Today was an amazing day. After our last night in Verona, we packed up for our two site visits. This morning we had the honor of visiting Sartoria Cavour, a tailoring company located about 30 minutes outside of Verona. This company is dedicated to making handmade tailored products for men. They make high-end suits, jackets, pants, and overcoats for men’s fashion. It was opened about 30 years ago, starting as a business venture between the two owners. Both of the owners come from experience in tailoring. In the 30 years they have been in business, they have expanded from the original 6 to 7 employees to the 37 they have today. This is a huge number for a mid-sized company in Italy, especially during the economic times here (as I will go into more later). After lunch, we visited Mario Foroni, a frontrunner in the knitwear fashion industry. This company specializes in producing the knitwear fashion for some of the most famous brands and people in the world. Brands from Victoria Beckham to Gucci to Kanye West to even dressing Kate Middleton. They have 75 employees working in departments from programming to knitting to quality control in collaboration with over 60 factories that specialize in embroidery and other fancy designs for the final products. We were not able to take any pictures inside of their site because of the new and upcoming designs that were being produced right in front of us. MF1 has kept over 40 years’ worth of archived designs and products in which clients draw inspiration from, so the amount of fashion wealth in that room was immense. Both of these companies are a part of the consortium which we learned about yesterday, and both of the owners are on the board of directors for the governing body.
These two companies have very different approaches to how they conduct business. Sartoria Cavour is a smaller company focused more on production for individual clients rather than producing lines for large fashion brands. They do work with companies such as Ralph Lauren, but their main focus is quality tailored suits made to fit the individual as best as possible. Because they focus on making high quality suits, they face a tough task of finding skilled labor. The positions they hire for are part time, and pay very well, but many of the people they recruit to work there would rather spend their part time jobs as store clerks or in other places. There is a 2 to 3 month training period for new employees, but a full cycle of training typically lasts about 2 years. They are however always trying to improve skills for all the workers. The production depends on the number of workers they have, but they produce about 60 jackets a day. As a part of the consortium, the company has benefitted by getting closer to the other companies by collaborating and reaching new markets (such as hopefully the U.S. rather soon).
For Mario Foroni, their business model is very different. Many of their products are made by hand as well but the knitting process itself works more efficiently with high-skilled programmers working with machines. The products that MF1 produces have been known to be very high quality, so they conduct business more often with large firms and well-known names. About 90% of the yarn they use is from Italy, but they import special kinds from places such as Japan and China. There is still the handmade feel for most of the products from MF1 though. Everything is packaged and shipped by hand in house. All of the knitwear is washed before being sewn together in order to preserve it in the long run, so it is obvious that the company is focused on providing the highest quality product for their clients. As far as skilled employees for MF1, there is room for almost anyone with a passion for fashion and knitwear. For example, our guide for the company, Virginia, was a biochemist in college and then decided at age 25 that she wanted to work in fashion. There is always room to improve skill in this field, but if you have the passion and it is what you want to do with your life, then you could be creating products for people like Kanye West and Victoria Beckham.
As I mentioned earlier, Sartoria Cavour and Mario Foroni are both very well-employed companies. This is a very rare thing to see in Italy at the moment. The economic factors in Italy are not as strong as compared to what we experience in the United States. They are experiencing a similar thing to a recession, but not as strong or intense as we experienced in the early 2000s in the U.S. The fact that both these companies are well-employed and still producing high-end fashion products is a positive. It shows that the companies and people buying from them are still investing/reinvesting in high quality products for sale. It shows hope that these trends will continue and that the economy will continue to improve. The fashion industry is really a major part of how Italy functions. The fact that it continues to thrive and create quality products means shows there is still more strength in the economy then many people would have originally thought.