Martina Franca – Part I

Haven’t updated the blog in a long time, but wanted to get this stuff in writing. The most recent trip to Italy was great, and was a bit of an eye-opener with respect to the density of clothing manufacturers in Italy. Sure, we know that Italy has plenty of production capacity, particularly for menswear, but as we learned quite quickly, small towns can sometimes be hidden gems.

We scheduled a short trip to Italy for the end of 2014, with the first stop being several companies in Martina Franca. For those who don’t know, Martina Franca is a bit of a sleepy kind of town — it is a small, seemingly quiet town with a character all its own. Not too much hustle and bustle — indeed, once you get off the Ferrovie del Sud Este train line, there is no taxi available in the whole town (even though there is a sign for one, strangely). There is simply one little shuttle bus for which you can buy a ticket from the bar down the street for 50 Euro cents. In the span of 20 minutes, the shuttle bus can drive you all around the town. Luckily for us, the bus has a stop in the middle of Martina Franca’s Zona Industriale, or ‘industrial zone.’

Driving through a bit of the industrial zone, you begin to realize that this little town is something of a menswear manufacturing mecca — within a small area (mind you, every single one of these companies has the same address), there are, give or take, one dozen manufacturers — among others, Confezioni Lerario, ITN, Icoman, ICA, NCM, GPA, Abiconf…the list goes on (yes, most of these names are likely unfamiliar to those unacquainted with the corporate parents of random Italian brands but we’ll discuss a few in this post and in the next one).

Our first stop was with Icoman and ICA. Icoman is a very well-known pants manufacturer — er, well known to those in Italy who are manufacturing pants and suits, but not so much outside of that. The company has a long history for producing pants for some of the world’s best brands – Armani, Etro, etc… (indeed the Spring pants for those labels were being packaged on the floor as we got a tour), and sews the pants for many high-end suit manufacturers in Italy, including Lardini (manufacturer of its own line, as well as suits for John Varvatos, Ferragamo, Piombo and lots of others). Icoman has for several years now been producing its own line of pants, Berwich. Beautiful garments, however, their main market is in the far east, particularly Japan, Korea and China, due to the slim cuts of the pants. We may be able to bring in some Spring items a few months from now, but we weren’t able to make any deals this time around.

Our second stop was basically down the street at ICA, a coat manufacturer and makers of the brand Hevo. Again, like many other companies in Italy, Hevo is a relatively recent line from this company, that has long been producing outerwear for third-party labels, but is now making some truly gorgeous pieces under its own Hevo labe – the items we saw for Fall 2015 (to be shown at Pitto Uomo in a little under a week) had some showstoppers. Unfortunately, for Spring, the outerwear options are quite limited, and we did not wind up making a purchase. Nonetheless, if you can get your hands on the stuff in the U.S., we highly recommend picking up some Hevo items for Fall/Winter.

Such was the first portion of our trip. Overall, unsuccessful with respect to striking any deals, but got to make some new connections and get additional insight into a new region of Italy we had yet to visit. Part II of Martina Franca will come later this week.

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