- BIENVENIDO, EN QUÉ MUNDO VIVES?
- WELCOME, IN WHICH WORLD DO YOU LIVE?
- BIENVENUE, DANS QUEL MONDE VOUS VIVEZ?
Our GPS says that at the end of this narrow road, we’ll fin the factory we were scheduled to arrive at 12 o’clock.
With some uncertainty, we approach the gate and ring our contact. He says he’s on his way and within five minutes, he appears and welcomes us with a smile: Benvenuti! We’re in Italy, 100 kilometres from Milan, near Bergamo, and we’ve just met the director of the best cotton factory in Europe, maybe even in the world. Here, cotton is sacred. It garners a level of respect unmatched anywhere else. And this factory produces the fabric for our dress shirts.
After introducing ourselves, our hosts suggest we grab a bite to eat before visiting the different departments of the plant. We gladly accept and, naturally, give in to temptation and enjoy a plate of authentic Italian pasta. After dessert, we head for a plant about 15 kilometres away.
During the drive, Gabriele explains: “People used to make a living from cotton here. Little by little, the industry moved away; even the brands fled to cheaper markets. But we think there’s a bright future here, as long as there are brands like yours that continue to opt for cotton made in Europe… We’re here!” he exclaims. “We have a small factory here in the mountains, and even though some people think that’s a disadvantage, it’s important to us: this place is historic.”
The next day, we have an appointment west of Milan to see the site where they manufacture textiles for some of our trousers and blazers.
The factory gates open just as the first snowflakes begin to fall. The instant we park the car, our hosts greet us at the entrance. The first thing they say makes us feel right at home: “This is a family business.” After making the introductions, we venture into the workshop.
Among the colourful threads and spinning machines, we encounter more family members. The excitement at having discovered the source of the colours we’ve seen so often in our stores is matched only by the pride of the people who work in Europe to produce some of the world’s finest fabrics – linen, cotton, wool, etc. – textiles of impeccable quality that we use in many of our collections.
Early in the morning, we hop in the car and set out for the factory that manufactures our dress shirts. We are headed to the south of Madrid, not far from the Coliseum Alfonso Pérez, home of the Getafe Football Club. Here, at our factory, another great team of 40 employees operates.
We knock on the door and they invite us into a small hallway, furnished with a beautiful antique sewing machine, which leads to a huge room, the heart of the factory. We’re surprised by the vastness and openness of the space: the bright sunlight radiates through the large windows and floods the warehouse where the people work.
The vivid colours of the fabrics leap to the eye. We see various pieces of cloth passing from hand to hand, table to table, being stitched together, becoming our shirts. Once completed, each garment undergoes a strict quality control process before being shipped to our warehouses, and ultimately to our stores.
Some 120 kilometres further south, in a town like any other in Spain, is where our trousers are made.
There is a familial atmosphere here that combines modernity and expertise.
Crossing the threshold, we are greeted by factory director Jose, who explains the step-by-step process of creating trousers, from the arrival of the patterns from the sewing workshop to the finished product. You can learn more about this process on our YouTube channel (http://www.youtube.com/elgansovideo).
We step off the plane in Porto, eager to discover the places where our garments and shoes are made. A light, persistent rain falls on the city. But there’s no time to think about the rain. Our colleague, Carlos, quickly explains the itinerary he has prepared for the two days ahead: first, the raincoat factory, then blazers, dress-shirts, dresses, and finally footwear.
We admire the scenery from the car; it reminds us of northern Spain. “That’s natural -says Carlos-, we’re actually not too far from cities like Vigo.” Arriving at the Fontoli plant, we observe the workers engaged in making raincoats for men. It’s incredibly poetic to see these finished garments pass through the ironing station: the steam, the air that fills the interior of the sleeves and the body, that seems to breathe life into the clothes.
Carlos approaches and invites us to visit the offices, where we meet the team that runs the factory: “Europe is capable of making apparel too, not just textiles –they tell us –. We need to be more discerning about the clothes we buy.” They seem very busy and we don’t want to intrude, but we could learn a lot about our garments by chatting with any one of these people. After all, who knows their secrets better?
We ask Carlos how long it takes to drive to the next factory: “Fifteen or twenty minutes, give or take,” he responds. This will, in fact, become his typical reply, and he’s always right: the factories where our clothes are made are only a short distance from each other, allowing us to move between them with ease. And indeed, we arrive at the next stop in twenty minutes. “Here we make blazers and part of our trousers,” explains Carlos. After a brief visit with the staff, we decide to explore the area where the blazers are assembled.
We discover pieces of apparel that we don’t normally consider when we purchase items or display them in the store: the lining of the sleeves, for example. We are also surprised to discover how incredibly human the chain of production is, completely unlike what Charlie Chaplin described in his masterpiece Modern Times. After having visited the textile plant in Italy, we are pleased to know that these fabrics have made the same journey as we have, arriving here, in the step-by-step process of becoming one of our blazers.
After the usual fifteen or twenty minute drive, during which we observed a beautiful sunset after a rainy day – “Everything is very green here; we see a lot of rain, a lot of water. We have a saying ‘water is life’ and it’s true!” Carlos says – we arrive at the Samba factory. “Please excuse us, we’re growing as you grow -explains the factory owner-, so we have some construction in progress above the leather warehouse… but you’re free to walk around.”
And so we do. At our leisure, we discover the end-to-end process of manufacturing –in this case– navy blue ankle boots, from the lining to the stitching of the soles. We are pleasantly surprised by the modernity and efficiency with which the final product is completed. “When we started this business, we had a lot of enthusiasm, but not much money and hardly any clients. These days, we’re proud to know that El Ganso and many other brands believe in our work. It’s proof that European manufacturing is an indication of quality,” explains the owner of Samba. And he’s absolutely right.
Photos by Julio Pérez Pascual.
Main Banner by Miguel Ovelar.