The journey back to Milan was filled with more fashion that the rest of the days of the trip. I was surprised to see an entire company dedicated to tailored men’s suits. It was a bit of a fashion shock not to walk into a company and find something that I would love to buy for myself. However, the suits were indeed beautiful and maybe one that I would want for my future husband- a girl can dream, right? I could relate more the second company that we visited because I wear many sweaters especially during the lengthy winters in Toledo. This company specialized in knitting yarn into sweaters. Once I walked into the production rooms of these companies, I realized that both specialize in knitting and sewing clothes from scratch.
The first company, Santoria Cavour, was a venture between two tailors begun over 30 years ago. In a general sense, the business structure of the first company revolves around making customized suits for individual customers. For example, is a customer needs a specific suit for an occasion, he will come in and describe the desired style as well as give his measurements. Then, it takes more than 3 hours to create this suit. This works especially well for customers with bodily imperfections who need specifications in order for the suit to fit perfectly. For example, if a male’s arms are short in proportion to his body, then he may not find a fitting suit in the store. This also alters their approach to production because the company is especially careful with their dependence on technology. Newer technology can often be a disaster because of the possibility that it alters the precise measurements necessary for a customer. The company is searching for new concepts and solutions such as streamlining because customers are limited in the time they have to come into the store and give measurements.
Since 15 percent of their company is based in tailoring and the rest is dedicated to hand sewing suits, a skilled labor force is essential to their success. However, when we visited the production room, I observed that a majority of the workers included middle-aged women. The owner described that younger generation has lost interest in learning the art of tailoring especially because it requires two to three months for suiting and a whole two years to become fully trained. The younger generation rather prefers jobs in the fashion industry such as retail. Even though this company attempts to build interest, they have difficulty discovering anyone in the younger generation willing to dedicate their time and effort into learning this art of production. In addition, this company staffs 37 employees which is considered a lot for a middle-sized Italian company. Thus the owner must seek a large number of employees to fill the empty positions.
MF1, the second company we visited, surprised me because I was completely unaware that they provided their clothing to celebrities including Kanye West, Madonna, and the Jenners. Mario Foroni, the owner of the company began the company with his own label and focused on knitting from wool and yarn. As part of their business structure, the low-end products require block stitching whereas the high-end products are sewn by hand. The company works with the customers to receive their input and create a prototype. This average prototype costs between 500 and 1500 euros. They then mass produce this prototype and sent it to their retail stores. Unlike Sartoria Cavour, MF1 is home to machines that cost between 100,000 and 120,000 euros. These machines knit the yarn and wool into finer fabrics for sweaters. In addition, separate machines are responsible for embroidery in the sweaters. Despite their use of machines, every piece is hand finished so no stitches fall out. In addition, even though the business structure includes machines, the workers sew and iron the fabric. In the future, MF1 plans to expand their business model and production into opening storefronts, establishing their brand abroad in China and the US, and reaching the consumers directly instead of using businesses and middlemen.
Similarly to Sartoria Cavour, MF1 faces challenges in acquiring the skilled workforce. MF1’s issue is slightly different, however. The employees that MF1 hires did attend fashion school, but since the job requires a specialized skillset, they had to relearn a majority of knitting, ironing, and tailoring. In addition, the employees may believe that they already know the basics, however, it takes five to six years to master this production art. Thus, the established employees and managers must train the incoming employees and adjust them to the specifications of the company. As I mentioned above, MF1 has ample goals in mind to expand their mark in the fashion industry internationally. However, the owner Mr. Foroni described that there is too high of a demand with limited skilled workers. Thus, in order to pursue their future desires and maintain a skilled workforce, Mr. Foroni decided to build a school with living arrangements right across the company. This allows for more potential employees to receive the proper training which will help increase their knowledge and success for the company.
Today was a journey back to Milan filled with fashion. The small town that we stopped at for lunch was absolutely beautiful. Every aspect of Italy is breathtaking and I am not ready for our three final days here. Luckily, they’re filled with more fashion and adventure so I can distract myself from going home. Until next time- Ciao!