MILAN, Italy - A few months back, I published an article about the Made in Italy label, following damaging findings aired in a provocative Italian documentary on the state of luxury manufacturing in Italy.
In the meantime, there has been growing interest in the concept of ethical luxury, but some of the biggest manufacturers continue to flout the rules and standards.
Just yesterday, a new reader of the BoF named Lauren, provided detailed commentary on our previous article Made in Italy | Time for accountablity regarding the egregious behaviour of major Luxury brands which she has observed first hand. Her observations merit further discussion and debate, and so I have included them here.
As for this debate [on Made in Italy production], I am late in the discussion, but after having worked in production in Italy I have seen firsthand some very interesting things.
1. Chinese workers eating in 15 minute shifts in a Chinese restaurant in the factory town of Scandicci. They literally don't speak and just shovel food into their mouths, leave the table after 15 minutes only to be replaced by the next shift. This happened three times while I was having dinner at one of the more authentic Chinese eateries around Florence.
Shocking? Yes! Makes me wonder what their living conditions are like...
2. Prada decamped to China for the production of the hardware on their accessories, only to return with their tails between their legs because the quality was shoddy enough to be noticeable to the end user.
Consequently, they are back with a phenomenal factory in Florence (Scandicci) that just spent millions on environmentally friendly practices, uses amazing technology and employs Italians at wages that honor their level of craftsmanship. Somehow this company has managed to retain a market niche (quality, innovation and reasonably competitive price points) and as a result they serve the best brands.
3. The rules for labeling something "made in Italy" are lax enough that shoe uppers, half-completed handbags, and many other parts can be shipped in from India, China, Romania to Italy where they are finally assembled and stamped with the coveted mark of Italian luxury.
Just because it SAYS made in Italy doesn't mean it is.
FYI: Lambertson Truex, Rickard Shah, Jimmy Choo. Those guys are paying true Italian craftsman to do their work. As for the other biggie brands? I wouldn't bet on it.
Lauren's comments make us consider whether Made in Italy really means what it used to, and perhaps if Made in China means what it used to, as well.
Just today a well-placed industry contact told me a story of how Armani (like Prada, and many, many other Italian labels) have set up shop in China either by buying up existing Chinese factories or setting up new factories in China, run by Italians -- and apparently Armani'shave been more successful than anyone else.