In the past Made in Italy has been a marker of Italian excellence, now this is all but lost.
WHAT CLOTHING BRANDS ARE MADE IN ITALY?
Armani, Dolce & Gabbana, Prada and Bottega Venetta: These are some of the most sought-after Italian brands in the fashion scene, along with Massimo Osti’s Stone Island and C.P Company of course.
They are brands synonymous with luxury, Italian-made clothing representative of their country's romantic ideals. Many bear the Made in Italy branding, or include it on the care label. Famously Nike even released a series of sweaters called "Made in Italy". Beyond the connotation itself what does it mean for something to be Made in Italy, and is it even true?
WHY IS CLOTHING MADE IN ITALY GOOD QUALITY?
Made in Italy conjures ideas of artisanal craft and timeless style, but why?
Italy’s many regions are hubs of craft, whether it be ceramics, leather work or textiles, this much is true both pre-war, within the interwar period and post-war. It is post-World-War-Two, however, that is most important. Italy’s allegiance to the Axis (Germany, Italy, and Japan) brought economic recession and near collapse after the Allied win -Bliss Foster has an excellent video on fascism's effect.
To help Italy pay its reparations to its European neighbours, America loaned the country money in the form of Marshall Aid. Beginning to export to the wider Western world was key if Italy were to get back on its feet economically speaking.
Piccole Industrie, meaning small industries like fashion and other crafts, were the primary focus for Italy, with the Italian Institute for Foreign Trade stating that "Italian craft was the country's greatest asset in providing the means to revive the Italian economy as economic normalcy gradually returns to the world" in 1945.
Made in Italy provided a fabricated romanticised Italian nationalist ideal to help Italy with its exports. The label is descriptive of Italian style – artisan craft meets factory precision – and up until the 90s, the made in Italy label meant that products were made entirely in Italy. From the buttons to the Zips. This is why many vintage items of Italian clothing can be seen with Lampo Italian Zippers, manufactured in Italy since 1887.
SHIFTING STANDARDS & CHEAPER CLOTHING PRODUCTION.
During the 90s, Italian brands began to use other countries for their manufacturing. The post-war economic situation had allowed for cheap production in Italy, but as the country became richer it became more costly to produce there.
Italian brands sought out cheaper labour costs in countries such as China and Vietnam. Some say that the quality of the Italian brands who manufactured in these countries has rapidly decreased.
WHAT QUALIFIES AN ITEM TO HAVE THE "MADE IN ITALY" LABEL
Today, if a substantial process within the production of a garment is carried out on Italian soil, it can be given the Made in Italy label. For a brand like Stone Island for example, some of the zips are now YKK where they were previously Lampo, yet the garments can still be accented with the Made in Italy label.
This is a hot political issue, with the likes of Santo Versace calling for more transparency around the Made in Italy label. That is not to undermine Italian textile manufacturers, however, with true Italian-made products such as Italian Silk, Leather, and Wool being some of the best in the world.
IS MADE IN ITALY DYING?
Prada still makes over half of its clothing in Italy but at least 20% is made in China.
In 2011 Miuccia Prada told The Wall Street Journal that relocating production to China “will happen to everyone because [Chinese manufacturing] is so good". Shoes and leather goods are some of Prada’s more genuine Made in Italy products, with the country being known for its Savoir-Faire when it comes to leather footwear.
Stone Island and C.P company make a large percentage of their fashion in Italy still too, though some of their biggest sellers such as dyed and thermo- welded down jackets, and those with a metallic coating are produced in China, Indonesia and Japan. It seems that most of both brands’ wool products are Made in Italy.
There are also some brands like Bottega Veneta who strive to keep ‘Made in Italy’ alive, opting to produce everything on home turf.
CAN I TRUST THE MADE IN ITALY LABEL?
Made In Italy pre-turn of the millennium can be considered a real marker of quality, this is mostly true – if not a little utopic, but for modern garments, the origin and craft are definitely up for debate. To understand the quality behind the production, it is advised to research the brand itself.
What can be said of vintage Stone Island, Prada and other related brands, is that many garments have endured the test of time showing an extremely strong attention to production quality which makes vintage versions of these items more than worth buying.