What a busy day! Today we visited three companies on our way back to Milan. All three are smaller companies that are based entirely in the local region and are part of the Consorzio della Moda we visited yesterday.
After checking out of our hotel, we took a bus to one of Gruppo Sinergia’s four warehouses. This logistics company provides services to its many clients. They offer any combination of e-store management, packaging, transport, and customer service. With a complex system and software that optimizes package size and transport provider depending on destination and product, Gruppo Sinergia may seem to an outsider like a mini Amazon. The biggest difference is that there are many key steps that are still done by hand, allowing for more customized packaging for their brands and for greater care with items and reduction of waste. This is a detail that has allowed for a steady clientele and has even drawn other e-commerce logistics providers to ask for process tips and the recent creation of dot.log, a system provider for logistics companies to follow in the steps of Gruppo Sinergia.
We then walked over a few buildings to Sartoria Cavour, the tailoring company. This small company of less than 40 employees makes hand-made men’s jackets and formalwear. Larger companies such as Ralph Lauren and other local retailers will order production of their designs from this company. They also provide a made-to-measure service for direct customers to get custom-made clothing. All of the fabric that Sartoria uses comes from a nearby region in Italy called Biella where for thousands of years fabrics of all types have been produced. After a lovely tour by the owner and a lesson in cloths and suits, we were given a snack of fresh strawberries picked from neighboring farms and then took a bus to lunch before our third visit of the day.
For our final company visit of the trip, we got a tour of MF1, a knitting company of 75 employees that manufacture garments starting from thread and ending with a final packaged product for clients including Gucci and Louis Vuitton. Since this singular facility holds all the stages of the company’s production, it has maintained a reputation of meeting any deadline no matter how narrow. An extreme example of this was when one night Madonna called and asked for a pair of embroidered pants for a performance 2 days later in New York City. The embroidery on these pants would normally require 300 hours of work, so it took an immense amount of organization and craftsmanship on the part of MF1 to complete the enormous task in time to ship it over for her performance – without sacrificing quality.
In order to guarantee such timeliness, the warehouse holds every type of yarn imaginable: every color, composition, thickness, etc. and is connected directly through a large opening to the rest of the factory. Once a designer has discussed his or her ideas with an expert in stitching, a rough design of stitch patterns is drawn out for the programming team. This team then takes the pattern and inputs it as a code for the sewing machines to understand. With this done, a plans for yarn colors and quantity is produced and withdrawn from the supply room. After the templates have been knitted together from one of the various knitting machines, it is inspected for quality assurance and then joined to the other pieces of the garment. It is actually this machine that hikes up the price and quality of Italian knitwear, due to the precision and neatness of the fusion between pieces. The more common method simply trims the knitted templates and sews them together, causing more fraying and a decrease the overall garment quality. Once assembled, labels and tags are attached before it is folded and placed into branded packaging. Something interesting about this final process is that, in order to protect their designs, top brands like Gucci will include only exactly the number of labels and packages that they expect in return on final products. Each time one piece is lost or ruined, an extensive report must account for the item.
Besides the factory, the building very recently has created a fashion school to teach technical skills to future designers and fashion workers in a professional setting right after high school. This school has not only the advantage of being taught by professionals working in the successful company that lies in the same building, but also gets to learn hands-on how to apply their skills industrially by using machines that are retired from the factory instead of watching videos or simply waiting until entering the workforce as most in their profession have to do.
In a brief overlook of the three companies, I saw an interesting difference in how they saw themselves. The first company saw itself very practically as a mediator for its clients. The second saw itself as an artisan, not an artist, since they took a creation, or model, and modified it to fit certain traits and bodies. The third likes to say that artisans use their minds and artists use their hearts, and therefore considers each employee an artist. If I follow the philosophy of MF1, I would have to say that all of the consortium’s member companies are artists in their own way, since they are all so meticulous and passionate about the quality of their Made in Italy products.
I’m extremely glad to have gotten to explore this mixing of business, engineering, and fashion on all of these company visits. I am even more grateful for the cultural immersion that inevitably was a part of this experience and communication with such proud Italians. I look forward to taking home all I have learned and applying it to my purchases in the future and hope to bring my family here to Italy to share the history and environment that is so unique to this wonderful place.
Thanks for reading all my posts and I hope you have a wonderful summer!