Studying fashion in a country known for its textile industry certainly has its perks! I recently had the chance to accompany some fashion students to Gommatex, a textile company in Prato (a small city near Florence) producing for big designer labels. You’re probably familiar with some of their clients: Coach, Louis Vuitton, Fendi…any of these ringing a bell? I had no idea we would be touring the factory that produces for such big brands! Within the first five minutes of our trip the Director of Production showed us a rack of sample designer fabrics that they created; we immediately recognized every single one. I think that’s when I realized this was the Big Leagues of fashion production.
The surprises didn’t stop here. As we entered the factory we saw a warehouse filled with endless rolls of designer fabrics, some of which aren’t even public yet. For example, we saw a new Fendi fabric that will appear in stores within the next few months – talk about an insider’s look! The initial idea for many of these fabrics comes from Gommatex: one of their biggest initiatives is experimenting with new finishes and production methods. I’m pretty proud to say I got to see an experiment in progress for a new type of thread they’re creating for a very special client. I’m not supposed to talk about it – I’m on pretty close terms with the company now – but let’s just say it involves “a girl’s best friend…”
My favorite part of the visit was the chemical lab, pretty ironic since I never got along well with my chemistry classes in school. I received a pretty special souvenir here: polyurethane chips! Let me explain: these tiny chips undergo several processes to eventually become Louis Vuitton handbags. So we can just say that as a result of this trip I now own a piece of Louis Vuitton.
This was definitely an eye-opening experience for all of us. No one really talks about how designer products are created; we assume that the idea for a new fabric and its subsequent production all take place within the brand. Now we have a better sense of how closely connected designers are to the industrial sector – an important lesson as the design students go on to produce their own creations in the future!