MILAN — The Italian textile sector is coming to terms with the fact that size matters, especially with the realization that the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic will be much more challenging weather by oneself.
In light of declining sales, shortages of financial resources and more difficult access to credit lines, which could undermine the sector’s survival, leading textile firms in the country have joined forces by way of acquisitions and collaborative ventures to safeguard the supply chain, providing manufacturing backup for one another and sharing information.
On Monday, silk specialists Ratti Group and Mantero Seta, both located in the textile district of Como, announced they have each acquired a 20 percent interest in Foto Azzurra, which specializes in the production of silk-screen printing supports.
“We are convinced that especially at this time it’s essential to act, putting in play concrete actions and projects to safeguard the supply chain’s operations and potentially triggering other companies to follow suit,” commented Sergio Tamborini, chief executive officer of the Ratti Group.
Franco Mantero, CEO of the namesake firm, stressed the importance of the investment, describing Foto Azzurra as an example of the know-how the Como silk district was built upon. Over the course of the past decade the manufacturing hub has slightly changed, housing premium textile makers for high-end fashion flanked by companies linking with fast-fashion players.
A look inside the Mantero Seta silk specialist’s manufacturing plant in the Como, Italy, district. Courtesy of Mantero Seta.
As part of the deal, Foto Azzurra will retain a 60 percent majority interest and will leave an open door to other textile players relying on its services that can adhere and invest in the company.
The two silk specialists were among the first to exemplify the new collaborative mind-set in the textile sector that has been gaining steam in recent months. Last year, as the pandemic was spreading in the country, they teamed up to maintain production and to guarantee the quality of services, sharing products and materials.
In that vein, cotton firm Albini Group forged ties earlier this year with Beste, a company headquartered in the textile district surrounding the city of Prato, in the Tuscany region. The collaboration is meant to create synergies, develop shared projects and was described as a “strategic alliance” aimed at consolidating Made in Italy and offer more competitiveness to the two companies on international markets.
To wit, Fabio Tamburini, CEO of Albini noted that the tie-up was established to face the “growing competition in a such a delicate and complex moment and propel the relaunch of the textile sector.”
In recent remarks, Marino Vago, president of Sistema Moda Italia, the association that represents fashion, textile and accessories companies, stressed the importance of joint efforts in preserving the Italian supply chain, “the only one in Europe which has remained intact.”
He praised the number of collaborations blossoming between competitors, arguing that they also offer more advantages when holding discussion with policymakers. As reported, the association presented a recovery roadmap last month seeking help from institutions, out of belief that the healthy condition of the fashion supply chain is directly interconnected with the wellness of the country’s economy.
Taking a slightly different path, Ercole Botto Poala, chief executive officer of woolen mill Reda Group spearheaded the acquisition of digital native tailor Lanieri last year, which offers a technologically enhanced version of the made-to-measure experience.
A vocal entrepreneur, especially throughout his tenure as president of textile trade show Milano Unica, Botto Poala has reiterated several times the need for the sector to act cohesively in order to bolster internationalization, sustainability and digital capabilities.
Inside the Reda Group factory in Biella, Italy. Courtesy of Reda Group.
The Lanieri takeover represented a further push in the business-to-consumer arena for the Biella, Italy-based textile maker, which already operates the Rewoolution activewear brand. In 2020 the company saw sales of its premium textiles drop by almost 50 percent, and the acquisition can potentially open new avenues.
The Lanieri platform offers about 200 fabrics sourced from Italy’s premium textile companies located in the Biella and Veneto districts, and after the acquisition the firm said it planned to further expand the offering by partnering with a growing number of textile firms in the country.
These partnerships nod to a common practice among international fashion powerhouses, which have been on a buying spree for the past decade securing continuity and support to manufacturers they rely on.
For instance, Chanel through its Paraffection division has invested in manufacturing companies such as the Italian luxury shoemaker Ballin, the tannery Gaiera and the manufacturing branch of the yarn company Vimar 1991, which provides the thread for many of its signature tweed fabrics.
Along those lines, in October Francesco Trapani spearheaded the establishment of a new production pole called Florence SpA. The former Bulgari and LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton executive is the main shareholder and newly appointed chairman of VAM Investments and, together with Fondo Italiano d’Investimento, set up Florence by acquiring three storied Italian manufacturers that have long worked for major international brands: Giuntini SpA, Ciemmeci Fashion Srl and Mely’s Maglieria Srl, all based in Tuscany.