What has happened to Italian fashion and why I started Sfera – part 2

This is the second of a three part series.  Read part one here.

How Italian tailoring for women lost its direction

Most of the companies doing our sort of tailoring started in menswear – Brioni, Kiton, Belvest, Luciano Barbera to name a few.

Getting into tailoring for women was an obvious move, but they’ve found it much harder to make for women because we want different styles every season, whereas men’s styles change more gradually.

And as the tailoring houses were making this move, many of the most well-known Italian brands were being taken over by a small number of large, highly commercial companies who have targeted the emerging economies of Eastern Europe and the Far East. Tailoring was too hard to sell into these new markets, where customers wanted their purchase to show the price tag, preferably ‘on the outside’.  This meant inevitably that much more had to be spent on marketing and publicity and much less on fabric, design and craftsmanship.  Brand marketing was squeezing quality out of the press and out of the market.

We found that each season, our traditional suppliers were offering fewer and fewer styles and fewer and fewer fabrics.  It got the point where one of our important suppliers offered us only one new style for women’s jackets.  I asked them ‘why so few?’ and they told me I was the only buyer asking for more.  This was scary for a buyer who knows that our customers want new designs.

The quality of fabrics was also becoming a problem.  I wanted innovation and femininity, but they were not available. What was on offer were mainly masculine varieties which could be adapted from their men’s collections (and everything was in dark colours because that’s what men wear). I did want pinstripes, but I wanted feminine ones. So I had no alternative but to find the fabrics and move into design.  This was something I had never dreamed I would need to do.

I was well aware that this could not be done without a designer because we were not trying to create a Wardrobe own label, but a label which could potentially be sold globally at some point – and so I teamed up with Douglas who shared my vision and Sfera was born.

The truth about Italian fashion is that it has lost direction and is somewhat constipated at the moment.  In response to economic difficulties, the first thing they’ve cut back on is their designers.  They’re still running glitzy fashion shows for the press as they need the coverage, often relying on the archives of previous designers.

Having been around the industry for 36 years and seen many changes, what is happening now is the most scary because so much more of the effort goes into the marketing and so much less seems to go into the merchandise. As a result the choice available is becoming increasingly limited – and with few exceptions (a notable one to look out for is Mantu) –  it doesn’t look likely to improve for several seasons until more new talent emerges.

Next time: why Sfera has been successful

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2 Responses to “What has happened to Italian fashion and why I started Sfera – part 2”


  • I wasn’t surprised to read Susie’s blog item. I have been a customer of a big Italian brand for years, particularly their coats, suits and cashmere. What I have noticed recently (perhaps over the last 5 years) is the decline in their fabric quality. Yet the price has remained the same (relative to my income). It seems to be a general trend, so much so that in desperation, I bought some cloth direct from a Scottish mill and asked a tailor to copy one of my old items.

    Susie, you have posted a picture of a red and white checked, belted coat with part 1 of the article. Would you be willing to share the fabric and price I could expect to pay for such a piece as an illustration? I am assuming there are no marketing costs involved.

    Best wishes,
    Beverley

    • Beverley

      Thank you for your comment. We buy large quantities of fabric. Our suppliers wouldn’t sell at very low volume, so I can’t answer your question directly. As an example, the coat you mention, of which only eight have been made sells at £1750. It has leather backing on the collar and belt and is a unique piece.

      Do pop in an see us when you’re in London.

      Warmest regards

      Susie

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