CASTRETTE DI VILLORBA, Italy — With a new line made in Treviso, Benetton is joining the re-shoring movement.
A company known for its global reach, both in terms of production and distribution, Benetton’s new line is called TV 31100, which refers to Treviso’s postal code and shows the group has the expertise to produce fine knitwear in-house — and also to do it in Italy.
Aiming for a technically innovative product, Benetton “stripped back a knit to its yarns, looking at its structure and seaming and went for a totally seamless model,” explained Satish Tailor, head of innovation.
Tailor was speaking at a presentation at the group’s state-of-the-art manufacturing and logistics plant here, near the city of Treviso, at a large working table representative of the message. Sketches, scissors, threads, rolls of yarn and samples exemplified the manual steps before the yarns hit the machines.
To support the launch, Benetton has invested 2 million euros, or $2.2 million at current exchange rates, in the project, acquiring 36 Shima Seiki machines that spin knits from one single thread that is 500 meters long, or more than 1,640 feet. “It’s almost like 3-D printing,” he said, pointing to elbow patches embedded in the knits.
The first designs are an 18-gauge blend of 90 percent merino wool and 10 percent cashmere that weighs around 140 grams, or less than five ounces. The effect is a super light knit that “moves with you” and adapts to different climates, observed Gianluca Pastore, global marketing and communication director, noting this is also a response to a market need. Benetton is working on developing a 21-gauge design, which would be even thinner and lighter.
TV 31100 telegraphs Benetton’s “refocus on its main expertise, the reason the company was created,” remarked Pastore.
“We can express our point of view on colors,” said Alberto Bortoletto, head of knitwear development. The first products are available in six colors: yellow, which is the shade of the first-ever sweater produced by Benetton; an alternative to navy blue; green, symbolic of the brand and reproduced in its logo; purple; rusty red, and black.
The first products made in Treviso will be in stores in November, first rolling out in Europe, India and Mexico, and will be consistent with the brand’s pricing, retailing at below 80 euros, or around $89. “It will be consistent with our democratic positioning and does not replace our basic product,” said Pastore.
He noted that the launch opens the brand up to a “collection of products devised, designed and developed in Treviso.” For the time being, 50 additional workers are focused on the new line.
“We will work on sartorial and sportswear products going forward. We worked a lot on this project, but we just started in January or February this year,” Pastore added. “This will be an ongoing product, the first of a series and part of a project of innovation and improvement of the life of consumers, which also shows our flexibility.”
In true Benetton style, the company plans dedicated marketing to tell the story behind the project across print, digital and with native advertising and content marketing.
Andrea Bressan, head of Benetton’s supply chain, said the machines have reached 85 percent of their production efficiency, working six days a week, also at night, and with employees working six-hour shifts. “It takes one hour for one knit and we produce 700 sweaters a day,” he said. Bressan noted that for spring the products will be made entirely in cotton.
As reported, in the 12 months ended Dec. 31, Benetton’s revenues totaled 1.53 billion euros, or $1.7 billion at average exchange rates, down 1.2 percent compared with the previous year. The group has been revamping its operations, cleaning up its network of stores, refurbishing and streamlining it.
Separately, Benetton’s parent company Edizione Srl said that in January, Fabio Cerchiai will be appointed chairman of the holding company, succeeding Gilberto Benetton, who will be named vice chairman. Marco Patuano will take on the role of chief executive officer.