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Benetton production of its famous sweater back home

by Barbara Ganz

An hour of work and 130 grams of yarn for each piece, produced at a rate of 200 points per second by 36 Shima Seiki Japanese machines, six days a week, in four shifts of six hours each.

The Benetton sweater is now back home: in a 1,500-square-meter area in Castrette (Treviso) with a €2 million investment prior to any government assistance. Yesterday, in the headquarters of Villa Minelli in Ponzano, was the official debut of Treviso 31100, the sweater that bears the name of its place of production: a return to one's roots, where everything began, to rediscover the essence of the United Colors of Benetton brand, identifiable, according to a recent survey, by three characteristics: knitwear, with color, and social responsibility.

The move is part of the “Reshoring Project” promoted by the Italian Fashion System in collaboration with the Ministry of Economic Development and PriceWaterhouseCoopers, The new weaving department -- 50 jobs between direct and related, the result mostly of retraining staff who followed specific training courses -- is the first and most important reshoring project initiated by an Italian company in the textile-clothing sector.

Just the tip of the iceberg, explains Benetton Group President Francesco Gori -- towards the creation “of an advanced skills center for knitwear. This is not only a productive relocation project, but also one of knowledge, of know-how. Shortening the distances and bringing the style and design offices closer to production means also shortening the chain, finding solutions quickly, responding to the market.”

The machines arrived in August: in two weeks the first stock of shirts were ready and distributed in six stores - three in Italy, three abroad - out of the 5,000 Benetton stores to evaluate consumer reaction and to pick up on eventual signals.

The new TV31100 sweater is the result of technology, “which offers great opportunities in this sector,” underscores Marco Airoldi, the CEO of the Benetton Group. “We are the the first to invest with conviction in the seamless product, that is, the product without stitching: in addition to offering comfort and fit, this eliminates the manual stitching of the various pieces of the traditional sweaters. A high level of automation which translates into the possibility to produce here, made in Italy, or rather in Treviso, because it was the need for a significant part of the work to be done by non-qualified labor that had pushed many companies to move their manufacturing plants to countries with a low labor cost.”

The savings in terms of manual work allow for the costs to be contained and for quality yarns to be chosen - in this case, Italian, traceable, with a methodology in the reduction of scrap and waste - increasing the added value. Thus, the sweater - which will be in all of the shops by mid-November - can be sold for less than €80.

The new line will see the production of approximately 200,000 items per year, thanks to which we can “look with confidence to the future: we bring innovation to the extraordinary Italian manufacturing tradition,” explains Gori.

A “declaration of love,” adds Airoldi, “for a project that highlights the essentials of the brand's purest identity.” And the advancing technology allows for thinking about new developments: the new production areas - a veritable “research and development laboratory” highly automated - will have the task of developing and fine-tuning new, high-end distinctive products through know-how and the use of high-quality yarns and technology to focus again on “beautiful and well-made Italian products:” a prospect that might lead to increases in the production capacity.