Buying Scarves in Como, Italy. Another Peek Behind the Scenes.

Whew. I’m exhausted. We just returned from a whirlwind trip to Holland to visit family and friends (gotta love Ryan Air!) returning via Como so that I could select the new scarf collection. Hans, being the good sport that he is accompanied me, it was so much nicer than being alone!

Modal-scarves-in-Como-Italy

I found so many beautiful fabrics I had a hard time deciding which and how many…honestly, I feel like a kid in a candy store when I’m purchasing scarves.

I always stay in a tiny quiet friendly village along the lake as I find the city of Como to be , well, noisy. I guess I’m totally spoiled living here in the countryside where the only noise at night are owls, nightingales and our cats prowling about.

Lake Como is a beautiful place; glorious villas and charming towns hang on the steep sides of the narrow long deep blue lake.

This week it was grey and rainy in Como, so I didn’t take many photos outdoors, because they all looked like this:

como

Gloomy.

But, I’m in Como to do business so I’m mostly indoors, catching up on the lives of the people I’ve been working with for years, touching, seeing and inhaling beautiful fabrics and doing my best to drive hard bargains.

I’ve always enjoyed bargaining, I consider it an art form…one needs to respect the unspoken rules and the person you’re bargaining with. It’s a seesaw of giving and taking done with knowledge, humor and good will which results in both parties feeling that the final transaction is just and fair.

Fabric Samples

Fabric Samples

At each manufacturer I am offered a coffee and a good 45 min or more is spent chatting. Doing business in Italy requires a lot of chatting and developing personal relationships.

The latest stories about families, politics and every day life are exchanged. Then invariably I’m told about this factory and that factory closing. Fabric printers, fabric manufactures, factories that dye fabric, factories that sew, finish, etc  closing their doors.

Most of these places are small to medium sized family run businesses that simply cannot compete with the markets’ ever growing love affair with really  inexpensive products.

Recently woven silk fabric destined to be printed

Recently woven silk fabric destined to be printed

In Como, the textile workers are paid a decent wage with wonderful state benefits (like free health care), given a 4-5 week paid yearly holiday, paid sick days and national holidays and so on and so forth. The dyes are EU approved and expensive measures are taken against polluting with waste products. The yarns are spun, dyed and woven here, then cut, sewn and packaged here.

As I’m sure your getting the picture, it’s an expensive process.

weaving a jacquard silk fabric. See the burgundy fabric on the bottom roll?

Weaving a jacquard silk fabric. See the burgundy fabric on the bottom roll?

I am told stories about how the fabrics are copied by some unscrupulous manufactures abroad…then made with less threads and inferior quality fibers, silk often cut with poly, so they look the same in a photo, but are not the same at all. They are then marketed as being exactly the same as the original quality tie or scarf or whatever.

Checking a printed fabric for any flaws

Hand checking a printed fabric for any flaws

Everyone is worried. There is economic crisis in Europe. All of the places I buy from are amazing businesses that work their tails off trying to stay in business without cutting corners with wages, working conditions or product quality.

I am awed by their perseverance.

Tying silk threads onto the needles. This woman has fingers that literally fly, so nimble!

Tying silk threads onto the needles. This woman has fingers that literally fly, so nimble!

The designers are amazing too…each manufacture makes new designs of textiles twice a year…these are not factories that churn out oodles of meters of the same fabric year in and year out.

The designers work with the buyers…every buyer is different, and different countries have different tastes…both in style and pattern. For example, right now in much of central Europe, extra large scarves are popular while at the same time in Japan, skinny delicate scarves are popular. I find this all fascinating as I love all sizes and shapes of scarves.

Showing off some new designs

Showing off some new designs

design room...fabric samples and computer programs like photoshop

design room and fabric samples. Computer programs are used to see different colors on a pattern. I’ve often sat with the designer, changing colors (a little deeper blue on this part etc…) on a pattern until it is to my liking before an item is off to the printers!

Color swatches

Color swatches

Fortunately in Como, lunch time is still sacred. They take less time than down here in Le Marche, but regardless an hour and a half is still dedicated to that most wonderful time.

A typical trattoria near one of the factories

A typical working people’s trattoria near one of the factories

Salad Buffet

Salad Buffet

So now on to the less exciting business of cataloging, giving identities and writing descriptions. I get what I call square eyeballs from so many hours behind the computer doing this. One of these days I really need to learn how to type properly…I type with 2 fingers on one hand. It’s tedious and my own fault for never learning.

Next week, photographing. I’m not a photographer and I do my best, but I know the photos can be better. I’ve asked my friend Domenico, a professional photographer to give me a hand this time and he graciously accepted. I’m so excited to get some professional help!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

11 comments to Buying Scarves in Como, Italy. Another Peek Behind the Scenes.

  • Lynn Holstrom

    Thank you for all the information and photos about what is involved in getting the beautiful scarves into my hands. I live in Portland, Oregon and was first “introduced” to the beauty of Italian scarves during a stay in Bellagio in 2006. I thought I had purchased plenty, but wanted more when I returned home. That is how I found your website, searching for Italian scarves, including some of the same designers I had purchased in Bellagio. I will only buy 100% silk Italian made scarves. Your post about the “industry” adds another reason for me to buy these scarves. I’m pleased that you offer some beautiful scarves in the price range that I can afford. I look forward to seeing your selections from this trip in the near future. Thank you for being my connection to Lake Como (and Italy) and my wonderful memories of it.

  • Cindy

    What a wonderful story Elizabeth! Thank you for sharing it and your pictures, your scarves are indeed exquisite!

  • Jim

    Good day. How might I purchase such beautiful scarves?

  • Dian

    Hello! I recently discovered your blog and enjoy reading your entries very much. I was wondering, whether those family-owned scarf businesses around Lake Como sell their scarves per piece or must the scarves be purchased in bulk? Thank you in advance! :-)

  • Ruby

    Hi Elizabeth! What a wonderful blog post, really insightful. I am planning a trip to Como soon and would love to know which factories to visit with a view to asking them to create some scarves for me. Would you be able to suggest anyone?

    Thank you in advance,

    Rupa

  • Dom

    Hi, I was blogging -Where can I sell my scarves online- When I came accross your website. I design scarves and I have them printed in North Carolina on 19 mm silk charmeuse. I also hand roll-hem them in the Hermes tradition. The printing process is expensive and the hand rolled hem tedious and very time consuming, no one does this in the US anymore. My only alternative is to go to India….or China. Well not in the USA.
    You buy scarves in Como, do you think it is worth going there to print? and do they hand hem over there?
    I find your page very interesting, thank you for replying.
    Here is my Facebook link to view a few samples: https://www.facebook.com/domdekindt?ref=hl

    Dominique

    • Hi. Of course they print and hand hem in Como. I suspect the prices are the same or more than you’ll find in the USA. Our minimum wages are actually living wages, and we have wonderful social benefits like health care, so labor costs are high. Most printing today is done digitally…the technology of the Italian printing is something that the whole world covets. I wonder if you can find seamstresses looking for work for hemming near where you work?

  • camelia

    Hi dear thinks a lot for your interesting blog, actually im looking for scarves suppliers who got good qualities and interesting prices.

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