The Italian supply chain does not emerge from the pandemic unscathed: the Report on SMEs presented by Intesa Sanpaolo with Prometeia points to it as one of the sectors in greatest difficulty, which is slower to recover than others. In 2020, its loss in revenue of 21.4% was due to several factors, like the closing of production facilities and stores, the demand shock, and the interruption of tourism. The government’s anti-crisis measures were not sufficient, and many businesses risked not surviving, putting at risk a heritage of know-how that is one-of-a-kind worldwide.

The third day of the Fashion Global Summit promoted by Class Agorà entitled “New Glocal: winning strategies for the Italian supply chain” examined the future of the fashion supply chain together with a panel of expert speakers who spoke about three factors critical to its development: dimensions, integration, and sustainability.

If the small dimensions of a company, which is an expression of many Italian productive districts, represents a resource when speaking of excellence, innovation, flexibility, and reactivity, it is instead limiting in its inability to make an impact in a global context that requires a certain organizational structure for effectively positioning itself on the global market. Such businesses cannot do so on their own and in the future, they will have to increasingly focus on integration in order to survive. From this standpoint, the role of brands is critical: “11 Italian luxury holding companies are supported by a supply chain that just on the first level alone include 1,600 businesses with 80,000 employees, – explains Stefania Trenti, Head of the Industry Division of the Intesa Sanpaolo Studies and Research Department– there is then a multitude of specialised suppliers, an extremely well-appointed world that often represents in terms of sustainability and digitalisation key players”. It is accordingly clearly the responsibility of brands to preserve this heritage of excellence and know-how, which has been key in making Made in Italy a point of reference worldwide. One player aware of this is Fendi, which recently brought to Rome’s Palazzo delle Civiltà its “Hand in Hand” exhibition featuring the extraordinary works of 20 artisanal companies that collaborate with the maison and which “represent an Italian economic pillar that we would like to protect, while preserving its savoir faire – explains Serge Brunschwig, Chairman and CEO of Fendi – However we cannot do it all on our own: we need the help of the authorities and national organisations. In this sense, we are working on several programmes with Altagamma and have created a platform for attracting footwear and leather goods artisans, which will also allow us to collaborate with the main Italian districts and industrial segments”. In agreement with this is Patrizio Bertelli, CEO and Executive Director of the Prada group, which has allocated 100 million euros to its supply chain: “We believe it is necessary for the future and to guarantee the continuation of brands and the sustainability of the supply chain. – she declares –Present-day distribution makes it difficult for SMEs to compete and many risk closing: where possible we intervene financially by acquiring stakes that are not necessarily majority, but not minority either”.

Another key challenge that awaits the fashion supply chain in the years to come is that of sustainability, a game changer that will have repercussions on the industry, processes, and product. Also here the role of brands is important in driving sustainability in this direction, as can be seen by the example provided by Piacenza Cashmere which, through the use of the blockchain, keeps it under control and offers guarantees of transparency “starting from the raw materials (that includes the raising and welfare of livestock), which is also difficult to ensure because often they come from faraway countries like New Zealand, China, Chile… – explains Filippo Vadda, CEO and President of the wool mill – It then becomes easier with the other companies of the supply chain since Made in Italy is historically more attentive – with production processes ranging from the worsting to the roughing, weaving, and finishing… – where the process is by now controlled and maybe key to our success, since our luxury customers want a brand that is not only beautiful on the outside, but also on the inside”.

Serge Brunschwig
Patrizio Bertelli
Piacenza cashmere