Isko

Elio Fiorucci and Diesel are just two examples of globally recognized Italian brands hinging on denim, reflecting the country’s advanced production of the fabric.

Today, the intricate network of local manufacturers and medium-sized companies are increasingly jeopardized not only by competition from the U.S. and China, but also by growing markets such as Turkey and Bangladesh that are becoming more influential in Italy.

Starting in the Nineties, Turkey assumed a leading role in denim’s weaving production. Historically rooted in the textile industry, the country began to flourish in the denim segment thanks to its innovative approach toward the fabric and the industrial methodology of large-scale production.

A case in point is the Turkish denim production giant Isko, part of Sanko Group’s textiles division, which keeps registering double-digit growth year-on-year. The company has been investing in research and development, reaching a portfolio of 25,000 denim products and trademarked concepts.

Starting in 2011, Isko strengthened its presence in Italy by investing directly in two strategic settlements. In San Benedetto del Tronto, in the Central Italy region of Marche, the firm founded the corporate library of products Iskoteca, while the following year, the research and design center Creative Room was inaugurated in Castelfranco Veneto, an hour’s drive from Venice.

“This choice honors a key country for the denim sector, historically very important for all the industry in general,” said Isko’s global marketing director, Marco Lucietti, attributing to Italy an important role on the international scene.

“Italy is recognized worldwide as the reign of fashion, but in a globalized world the competition is always around the corner,” Lucietti said. “I think that the global approach of Isko has played a key role and has guided the company in a path that has involved all the aspects of a modern and winning company,” attributing the success to the firm’s “strong brand strategy and commitment in research.”

According to Lucietti, “in this particular moment the situation is reassuringly positive, especially for the premium sector and ath-leisure, a trend that doesn’t show signs of stopping.”

Bangladesh-based denim specialist M&J Group, which counts Replay, H&M and Gap in its client list, registered sales of more than $100 million in 2015 and expects to deliver a 15 percent increase this year, noted Fabio Adami Dalla Val, M&J Group’s head of research and development and trade marketing manager.

“Indeed, last year the company completed an expansion process that included the opening of two new concerns in Dhaka that allowed us to increase the production from eight million to 12 million garments per year,” said Adami Dalla Val, underscoring how 10 percent of the production is exported, mainly to Europe, the U.S. and China.

“We live and operate in Bangladesh, but we are also able to attract international brands because, besides the obvious issue of attractive production prices, M&J is a group of world-class manufacturers that stand out of the whole local garment-making sector,” he added.

Adami Dalla Val also explained how the industrial field is shifting from an old perspective that gave the brands pivotal roles compared to the other secondary players to today’s approach where every subject is involved into a creative process.

“This means that all the companies that work within the supply chain can be considered ingredients of a pair of jeans, provided that they must be able to communicate their added values,” he said, highlighting how consumers are more oriented to values “while, on the contrary, the industry is leveraging low prices as a false myth.”

Communication is the focal point Italy seems to be lacking at the moment, according to the manager, who believes that despite the Italian leadership in innovation, quality and widespread awareness, the country needs to catch up on collaboration among the local players of the supply chain.

“Italy must make up for delay in the communication on a global level, must get structured and build a cooperation pattern to bridge the gaps of the small and medium-sized enterprises network, which has been crucial in the last 50 years, but is showing signs of stagnation,“ Adami Dalla Val said.

Otello Lucietto, country manager of Italy at Cobrax, attributes to politics and the government the main responsibilities of the Italian delay on the international scene, which was also confirmed by the latest World Economic Forum’s data that rated the country 44th in competitiveness on a global scale.

Founded in 1977 and part of the Swiss Riri Group from 2007, the Padua-based company is a leader in the production of jeans buttons, snaps-fasteners and rivets, a field equally prone to competition, according to Lucietto.

“Cobrax can’t compete with realities allocated in countries with low-waged manpower, of course,” he said, “Cobrax is completely vertically organized and, starting from certified raw materials only, produces all the goods in its factory in Padua, Italy.”

The company is keeping up the pace globally thanks to the high industrialization of some of its products, which favors costs reduction.