MILAN — Italy’s Calzedonia Group inaugurated its first African manufacturing plant in Ethiopia last week. Called Itaca Textile Plc, it is located in Macallè, in the Tigrai region.
The factory will produce knitwear, pajamas and leggings for the group’s Calzedonia, Tezenis and Intimissimi labels. It includes all steps of production, from quality control to cutting and ironing, employing 1,000 people. That number is expected to grow to 1,500 by mid-2019. The group guarantees free transportation and canteen food for all.
The project is also part of a humanitarian initiative promoted by the group and Fondazione San Zeno, created in 1999 by Calzedonia president and founder Sandro Veronesi. “It offers a great opportunity for young Ethiopians who want to study and train,” said Veronesi. “The next step is to find suppliers, insert new technologies while continuing to train, in order to be innovative and avant-garde.”
Veronesi said Ethiopia is still under the radar for most European and Italian companies. However, a favorable regime of duties, and the availability of workers and raw materials, were some of the reasons for the company to invest in the region.
The group has production sites in Italy, Sri Lanka, Croatia, Rumania, Bulgaria and Serbia.
Work on Itaca began in 2016 when the group started selecting and training employees. The plant covers almost 178,000 square feet.
Calzedonia is also creating a well for the town in front of the plant, and for all employees, an external clinic with a laboratory and 10 liters of drinkable water per person a week.
Fondazione San Zeno is active with 120 projects globally and has been present in Ethiopia for 10 years, where it has partnered with nongovernmental organization Right to Play in Oromia, promoting games and sports in schools.
In 2017, Calzedonia Group’s net profit climbed 19.7 percent to 249 million euros from 208 million euros the year before on the back of sales that rose 8.7 percent to 2.31 billion euros. Last year, earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization increased 26 percent to 489 million euros, compared with 388 million euros in 2016.
All of the group’s brands grew: the Calzedonia label reached sales of 802 million euros; Intimissimi had sales of 691 million euros and Tezenis of 609 million euros. Under the same umbrella, there is cashmere brand Falconeri with a business of 65 million euros; wine shops and restaurants Signorvino totalling sales of 23 million euros, and bridal line Atelier Emé with revenues of more than 9 million euros.
Exports accounted for 54 percent of total.
In the year, the company opened 242 stores, of which 189 outside Italy. As of Dec, 31, there were a total of 4,454 stores, of which 2,758 outside Italy. Last year, the group opened an Intimissimi store in New York on Fifth Avenue.
In October, Intimissimi unveiled its latest campaign fronted by Sarah Jessica Parker. The hosiery and innerwear brand has worked with several celebrities over the past few years, including Irina Shayk, Gisele Bündchen and Chiara Ferragni. Julia Roberts, instead, has been fronting campaigns for the Calzedonia label.