Today we visited Verona’s fashion consortium to receive a lecture on what it does and how it helps the city and region. However, the lecture evolved into much more. The gloomy morning rain made the 30-minute walk to the consortium unpleasant to say the least, but we arrived and settled in to our seats by 10:30. We then received a summary of the consortium’s purpose by two of its head chairs. Basically, the consortium is an alliance between small, often family owned, fashion companies all producing in the Veneto region of Italy. This cooperation helps the small businesses to operate on a larger international scale due to receiving funds and backing from the Italian government and each other. The speaker explained that, often times, the lines between members are blurred within the consortium as many of the companies are direct competitors with one another. This also leads to the issue with stealing ideas and innovations from fellow members. After the general lecture, the floor was opened to questions which helped to clarify some of the more difficult to grasp aspects of the concept. One student asked if the consortium would prefer a mismanaged company with a brilliant idea or a well-managed company with mediocre ideas to which the president responded by expressing the priceless value of good ideas in the industry, “a good idea is always the most important.” Another student asked whether the consortium itself operates as an individual profit center or just simply a non-profit asset for each of the companies. This question was answered simply that the consortium is a non-profit organization and all employee salaries come directly from membership fees payed by the companies.
Later, the discussion moved from being about the consortium itself and more about the brand of “made in Italy.” It is the goal of all who work for the consortium to associate “made in Italy” with high quality craftsmanship, especially in the days of frequent outsourcing of production. The president seemed to admire the “Amazon” business model of one day shipping but recognize that it cannot fit the “made in Italy” image of meticulous, masterful manufacturing. We finished by talking about Verona and how it is a hidden gem in Italy. The speakers seemed keen to hear our opinions on how to market Verona and bring it onto the map as more than just the setting of a certain Shakespeare play that I need not name. It was inspiring to see two people so proud of their heritage and home. Tomorrow we visit three companies and then return to Milan!