with the correct resources. MF1 works with some of the most popular fashion brands in the world including Gucci, Yeezy (Kanye West), Armani, Yves Saint Laurent, Versace and many others. Their prototypes have stolen the covers of Vogue and their archives allow world class designers to find inspiration from past pieces. Our guide explained how 90% of their yarn comes from Italy and how their production machines cost roughly 100-125 thousand euros per a machine. They explained how Italian yarns have a much higher quality in comparison to cheaper yarns (like French ones) that would be used by cheaper fast fashion brands like an H&M or Zara. Often brands will use MF1’s collection of prototypes and archives to gain inspiration on a design, thus putting them in the ghostwriter of fashion category where they aren’t the main focus but their production drives the industry. It is often difficult for MF1 to find employees with the proper level of background experience that fulfills their requirements for their employees. In order to eliminate this gap, MF1 is looking to build a trade school next to their offices and factory so that they can find young, quality talent that will stick with the company for years to come. I found this idea to be incredibly unique because rarely do I find firms that put such an emphasis on growing talent within the company’s resources rather than looking for more external help. Furthermore, MF1 is looking to start designing their own knitwear line in the Fall of 2017. Mr. Foroni himself explained how the brand has been in the industry for so long that he felt it was time for them to try their own hand at expressing themselves through knitwear.
With regards to Value Network Principles of the two firms we visited today, they are complex with many steps to complete the high production levels. Both firms must order raw materials (yarn or whatever fabric is needed to complete a suit coat for a tailor) from suppliers, preferably in Italy for quality purposes. Then the firms then turn these raw materials into completed goods in their respective factories with highly skilled laborers (a very rare commodity for each of these firms respectively). Both of these firms mentioned how it is becoming more and more difficult to find the labor needed to satisfy the quality demanded by the brands that each respective company works with. Whether it is sewing, stitching, or whatever task that is asked of the employee, it is all quite difficult to master in a short amount of time. Furthermore, both firms must worry about how to manage their excess waste whether it’s recycling it or turning it into other products that the brand sells for a cheaper price.