What does made in Italy mean?
When we think of Italy, we imagine the finest espresso served in an elegant tazza. We recall impromptu meetings with friends in our favorite bar and a beautiful light that imbues the city with a “joie de vivre” or “gioia di vivere” as we say in Italy. The Made in Italy label isn’t just about quality; it’s an aesthetic and a way of life.
To truly understand the appeal of Italian fashion and what Made in Italy represents, we must first look at our culture, customs and history.
La dolce vita
In Milan, we debrief with aperitivo. This is our stylish custom. We meet with friends to enjoy a cocktail during happy hour, which typically starts at half-past seven in the evening. Friends and colleagues meet after work to catch up. If the mood strikes, we might go to a restaurant for dinner or a show. These meetings are never planned, always improvised. We play it by ear, as they say in English. As Europe’s fashion capital, it’s important to be seen as well-dressed, but, crucially, never over-dressed.
Milanese women cultivate an effortlessly chic look. It’s this emphasis on quality and understated elegance that defines our wardrobe. Milanese women are naturally beautiful. In Italian, we have an expression, “acqua e sapone,” which means a woman needs nothing more than water and soap to highlight her beauty. The same goes for hair.
Happy hour in Milan is a way to see others and be seen as groomed, well dressed and effortlessly put-together. Making a good impression starts with a beautiful coat. We look at the quality of clothing. The emphasis is not on the label or logos, but on form and tailoring. We study the shape and construction of a design.
Layering is an art form. We’re often seen around town with a beautifully cut blazer or trench coat. Our garments are hand-finished, often made with age-old techniques. Above all, we prefer natural sustainable fabrics like wool or cashmere, because they will last many years and are comfortable to wear. We buy quality pieces that will stand the test of time over throwaway fashion.
Just like the habit of aperitivo, these preferences are not adopted; they are inherited.
Is made in Italy a true story?
Yes, Made in Italy isn’t a marketing ploy. It’s the collective story of Italy’s families and regional workshops. All throughout Italy, we find family-owned clothing manufacturers with decades of experience. Max Mara and Versace are both examples of family-owned companies that continue to shape the fashion industry globally.
Traveling through Italy, it becomes apparent that the knowledge and expertise of each region is as unique as it is rich. Expertise is not something that happens overnight. It’s cultivated, passed down.
Northern Italy boasts a rich textile legacy, spanning many generations. In Biella, we find Italy’s fine wool district. This region is home to many family businesses that produce wool fabrics, using different techniques inherited from previous generations with small adjustments to suit modern buyers’ tastes.
Loro Piana opened up a wool mill in Trivero, in the Biella district. The company was sold in 2013, but prior to this, the family traced its roots to the 1800s, when the family traded as wool merchants. The brand is still renowned for its high-quality cashmere and wool fabrics. In fact, it is the largest western producer of cashmere, according to LVMH.
In Como, we find Italy’s premier silk district. Here, we discover families supplying luxury brands with the finest silk. Some of the raw silk originates from the Far East, but it is swiftly transformed into gorgeous fabrics accented with rich florals and baroque patterns, using age-old techniques.
Mantero is another family-owned textile leader in luxury fabrics and accessories. Its craft history spans four generations in the Como region. Mantero’s ‘Icons’ scarves are a testament to the timeless beauty of screen printing and weaving.
As we travel down Italy, we find more family businesses specializing in leather goods, knitwear and clothing manufacturing. The leather is processed with secret techniques to produce the softest suede fabrics for loafers and other leather goods. The knitwear is made with cashmere, cotton and metallic thread for a touch of sparkle to delight couture customers. Manufacturers transform sketches into the perfect coat or dress.
These family businesses are sought out by luxury fashion labels. Companies from all around the world visit Italy to source exquisite, rare and refined products. In luxury fashion, we may notice products are designed in France or the UK, but produced in Italy. Over many decades, we’ve built trust and a reputation for our know-how and our ability to bring ideas to life. Italy is renowned for its attention to detail, which is fundamental to its design ethos and process from jeweled buttons to the softest cashmere, no element is left untouched, no detail too small.
Why Italian design is so special
From the custom of aperitivo after work to multi-generational fashion empires, style and family are a serious business in Italy. However, the biggest legacy we pass down through generations is not a name or a reputation; it’s our love of design.
It’s difficult to copy Italy’s know-how. These skills are deeply ingrained in our way of thinking and connecting. From art to food, we are a nation that expresses ourselves best when we are creating beautiful, succulent, utterly unforgettable designs.
We create beautiful things, using our hands and our innate sense of design. Italians search for the ideal proportions to create our next gastronomic or fashion masterpiece. It’s little surprise that over 40% up to 70% of the world’s art is kept in Italy. We are a nation of artists, designers and co-creators.
To argue that Italian production is basically art would not be an overstatement. When we look at Made in Italy creations in food, fashion and design, we feel the emotions of looking at a good piece of art. We experience Made in Italy passion. Iit moves through us, imbuing us with the same gioia di vivere we feel walking the streets of Milan or Rome. We experience life’s eternal beauty and the limitless possibilities of each moment. We are at one with Italian designer’s creations.
When it comes to fine design, quality fabrics and luxury knits, Made in Italy brands continue to dominate the market, showing the strength and prestige of Italian expertise. Italian fashion is a testament to the importance of family, lasting quality and heritage; values we can all appreciate when we wear a tailored jacket or a pair of exquisitely hand-finished shoes.