Day 9 in Italy started a little later than usual, as we had no scheduled events until 3 o’clock this afternoon. As it was our full day in Verona, I took the time to explore the streets and shops a bit more, as well as help myself to some gelato for lunch.
The afternoon rolled around quickly however, and we soon found ourselves in the industrial section of Verona, far from the marble roads and painted homes, at a factory of the company Mero & More. Our purpose of travelling to this company was not so much to learn specifically about them, but about a larger group of companies that they were a part of, called the Consorzio della Moda. This group is known as a consortium, whose 46 businesses are all members of the fashion industry and based in the Veneto region of Italy, where Verona is located. Apart from the president and board of directors, of whom all are owners of member businesses, the organization does not employ more than a couple employees at a time. This is because the consortium itself is not responsible for the production of any goods. It is instead responsible for facilitating collaboration between the companies of the consortium in order for these member businesses to be able to bring a project from being idea to being tangible, marketable product.
How the consortium facilitates this collaboration is fairly simple. When a company has an idea for a project that is beyond the scope of what they produce, the company submits their idea to the consortium, which then determines which of their companies would contribute most to the actuation of the original idea. Collaborations within the consortium at times involve as many as 7 different companies, each possibly from different portions of the production process.
The consortium also aids its companies adapt to the modern marketplace. Consultants are hired to advise companies on marketing themselves, rebranding, and expanding into untapped markets in other countries. Much of this involves help with the digitization of sales through improving a company’s presence online. This often includes improving a company’s website, providing a better shopping experience and granting the company’s brand more exposure. This was the reason that the company where we were located, Mero & More, joined the consortium. As a company that specializes in cutting fabrics, Mero & More once sustained itself through just working with small Italian businesses, but as they progressed into the modern marketplace they found this limited amount of business just wasn’t viable anymore. Joining the consortium gave them the contacts and the marketing experience that they needed to expand their customer base, allowing them to thrive again in the fashion industry.
In order to recognize the advantages that the Consorzio della Moda brings to its member businesses, it is important to know that all of these companies are fairly small and relatively lesser known than the big-name brands of fashion, which makes it quite hard for them to break into international markets as well as come into contact with other companies to work with. Being a part of the Consorzio helps to give these smaller businesses the resources of a larger company through educating them in marketing as well as access to all of the other companies in the consortium. As the organization contains fashion businesses from all different stages of production, one could think of the Consorzio della Moda as one whole supply chain with multiple interchangeable parts, which can reconfigure itself to best suit its needs. It also helps that all of the components of this supply chain are located in the same region of Italy, ensuring that the quality of the products Consorzio companies put out are of high quality due to the high standard to which these Italian manufacturers hold themselves.
One could compare this organization to business incubators for start-up companies in Silicon Valley. Both provide resources, education, and a means of making connections within their respective industries to budding businesses that would otherwise be hard pressed to have any of these. There is however one major difference between the two. With the consortium, it is multiple companies helping each other collectively. With an incubator, it is generally one larger company which provides these opportunities for a single fledgling business. This type of model would be less likely to happen for the small fashion companies in Italy, as it is the much larger companies in the fashion industry which try to keep a tight grip on their niches in the market. Bringing in a smaller company and raising it up would probably be seen as creating unnecessary competition in their eyes.
Tomorrow we head back to our original location, Milan! Though I will miss Verona, I am excited to see what else Milan has to offer the second time around.