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Recently, the mill premiered its Filopuro line, which, at $8 to $14 a meter, is priced slightly higher than the regular collection. Dreamed up by Francesco and Fred Rottman, president of the New York office, it features lighter, more refined fabrics. "It’s a move away from the heavier fabrics we produce to cleaner, more tailored fabrics," says Francesco.
His goal with the line is to offer a better quality of product for a competitive price. "You can’t try to be the least expensive anymore because someone is always going to be cheaper. Now, we have to focus solely on the product, not the price."
Michael Maccari, vice president of product development at A|X Armani Exchange, looks to Picchi for all-important basics. "The fabrics are always tweaked with a special finish or an interesting blend," he says, noting Picchi’s superior service as well. "Without being aggressive, they will approach me with new novelties that they feel will fit nicely into my line. They work very hard on new developments for us, such as a more pressed woolen cloth that retains a soft hand."
Jackytex, a jersey mill in Tuscany’s Chianti region, established its $20 million business by catering to a niche clientele, the luxury knit market. "It is essential that we keep our business small so we can control all of the merchandise," says president Piero Giachi, son of Valerio Giachi, who founded the business in 1972.
Today, the mill runs 70 looms, half for basic jerseys and half for such fancy qualities as velvet, embroideries and fils coupes. Jackytex goods, which range from $12 to $50 a meter, are used by Gucci, Prada, Calvin Klein, Dolce & Gabbana and Max Mara. "They trust us immensely," Giachi says of his clients. "In the last two or three years, especially, they simply don’t have the time to really develop knits, so they depend on us to work with them to create new ideas."
Given the industry’s ever-shrinking lead times, this is no easy task. "We have to develop readily available goods that are commercial, but still different and unique," Giachi says. "This is the challenge." And increasingly, clients expect quality at a price. "One solution," according to Giachi, is using more blends, "so we spend less money on the yarn and more on the finish."