Refreshed after the previous day’s travelling and general excitement, the group set off early for Modena, home of the Tintoria Emiliana factory where the garments are dyed. We passed the Maserati HQ and both Ferrari and Lamborghini are in the same region so this is definitely the home of design-lead manufacturing in Italy.
Tintoria Emiliana was established just after the war and originally its business was to recycle old and second-hand garments by means of a re-dyeing process. From being a supplier of items to the military their relationship with SPW can be traced back to the late ‘70s when they helped produce the early C.P. Company garments. They were one of the first Italian firms able to use vegetable extract dyes on an industrial scale for dyeing natural fibre garments. The plant produces pieces for various brands – we saw items for Harrods, Burberry and Trussardi Jeans whilst wandering round.
Tomasso Gallini, SPW’s Customer Service manager, met us at the factory and was our guide for this part of the tour along with the General Manager of the factory. The plant was like a giant laundry/dry cleaners with huge dyeing and drying machines. All around us were bins of garments which had either been dyed or were waiting to go in and have the base colour applied. The process takes several hours per colour and is a very specialist art – every colour has a specific combination of dyes, water temperature and time applied per wash in order to get exactly the right shade It is only when you see the level of detail that goes into creating even a basic polo shirt that you start to get a bit more a feel for why these are premium-priced garments.
Shortly after we started our tour we were joined by an elderly but very spritely Italian gentleman sporting a Stone Island jacket. I didn’t catch his name, unfortunately, but he had apparently been one of the early workers at the factory and had worked with Massimo Osti himself when the collaboration with C.P. Company had first begun. Although he spoke no English he was a real character and proceeded to follow us round the plant merrily smoking away despite all the signs warning of the hazards of doing so! Interestingly, no one from the factory challenged him about this at any stage so safe to assume he was a man of some importance. Either that or Health & Safety isn’t quite the same in Italy…
Our tour wound all the way through the factory – we saw Japanese nylon jackets being dyed a vivid yellow (apparently a very difficult thing to do), saw the Compact process before and after (see pics) which is a bit of a shocker when you see the original garment which is pretty much the size of a tablecloth !
We saw the dye mixing room where the base colours are mixed to create thousands of shades – even for someone as colour-blind as me it was an extraordinary room. The Master Mixer had even hand painted the walls of his office with his own colours to brighten up the area.
On to the “Laboratoria” which looked liked some sort of mad scientists room with test tubes, pipes, burners and mixers all hooked up and humming and bubbling away. It seems obvious where the fit between the 2 firms arises from – they seem as obsessed with research and testing as SPW are. Truly a meeting of minds.
Whilst we wandered round we kept coming across interesting rails of garments =- some for future collections, others prototypes which may or may not see the light of day. Two interesting pieces were a tinto style dyed Shadow piece (which didn’t look very good tbh!) and a new style of Camo jacket which attempted to continue the patterns across the stitiching (looked a lot better!!) Whether they ever go into production remains to be seen.
Our tour ended with some rather nice cheese and wine which was swiftly hovered up by the group before we headed back to the coach and off to Milan for another monster meal (cos obviously we hadn’t had enough to eat yet…) At the restaurant Carlo and Silvio were already there. Another fantastic meal ensued (featuring one of the most fantastic Tiramisu’s ever) during which Carlo told a number of great stories – and one very sad one.
Carlo told us how he met Massimo Osti shortly after he had sold his personal archive to Nautica (for something like €3million). Expecting Osti to be sad about the sale, he was surprised to learn he was very happy – the reason being Massimo had kept a duplicate of all the most important pieces and he had only sold the garment archive, not the fabric archive so still had all the key items in his possession!
The sad part of the story came when Nautica subsequently had a change of ownership and ended up being run by a bunch of money men who had no understanding of what the archive represented or its true value. Bizarrely they had it crated it up and shipped to Hong Kong where, according to Carlo, it has sat on the dockside in containers for several years, presumably deteriorating in the local climate. An astonishing waste – one can only wonder what treasures have been left to rot there.
Another interesting moment came when he was discussing the recent trips he had made with Silvio to China and Japan – they had clearly spent a lot of time visiting various shops and picking up interesting items, all of which they feed back into the R&D department at SPW. Carlo made the point that for him and most of us in the room (with the exception of Stu most of us were probably 40/50 somethings) , Stone Island represented certain ideals but that for Silvio’s generation, they needed to come up with new approaches to appeal to them – hence the deliberate change in things like advertising in recent years – his theme of evolution is very much at the front of his thinking.
On a more light-hearted note he told us about a time he’d been invited by the national Chamber of Commerce to a fancy dinner in aid of trade relationships with the far East. Although he owns lots of ties (his favourites are by Ungaro) he never actually wears one. He turned up at the dinner in his smartest Stone Island field jacket only to be turned away at the door! Not being one for formal events anyway he went back home only for the organisers to suddenly realise there was an important empty seat at one of the tables and despatch a car to hurriedly bring him back to the dinner.
As time was moving on and we needed to be at the airport early evening we needed to get off to the Showroom which was a 5 minute walk away from the restaurant.