Thursday, September 16, 2010

A Death in Italy

(Photos from NY Times articles)

Two interesting articles about the Italian textile industry from the New York Times, published about two months from each other. One talks about an industry heading towards specialization, high production cost, and low profit; the other talks about an industry getting hurt by the influx of competition from China mass-producing cheap, low-quality goods. Two faces of the same coin, but these articles emphasize the Italian schizophrenic approach to production: to specialize, to tout the “made in Italy” label that focus on individual and detail-oriented approach, but to mass-produce and to maximize profits. In America, we tend to separate the two: we know Walmart will not give us top quality (sometimes not a very safe assumption as Walamrt increases the quality of its products), and we’re slowly realizing places like Whole Foods will not as well. But in Italy, buyers are shocked that their cheap balsamic vinegar was not made in Modena.

Also worth mentioning is the overt racism illustrated in the second article about Chinese immigrants in Prato. The biggest problem it seems is not that the Chinese are taking over (this is a problem that is currently a big deal across the world, not just Europe. From Roma to African immigrants, everyone needs somebody to blame for their country’s economic problems), but that the Chinese are fitting a little too well with the Italian life, inheriting their rebellious tendencies towards silly things like production regulation, taxation, and laws against organized crime. The Chinese are not being foreign. They are reflecting Italian life and reality a little too accurately—too real for comfort.

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