Made-in-Italy is the world’s largest and most successful fashion garment brand.
If you want to be in the fashion garment industry, you should consider why, how and what makes Italy so successful.
Italy’s industry is structured for fashion. Italy is home to 50,000 garment factories mostly family-owned SME operations. Go to a factory in Prato a major Italian garment production center and ask what are their minimums for a sweater. The Prato operation will make 50 pieces. The factory in Prato makes for small boutiques. This not only makes it an ideal fashion supplier, it also keeps them the first to see latest trends. Contrast this with the rest of the garment-making world. According to the China National Garment Association (CNGA), China is home to 100,000 reasonably sized garment factories. According to the Stern School of New York University at last count Bangladesh was home to 7000 garment factories, both large and small. Ask a Chinese factory merchandiser to accept an order for 50 pieces and you will see a look of total bewilderment. “Oh, you mean 50 dozen. Well perhaps.” And, the Minimums at the Chinese factory will be substantially less than their counterparts elsewhere.
Italy is home to the world’s most successful fashion textile industry. This gives Italy’s garment factories access to the newest and best fashion fabrics. Most importantly Italy’s textile and garment industries work on a cooperative basis where each side recognizes that their future depends on the continued success of the other side. Where textile producers have a cooperative relationship with garment makers, in countries such as China and Turkey, both succeed. It is easy to understand why countries where local textile production is limited, such as Vietnam, Bangladesh and Indonesia would have high rates of textile imports. What is more to the point is countries where the garment and textile industries enjoy a cooperative relationship such as China, Italy and Turkey, garment producers can easily import special fabrics when they are not available locally. Contrast this with India’s fashion garment industry that is forced to operate at an extreme and unique disadvantage. India’s local textile industry is very large and well developed but does not produce quality fashion fabrics, yet of all the major garment exporting countries India has the lowest rate of fabric imports. The problem is the result of a series of non-tariff barriers. This is what is termed the captive customer syndrome, whereby the local textile producers working through government, leave the local garment people with the choice either to use local fabric or no fabric at all.
Italian people have a natural style sense. Walk down any street in Rome, Florence, or Turin. Look at the people. Both men and women are some of the best dressed in the world. This is not just restricted to the wealthy. This aesthetic sense is almost genetic. It is certainly part of the culture. Many countries, host textile and fabric shows, which are often well attended by importers and suppliers alike. However, there is a world of difference between Magic in Las Vegas, the Festival of Fashion in Hong Kong, Interstoff in Frankfurt and the great Italian shows. Pitti Fillati, Pitti Uomo, Pitti Bimbo and Pitti Donna are more than industry shows they are cultural lifestyle events, attended by the widest range of people. Filati (yarn) may be of little interest to anyone other than sweater and textile specialists, but how the yarns are displayed is work of art. The Italian aesthetic culture permeates the entire society from those at the top to the woman sitting at a sewing machine. The Italian sewer working in a factory sees the garment holistically. She has an opinion about the garment. “I like the style. My sister or my niece would look good in this style.” To the Italian worker, the garment is just not a product but rather something of value in itself. Contrast this with the sewer in even one of the best Asian garment factories, where quality is defined a 0 faults. The quality Asian factory will follow the specs to nearest 1/10th cm. The number of stitches per inch will be precisely in accord with the customer’s tech sheet. Although technically correct, this is not what fashion is all about. The difference between the Asian factory and the Italian operation is that the Asian factory takes the fashion out of the garment, while the Italian factory ensures that the fashion remains. The consumer may not understand just how a garment is produced, but that consumer will prefer the made-in-Italy garment because it looks like it was made in Italy.
Italian factory management is different. An Italian garment factory is less like an industrial operation and more like a family farm. The husband runs the business side, the wife runs the operation, while the children are in training for the next generation. The Italian factory is all about product. You can hear the wife, every day lamenting that workers of today no longer have the ability or the interest to produce the right quality garment. Yet, within a reasonably short period of time, the wife manages to inculcate these new workers, many of which are foreign, with the necessary skills and passion. The result is that the Italian factory has both a high standard and level of quality. The Italian factory does not produce to the customer’s standard, because the customer accepts that the factory standard is at least equal, if not higher, than any it can impose.
Italy’s success is based on four main advantages:
- Small flexible factories;
- co - operative textile industry;
- Well-trained workers with high-level aesthetic
- But most importantly: Management who recognize that the factories greatest capital assets are its people.