The project of A.T.I., called “Fashion Contract”, was born with the idea of creating a production chain of subcontractors in the fashion sector. After two years of negotiations, I participated as General Coordinator at its establishment in 2009, the pool consisted of ten companies in the textile district of Carpi, and dealt with productions of clothing and knitwear men, women, children, total looks, embroidery, modeling, weaving, ironing, but also packaging and logistics. The ten textile subcontracting companies were to be brought together within an ATI (Interim Enterprise Association) with the valuable collaboration of CNA Federmoda and LAPAM Moda in Modena. The project had the financial support of the Emilia Romagna Region and took advantage of a regional grant for SMEs to finance 50% of the salary of an Interim Manager to support the development of new projects. The hypothesis was to build a vertical supply chain (from modeling to weaving, from knitting and fabric to applications, up to ironing, review, and funnel and logistics). This allowed small and medium-sized companies to join forces to deliver a real added value service, to an increasing number of clients. I had the support of Alessandro Righi, who dealt more with the technical-productive-sampling aspects.
The first phase was the start-up of the integrated supply chain which was followed by the management of development and innovation processes aimed at ensuring better quality to the business network in terms of strategic guidance, collaboration, and operational efficiency. In the first phase, I dealt with the activities to guarantee the actual start-up, namely the preparation and approval of the statute, definition, and agreement of a code of conduct for associated companies and registration of the statute with a notary. Subsequently, it was also necessary to plan the work distribution concerning the companies specialization and order forecasts. Catalogs were prepared to showcase the and diverse service offerings, possible service customizations, price lists, and delivery times by product family. Then the new brand was created, a website was prepared, and traditional promotional materials where printed, and then the brand was promoted at trade fairs.
In the second phase, the commitment became more specific, complex, and challenging: as far as I was concerned as a project leader. The task of looking for new customers interested in the service and promoting to develop strategies for the Italian and foreign markets, developing the ATI in every possible business-generating situation. Alessandro Righi was concerned with the organization of the supply chain and quality control and the more technical aspects such as production cutting. The greatest difficulty and especially in the early stages was due to (as everyone can well imagine), to get an agreement of 10 Italian entrepreneurs, accustomed to individualism and not inclined to make group decisions. The ATI associates had to be aligned with respect yo their expectations concerning the ATI, ambitions, culture, and age differences. The character and psychological skills of the Interim Manager in these cases can make a difference. The common visions of the ATI were guided by continuous mediation with its associates to create the cohesive force necessary to realize its objectives. Fashion Contract was synonymous with experience, passion for the work, competence, attention to detail, and tireless search for new solutions. These traits were very much in the mindset but now with greater versatility of production capacity and services. For end customers, medium, and big fashion brands, the big advantage was the possibility to dialogue with a single interlocutor who will develop and coordinate the production process. As a result, the customer had the opportunity to find in a “one-stop-shop” for knitwear, outer garments, shirt and more, including finishing services, such as slots and buttons, ironing, bagged and final packaging: all with the guarantee of a quality Italian-made production and at competitive prices. It should also be pointed out that companies maintained their client portfolio, but by the new orders from Fashion Contract managers, they increased the turnover. For example: if a client required 10 thousand embroidered shirts, each company while maintaining its operational autonomy, was called to bid (for the production and services it was able to provide) to fulfill the orders received through Fashion Contract.
The Interim management solution proved to be a well-deserved choice from the start: the great flexibility combined with the ability to quickly focus the skills, professionalism, know-how but also the limitations and criticalities of each component of the supply chain, allowed easy harmonization and solid final choices. The decision to employ Interim Managers was because the start-up of the ATI needed agreement between small entrepreneurs (the ten companies in the supply chain) on a single "group" or "network" project (the Fashion Contract project). For this reason, and also for a start-up in general, the figure of the Interim Manager had been assessed as the most effective as it guaranteed an external manager, not involved in any of the participating companies, authoritative and able to manage the group firmly, but also with the necessary diplomacy. The heterogeneity of the stakeholders required that managers be able to dialogue objectively with the various business profiles, to operate overcoming individualism, and with decision-making impartiality decisive for the success of the mission. To this end, both the skill and familiarity gained from previous experiences, mine and my colleague, as well as our impartiality to the internal and external dynamics of the companies involved, was fundamental.
Fashion Contract is a clear example of how even in crises, such as the present, the dynamism and responsiveness of SMEs can be successfully enhanced through innovative projects led by experienced managers always ready to launch new challenges. It has been noted that the time for unbridled growth is over and that the future is also made up of alliances, diversification, technological innovation, and openness to foreign markets, through collaboration between companies, synergies, development, and product quality. For the SMEs that characterize the textile district of Carpi, it would certainly have been difficult to deal with this new environment without good guidance: the intervention of Interim Managers has put the companies in the district at the center of a very intensive renewal that has redesigned its organizational architectures, relations between companies and the relationships between them and the markets.
Currently Fashion Contract has become an S.c.a.r.l. with 9 companies, 3 spinoffs, and 2 new takeovers, still open to new members and followed by a new consultant for both the sales and technical aspects- New orders and are growing continuously with increased interest from potential clients.