The Italian industrial districts
Italy and the Made in Italy is the result of local networks of thousands of small to medium businesses, specialised in specific sectors.
In these districts, economical-production relationships are inseparable from socio-cultural ones, as they are part of a strong tradition, historically rooted in each territory and that evolves continuously. Specialised districts formed after the war, and developed through the 50s and 60s when the economic boom increased the demand of personal and home products (from shoes to furniture) and affirmed themselves in the 80s.
Each factory is specialized in one or very few production processes of its district: this means that numerous factories collaborate and contribute to an excellent final product. This also stimulates competitiveness and pushes innovation: it’s economical development based on know-how, where the people that are part of it are crucial.
How are these districts distributed in Italy?
They’re more diffused in Northern and Central Italy, but also in same areas of the South, like Abruzzo, Puglia and Basilicata, as a direct expression of their territorial specificity.
In 2015 Istat (the Italian National Institute of Statistics) identified that in 2011 there were 141 specialised districts in Italy, of which 37 are located in the North West and another 45 in the North East, 38 in the Centre. The “Made in Italy” districts were 130, making 92.2% of all industrial districts. In 2019 the total number seems to have increased to 200.
With each region having in some cases multiple districts with its own specific characteristics, the main sectors are food, furniture, fashion and mechanics. For food, the list could go on forever, as each region has its own very distinctive excellences.
The furniture sector, for example, is diffused in small areas North to South, with the most famous furniture districts in Brianza (Lombardy) Pesaro (Marche) and more niche productions like the one in Matera (Basilicata). If we consider products for home decor, we can mention the district of cork in Sardinia, the artistic glass production of Murano and home electrics production in Conegliano (Veneto).
Production of fashion goods as we all know is also a strong point for Italy. Almost all Italian regions have a tradition of production for fashion, with most again being in the North, and other main ones in the centre, like the fashion district in Tuscany (in particular for textiles destined to all kind of applications including home furniture, leather and shoes) and the excellent shoe production in Marche and in Campania (that also has an fantastic sartorial tradition).
Other main textile districts are in Perugia for cashmere, Como (the capital silk: we talked about it in our previous article about silk), and sports clothing and shoes being produced in the area of Treviso. We should also add famous production of fine jewellery and accessories.
In the mechanics sector there’s obviously the FIAT group in Turin, the aerospatial excellence in Puglia, but also niche excellences such as the biomedical district of Mirandola (near Modena) or the Motor Valley in Emilia Romagna - with its Ferrari, Ducati, Lamborghini, Pagani, Maserati and Dallara -, the production of rubber and plastics in Lombardy and more.
Maybe surprisingly to many, Italy also has a Digital Technology district, in the Friuli Venezia Giulia region. Some call it a mini Italian Silicon Valley.
Why is this important?
In a world where standard and generic isn’t the preferred choice anymore but also where globalisation has threatened and affected, and still threatens this reality, Italy has all it takes to provide superior products. In our opinion, unfortunately, it survives especially thanks to export, and to the entrepreneurship and innovation that the people-businesses bring continuously.
The challenges presented to the distinctive fabric of Italian production have also resulted in collaborations between different sectors, bringing further innovation, despite all the difficulties Italy presents both politically and economically.
Industrial districts are then the heart and soul of the “Made in Italy” and so of Italy itself: they’re the expression of Italy in the World.
We believe it’s important to support the Made in Italy industry, so the world can continue to enjoy the absolute beauty it produces.
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SOURCES AND LINKS
Matthew Lancaster, Francesca Tosolini and Felipe Simo on Unsplash.
Stefania Calderara www.sc-photographer.co.uk