This morning we filed into a charter bus and began our return trip to Milan. On our way back to Milan we were able to visit two companies associated with the Consorzio Della Moda. These companies were the Sartoria Cavour Tailoring Company and Mario Faroni Knitwear, otherwise known as MF1. Both of these companies serve very different markets, however they share a mutual respect for the quality of Italian craftsmanship and work to maintain that within their companies.
The first company we visited today was the Sartoria Cavour Tailoring Company. Sartoria Cavour are producers of fine, tailor-made suits. Founded by two individuals who previously ran local tailor shops, this company has the capabilities to produce tailor made skills on a larger scale. Individuals can come in to the company and request a custom suit. Additionally, boutiques or business looking to produce a small select line can come in and request a line of suits. Sartoria Cavour often does this for Polo Ralph Lauren. Ralph Lauren will come in with the size specifications their company typically uses for its clothing sizing as well as with any design ideas they have for the suits. The designs are then interpreted by Sartoria Cavour and produced by their workers. All suits from Sartoria Cavour are sewn by hand in house. They have a team of trained workers who produce said suits. However, much of the workforce at Sartoria Cavour is middle aged or older. The company is having a hard time recruiting younger people to work at their company and become trained in making tailor made suits. Due to this they may have an issue with a deficit of trained workers in the future. It take 2-3 months to undergo basic training at Sartoria Cavour, but their workers are typically not experts at every task until about two years of employment. Sartoria Cavour is working to expand its brand nonetheless and through utilizing the expertise of the Consorzio della Moda they are working to expand to the US market.
After visiting the Sartoria Cavour Tailoring Company we enjoyed a group lunch in a small Italian village. Then we headed off to Mario Faroni Knitwear. Mario Faroni Knitwear is very unique in that its goal is not to produce lines of clothes, though it has the capability to if requested, but to produce fashion prototypes. Most of the work MF1 is commissioned to do is based around producing either products for fashion shows or prototypes that are then produced at larger manufacturing facilities. The brands that produce products in house at MF1 are luxury brands producing small batches of products. MF1 is a notable brand in the fashion industry. They have produced clothing items for Madonna to wear to the Grammys and for the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, to wear to her wedding. Additionally MF1 worked on Kanye West’s clothing line. They are actually producing more products for him now, but what the items are for was unclear. Knitwear is different from the fabric production facilities we have seen in that its base material needs to be manufactured into its pattern shape rather than cut from cloth. That means that a lot goes into interpreting designs into computer programs for the knitting machines to process. Also the cost of production depends greatly on the thickness of the yarn. Finer yarn is more expensive because the item takes longer to knit and it uses a longer length of yarn to make the same shape. Once the pattern pieces are knit the materials are washed to prevent shrinkage. Then a special kind of round sewing machine is used to assemble the garment. For complex areas, there are employees on staff who can finish up the product by hand. A large part of what Mario Faroni Knitwear does is interpret designs to reality. Often clients come in with an idea of what they would like to be produced, but the actualization of this design lies in MF1. Because of this, employees must have a strong background in both design and even more importantly in the manipulation of the materials. All those hired at MF1 have a fashion background. However, most employees need completely retrained in the intricacies of knitwear on the job. To help ease the transition MF1 hopes to open a school in which students can achieve a masters in knitwear and then join the staff at MF1.
The global and national environment constantly affects businesses and their operation. One major event caused huge changes in the fashion industry was the recession. Due to the recession people turned to less expensive clothing options. As the economy began to pick back up again people began buying more clothes from the less expensive stores they were now used to. More recently there has been a trend in returning to higher quality clothes. However, consumers now expect the ability to purchase multiple items at low prices, even with quality clothing. Because of this MF1 has seen more limitations in the quality of clothing they are able to produce. While they still produce top of the line knitwear, they have come up with many innovations in knitwear that are not able to be realized due to the high production cost these innovations have. Today’s consumer base wants quality for less and companies must instead focus on innovations that lower costs while maintaining quality. In the case of Sartoria Cavour, the recession saw many small local tailors go out of business. Now that the recession is over and people are once again looking for quality products they are unable to go to the local tailor that closed down. Because of this Sartorio Cavour is now receiving much of this business.
Visiting both Sartoria Cavour and Mario Faroni Knitwear was a true privilege. It seems clear that to keep up in the fashion industry you can never stop innovating. As Mario Faroni said you need both patience and passion to succeed in the fashion industry. Today was truly inspiring and educational.