Does "Made in Italy" Really Matter?
By: Eric TerBush
Made in Italy. Just the mere mention of those three little words is enough to conjure images of immaculate sewing, luxurious fabrics, and cutting-edge fits. Garments that carry this tag are instantly elevated to a higher standard of quality then those offered s by the ateliers of Europe or the clothing producers of developing countries located throughout the world. Savvy marketing campaigns have convinced the general public that a garment made in Italy is inherently superior to those produced in other nations. However, the reality of this belief could not be farther from the truth.
When you order a meal at a restaurant, you expect that the food is going to be made at the restaurant. You pay a premium for professionals to present you with an offering that is superior to what you would make in your own kitchen. What if you found out your favorite restaurant was serving you steaks they purchased pre-cooked in China or India? Would you be disappointed that what you thought was a restaurant with integrity tricked you into paying a massive premium for the same quality good one could find in a Kroger or Trader Joes? Theis example given is a prevalent issue in the labeling of clothes as “Made in Italy.” By law, only the last 10% of a garment has to be finished in the country listed on the “made in” tag. As long as the “Last Substantial Processing or Working” (a very vague and hard to define concept) took place in Italy, the producer is able to list their good as being “Made in Italy”
Designers like Louis Vuitton and Lanvin have consistently outsourced production of the majority of their apparel’s construction to other countries, only to bring the very last pieces into Italy to put the finishing touches on. These garments are still legally able to be listed as “Made in Italy” without having to deal with the high expenses of producing an item of clothing in a first world country. These companies are able to avoid pesky regulations such as human rights and minimum wage while still being able to sell the image that their construction is superior to that of garments from other countries. Interesting enough, some companies have actually begun to move their factories to China completely and have experienced little to no drop in overall quality.
Burberry, Prada, and Coach have all publicly acknowledged their transition from producing in Italy to countries such as China, Peru, and Japan. While these brands have shifted production from the mecca of high fashion, none of these labels have experienced a marked decrease in quality from their lines that were formerly produced domestically. In fact, some consumers have reported that Prada’s quality has actually increased since they moved their production lines overseas. Side by side comparisons of stitching quality on Prada dress shirts shows a demonstrated improvement in consistency and linework after production was moved to China. These lack of changes to build quality begs the question: does it really matter if an item is “Made in Italy” anymore?