In Italy, Standards of Excellence

Bigger. Faster. Cheaper. The pressure to produce in an increasingly competitive marketplace has led many global fashion houses to face due north and take a sharp turn toward China.

But the best of Italy’s luxury brands are ignoring the temptation and resolutely digging their heels into the traditions of their homeland. By embracing, and at times reviving, time-honored techniques, they are dedicated to the standards of excellence for which the country is known.

Here is a glimpse of some of the highest quality craftsmanship Italy has to offer:


The masters at Fendi, using techniques developed nearly 90 years ago, ensure that clients are dazzled every season by innovative fur garments, most of which look nothing like fur at all.

The Roman label is particularly deft at complicated intarsia techniques, in which expertly cut and dyed pieces of fox, lamb and mink are inlaid together like a fur puzzle. The process is made all the more complex by the different lengths and colors of the fibers, which are painstakingly stitched together, creating new volumes and geometric shapes on the fur as if it were a 3-D canvas.

A Persian lamb and mink coat took 88 hours to create, but as Silvia Venturini Fendi, the brand’s creative director of accessories, pointed out after the runway show: “There is no threat whatsoever that H&M will be knocking this off.”

Brunello Cucinelli

The biggest cheerleader for maintaining Italy’s standards of excellence just might be Brunello Cucinelli a former farmer who is now known as the king of cashmere.

“Let me ask you how many 25-year-olds currently dancing in a disco have dreams to become a tailor?” he inquired from his office in the town of Solomeo, Italy. “We have got to make this more appealing than just a €1,300-a-month job,” he said, referring to a salary of $1,650.

In Italy, Standards of Excellence


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