In the fashion industry, there is perhaps no label as highly coveted as Made in Italy, and for good reason too. Heritage and craftsmanship are two of the core values at the helm of what it means to be Made in Italy. The label will certainly amplify the prestige of your fashion brand, but let’s talk about exactly how much this label is worth.
Understanding the Italian Manufacturing Process
Italian clothing manufacturers are artisans at their craft. They take what they do very seriously, and pour their entire lives’ work into crafting quality garments. However, it’s important to understand that the Italian fashion sector is quite conservative and takes pride in its traditions. Most of the big Italian luxury brands that began in Italy are still owned by the same families who founded them. It’s more difficult for a foreigner to come to Italy and find a local apparel manufacturer willing to produce their items.
Instead, it’s easier, and more highly recommended, to partner with a resource like MakersValley that already has strong ties to the generations-old Italian manufacturer ecosystem.
Manufacturing in Italy by the Numbers
Most Italian manufacturers are difficult to contact if you’re not based in Italy, as many of them don’t have websites, or if they do, they will be nearly impossible to find within a quick Google search. This means that if your fashion label hopes to work directly with a manufacturer, you will need to book a trip to Italy.
Let’s do a breakdown of what that would cost. Estimated cost for airfare would be around $600 one way, which would fluctuate depending on the time of year you go and how far in advance you book your flight. Accommodations would likely cost you around $120 per day (and you will likely need to stay at least a few days if you’re here to visit factories). Transportation during the entire trip would be around $200, and food/drink would likely be around $350 for the entire trip.
That’s only for one person. If you plan to bring a team with you, you’re easily looking at thousands of dollars. Most Italian manufacturers won’t know English either, so unless you’re fluent in Italian, you will also need to pitch in money for a translator. Not to mention, most of these factories will only work with brokers and distribution companies, and if they work directly with a designer, they will charge high commission fees.
The city of Prato, just 16 miles from Florence, is filled with another problem that threatens the very core of what the Made in Italy label stands for, and that is sweatshops. Prato is home to a very large population of Chinese immigrants, two thirds of which are being exploited in the factories that have emerged in this area. About 90 percent of these factories use fabric smuggled from China, evade taxes, and grossly violate health and labor regulations. In December of 2013, a fire in one of these factories killed seven workers as they slept in cardboard cubicles at a workshop.
None of these kinds of factories commit to the core values that run central to Made in Italy, and yet, they still carry that same label. To avoid working with factories like this, consider collaborating with a partner who puts manufacturers through a rigorous vetting process, and gives fashion brands an inside look at these factories via live updates during sampling and production. You can also check out content from resources that help you get to know the individuals behind your clothes with artisan spotlights, such as this one about manufacturing company owner Carmine.
In the long-term, fashion brands that use smart business practices to manufacture in Italy will have not only the best end products, but also the best chance for a consistently positive brand reputation. Upholding the values of what it means to be an Italian-made clothing brand unites your label's mission with the mission of those storied Italian manufacturers who take what they do very seriously, and helps to safeguard your brand’s integrity and equity against some of the scandals that cost other top brands revenue.