Is Naples ready to be Italy's fourth fashion capital
Naples is ready for the spotlight. The nautical Italian city is home to several premier fashion manufacturers and brands that produce high quality products for companies all over the world. In November, the Italian Trade Commission held the Naples Meets the World trade event that featured many of the city’s best and emerging manufacturers and brands that are ready for global attention.
The varied brand selection at Naples Meets the World ranged from footwear designers and manufacturers to accessories brands and full ready-to-wear brands. Most businesses were small, but ambitious, and have operations that go back multiple generations. Marzullo, for example, is a third generation brand that offers handmade ties and accessories, including pocket squares and scarves that feature original prints. The company has a quick turnover rate for its products, taking 3 to 4 days to deliver orders, and a full week to ship globally to countries like Spain, and cities such as Dubai and New York City.
Pasquale Amore is another family business that offers competitively priced leather footwear and accessories. The company produces embossed leather loafers and bags, as well as women’s shoes and handbags, and although the leather is sourced in Florence, Pasquale Amore produces all of its products.
Production is a major competitive edge for most of the brands that showed at Naples Meets the World. Thana, a 40-year-old brand that produces its collections exclusively in Italy, offers pieces that are entirely custom. Though the brand produces full collections, it fulfills custom orders for clients. Thana had a presence in the US in New York City, but it left the US market in 2006 and plans to return. Currently, Thana is available in 150 stores in Italy and Cameroon.
The crown jewel of Naples Meets the World was Amina Rubinacci. Rubinacci founded her namesake label in Naples in 1970 offering all original knitwear. Prior to launching her brand, she was hailed by Christian Dior and Yves Saint Laurent as the “Queen of Wool”, a rare feat when considering that the praise comes from two of fashion’s greatest designers and the pride of Parisian fashion.
Amina Rubinacci offers elegant, chic original knit sweaters and blazers complimented with soft shirts and luxurious outerwear. What sets the brand apart from other Naples-based fashion companies is its international presence. Amina Rubinacci is available in 12 countries and operates 15 stores in Italy, Switzerland, Taiwan, Russia and the US. The brand also produces a special collection for Paul Stuart.
Naples Meets the World is a chance for brands and manufacturers to gain worldwide exposure much like Amina Rubinacci, but many have other hurdles to jump over. For one, international consumers often overlook Naples and think of only Milan, Florence, and even Rome when they discuss Italian fashion. Milan is home to one of the big four fashion weeks alongside Paris, New York City, and London; most of the fashion industry travels to Florence once or twice a year for the Pitti Immagine shows; and Fendi, Valentino, Bulgari and Brioni are based or were founded in Rome.
Naples could become a major fashion player in Italy if its brands and manufacturers play up their main strength, which is production, and correct its weaknesses like communication and company size.
Manufacturing company Di.Conf is another great representation of Naples. The company produces suits for many US-based companies as well as its in-house tailoring label Bagnoli. Di.Conf considers Bagnoli to be “the feather in the cap of the company” and “the logical conclusion to so much experience and professionalism” in tailoring. Aside from working on its in-house label, Di.Conf produces suits for Saks, Barneys New York and Nordstrom’s respective tailoring lines, Peter Millar, Brooks Brothers, and Ralph Lauren’s Blue and Purple labels. Di.Conf even has a tailor to oversee production, which that turns out as much as 250 jackets and 800 trousers per day. The on-site tailor is proof that craftsmanship is not to be overlooked nor cheated.
Naples-based manufacturers rely on the ‘Made in Italy’ tag for exposure but easily blend in with manufacturers from other cities. The companies take great pride in their product and let their products speak for themselves, but this can prove to be detrimental.
An open round table discussion at the Bank of Naples with Maurizio Marinella, the director of E. Marinella and grandson of E. Marinella founder Don Eugenoio Marinella, found that products made in Naples are highly regarded but go overlooked due to communications. The panel agreed that the best manufacturing and tailoring in the country comes from Naples, but the fashion companies lack in size, productivity and communication compared to companies based in Milan, Florence and Rome. Most companies are often small, family run operations with small-scale factories. The products benefit the most, but the companies suffer from lost time. The panel even proposed implementing a ‘Made in Naples’ tag to help the city stand out, but would that prove beneficial?
A simple search for “Italian fashion” on the Internet will lead to a long list of Italy-based fashion designers, brands and manufacturers that are predominantly based in Milan, Florence and Rome. Milan and Rome were named in the top 30 fashion capitals in the world by Language Monitor, and Florence is considered to be Italy’s first fashion capital. The three cities can benefit from separating from the 'Made in Italy' tag much like how US brands have made the ‘Made in New York City’ or 'Designed in New York City' tag a selling point. Many brands produce in Los Angeles, but the city does not have the same reputation as New York City. Still, ‘Made in USA’ has gone a long way for US manufacturers for a long time.
Are Naples-based brands due for the spotlight? With brands like Amina Rubinacci and Marzullo and manufacturers like Di.Conf, the question is a resounding yes, but the city is going to need more major names to take it over the hump. The companies may not be capable for global expansion at the moment, but the city has the potential to be a major player in Italy and in global fashion.
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