Sunday, August 1, 2010

High End Hanging by a Thread?

foto courtesy of flickr (creative commons license)

I was fascinated to read this article in the NYTimes last nite,  Is Italy Too Italian?.   It really just scratches the surface on a bunch of conundrums faced by specialized makers in Italy and elsewhere.  

For years Italy has had no real rules as far as country of origin goes on garment labels. As far as I have know items sold in Italy could be sewn in Slovenia yet marked   "Made in Italy"  this was very often the case with leather garments.  I've been approached by these same makers for production. Their minimums were not too high & the workmanship is incredible, yet I'd have to bring in garments labeled "Made in Slovakia" so I never entertained the idea. 

Prada and other companies based in Italy can label it "Made in Italy" even if all that is done in Italy is sewing on the buttons.  (This loophole somehow enabled A/X to have production made in prisons some years back.)  Ok, so there's one conundrum.  I feel for Mr. Barbera here as he is battered by this loophole already,  and still will be when the new law they are talking about goes into affect.

Then when I read the average cost per yard of Mr. Barbera's wools being $48.75 a yard,  it seemed very reasonable to me, since the rock bottom per yard equivalent when converted to leather winds up being about 1.5 times that & based on the average goods we use (ie: the stuff people order the most of) it becomes closer to 2 times that range.

While they do some vertical manufacturing,  and have their own collection of suits, it's definitely not a "fashion" line, (the styles chosen for Times slideshow do seem particularly outdated, why?)  which has got to be hurting some.   I also wonder how many distributors and mark-ups this wool goes through on it's way to becoming a finished piece with other companies?  The debt the NYTs notes cannot be entirely due to the guilds? Or can it?  That seems horrific and I kind wish they went a little deeper here- do their accounts pay in a timely fashion or is it slow death by aging?  Is it something else? Why isn't a company like this treated like a national treasure?

Carlos Barbera wool must be incredible.  The whole description of how the wool is treated,  it's truly an artisanal product.  I'd love to get to work with it one day.  I sincerely hope the tradition is not "Finito"  it would be a very bad thing,  and not just for Italy.  It is a form of art,  the knowledge,  the care and passion involved in creating something so special as this wool, that without chemicals or additives beyond it's "spa" time becomes a 'performance' fabric.

We needs purists like this.  We need quality like this.  Sure, it's not for everybody, but why should it  be?

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