On this fine morning of day 10 in Italy, we said goodbye to the peaceful elegance of Verona, and piled into a bus to start our journey back to Milan. We had to make a couple stops along the way, and I don’t mean for bathroom breaks. We visited two companies who were associated with the Consorzio della Moda, the consortium that we learned about the day before. As with all of the consortium companies, these are both relatively small Italian companies located in the Veneto region who are dedicated to a high standard of quality in their products. How they each go about doing business and production however, is very different from one another.
Our first stop was to the Sartoria Cavour Tailoring Company, a small, high end fashion company which dedicates itself to producing high quality tailor made suits. Founded by two tailors who initially ran their own shops, this company is operated with the expertise that comes from many years of custom making suits for individuals. This company in some ways brings the best of both worlds to the table when it comes to producing suits. It has been able to scale its production of suits to the level of mass production to serve companies such as Polo Ralph Lauren, while still being able to accommodate individual orders from individual people for custom made suits. For the larger companies it works with, Sartoria Cavour receives the desired measurements of the proposed suits, along with ideas for designs, which are open for the company to interpret. In order to be able to produce quality suits at a high rate, Sartoria Cavour has employed around 37 workers, who sew each suit by hand. Each component of a suit is sewn in house, in an assembly line fashion, in which each worker is assigned a specific part of the suit to produce, which increases the efficiency and precision of each worker. This is not to say that their job is simple however. In fact, each worker here is required to go through a 2 to 3 month period of basic training before they step anywhere near the suits the this company puts out, ensuring that they are competent enough to achieve the level of quality the company desires. Unfortunately, this amount of training and the hard work that goes into producing these suits is turning away much of the younger generation from working at Sartoria Cavour. Looking around the factory in which the suits were sewn, I could not help but notice that every worker there was at the very least in their 40’s, which could become a major problem in the future once these middle-aged workers come to the age of retirement. In order for this company to keep expanding like it has in the past few years, with some help from the Consorzio, Sartoria Cavour will need to find a younger generation of tailors.
Our second stop was to MF1, or Mario Faroni, a high end producer of knitwear which has designed clothing for many high profile lines such as Gucci and the Yeezy line by Kanye West. This company is not actually in the business of mass producing its products. Instead, MF1 is responsible for designing the prototypes of a piece of clothing for a company, which is then taken by their customer to be mass produced at a larger manufacturing facility. The factory that we toured has just enough production power to be able to produce its clothing in small batches, making individual orders from celebrities, such as Kate Middleton, just as feasible to do as producing prototypes for business to business commerce. MF1’s method of production differs greatly from any of the other business sites that we have been to, chiefly because they are working with knitwear instead of fabric. Because patterns of on knitwear have to be literally knit into the clothing instead of printed on, producing a piece of clothing with a pattern is much more complicated with knitwear. In order to attain a viable speed of production, MF1 uses machines to produce its clothes, employing multiple programmers to analyze the proposed piece of clothing and write programs to knit the clothes in the most efficient way possible. When all of the components of the clothing are produced, they are then sewn together by seamstresses. In the case of an excessively complicated component of a piece of knitwear, the seamstresses will actually sew the piece by hand instead of with a machine. While this process of production makes for a very tight run, efficient operation, it does come with some difficulties. Working with customers to create designs, the workers for MF1 have to a decently extensive background in fashion before they can contribute to this company. Even with a solid background in fashion, employees say that the complexity of knitwear has required them to learn quite a bit on the job. Hoping to minimize this difficulty, MF1 is looking into opening up a special school specifically for knitwear, similar to the leather school we previously visited.
Both of these companies have faced challenges in recent years what with the decline in the economy worldwide. As these are two companies are both low output producers of high quality products, the shift in focus of consumers from quality to price has made for a difficult situation. For Sartoria Cavour, there has been a decline in the amount of people looking for personally tailored clothing. For MF1, the shift in focus has meant not utilizing some of the newer innovations that they have made in knitwear in favor of producing slightly less high quality products at a more affordable price. Instead of creating innovations which raise the quality of the product, people have started fo focus more on advancements that help to cut costs while holding the level of quality steady. By the tone of our guide’s voice as she explained this, it sounded like MF1 was a company that wanted to do the exact opposite, and as been in some ways forced into this price cutting because of economic factors.
Getting to meet these two unique companies in the span of the same 24 hours made for quite an interesting and informative day in Italy. Tomorrow we meet yet another company, Velasca, to see what information we can gain from them.