Half an hour by car north of Milan, the town of Legnano is today less known for the opera that Verdi dedicated to the battle of which she was the theater in 1176 … that for her "Outlet" Dolce & Gabbana. If this factory store is established there, it is that the commune – whose links with the textile industry go back to the XIXe century – also hosts one of the most important production and logistics sites of the famous Italian brand. A large square building with a minimalist aesthetic nineties a little cold that contrasts with glamorous ultra-femininity, Sicilian sensuality, lace and the big colorful flowers that we associate without much effort to the brand.
Behind the black windows of the facade, in the huge floors, on vast plateaus, turn hundreds of sewing machines, roll the loaders loaded with clothes, heat the computers on which the modelers translate – in dresses and jackets ready to wear – the drawings of Domenico Dolce, Stefano Gabbana and their creative studio, based for their part in the heart of Milan.
Around, the warehouses connected to the central building are the scene of an incessant ballet of vehicles and personnel who load and unload clothes, rolls of fabrics, textile accessories of all kinds.
Because it makes the production of prototypes and samples used for parades or photo shoots of magazines for example, but also the quality control of all raw materials (fabrics, buttons, ribbons …) before sending them in the various factories, the Legnano site is for Dolce & Gabbana an essential link in its production chain. But it is also, since 2012, a place of training which offers to its students a total immersion in the heart of its "factory of glamor" …
It is rather rare for a brand, at the scale of its name alone and not that of a group, to take under its wing and even within its production site of future seamstresses. And teaches them the ba-ba of mounting a bridle pocket or an invisible zipper … Luxury has often taken the position in recent years to focus its safeguarding and transmission efforts on the very specific crafts leather, which touch the economically strong sector of accessories, or on those specific to haute couture like embroidery.
To fight against the lack of renewal of the skilled workforce, Dolce & Gabbana created seven years ago its own school, called "Botteghe di mestiere", a "factory of craftsmen", where all the gestures that used to make a garment are taught: cutting, patterning, ironing, sewing, embroidery, etc. "Students are given the opportunity to concretely rub what is likely to become the job of their lives"says Elsa, a member of the production team.
It takes two years for students to work eight hours per day to acquire the theoretical and practical skills and "home values", a significant part of the training, according to the supervisory staff.
Knowing how to sew a zip on pants is one thing, but "To learn the love of manual work, the temporality of fashion creation, and to understand what is the daily life of a clothing workshop requires a complete immersion.continues the young woman who assured us that day the visit of the factory. Living in this professional environment that does not resemble an office can also incorporate the basic rules of behavior and attitude to adopt in a production workshop. We do not find that in the books.
Make and break
Over the last six years, 106 participants have benefited from these courses taught by Dolce & Gabbana School. The claw opened, after Legnano, three other Botteghe di mestiere at other production sites, in Vaprio d'Adda and Sarmeola di Rubano, in 2013 and 2014, then in Lonate Pozzolo, in 2018, before Padua, maybe to be soon, for the techniques "male tailor".
In Legnano, the "courses" are dispensed by the incredible Guisi. Employed for thirty years in the workshops of the brand, she was offered the position of professor, and got down to the job with a professionalism and empathy that she did not even suspect …
" One can want of all his cœto make sublime clothes and finally realize that we do not have any abilities at all. The teacher does not just transmit, he must also detect this: to see if a person has all the physical and psychological qualities to exercise and progress in this profession, she says. For years, I was only responsible for me and the work that I produced, it was easier! I loved what I did, but to teach others, encourage, support, engage beyond the person: I discovered a passion for these girls and for the teaching itself. "
For Dolce & Gabbana, this pool of new talents trained in the best practices and techniques of the house is a unique opportunity in terms of recruitment since these potential employees already know its requirements. At the end of the course, 60% of students are hired by the house. In apprenticeship first, then as "junior tailor / tailor". For the moment, most of the students who have been to school are … students.
And this generation, from Milan to Paris, dream more easily "designer" than "little hand". The day of our visit, in a studious atmosphere, leaning on their work, a dozen young women – Pierced nose, tattooed arms, eyeliner with chalk, colored hair – reproduce again and again the same gestures, call Giusi to the rescue, make and break, until they can present a result that will get the approval of their eldest.
"The right choice of life"
Clarissa is 19 years old. She says that since she was a child, she feels a natural inclination for creation and fashion, but that her grandmother, who sewed so well, died before she could pass on what she knew. In 2018, after her school of design, she, like most of her classmates, spontaneously applied to join one of Dolce & Gabbana's Botteghe di mestiere, and then passed the interview to measure motivation, level and the skill of the candidates, which constitutes the only selection test to integrate the training.
Clarissa loves his group, here in Legnano, united in learning. She admires the skills and wisdom of her tutor, and says above all: " It was here that I realized that I had made the right choice of life. I had never experienced this certainty when I was in my design school. "
Giorgia is ten years older but has the same observation, she who, after graduating as a fashion designer, worked for two years in a small men's shirt business. "Here, I'm progressing a lot. I learn everything, I learn incredible skills and I learn patience. We are so focused sometimes that it looks like meditation. Nothing exists around because you have to be careful. On many tissues, we can not go back. If we miss, it's lost … But I hang on. My goal is to become the best and, of course, to stay here. "
Seamstress, in 2019? The entourage of the students is often surprised by this choice but always curious. This "granny job" finally intrigues them, he who touches the finger a magical world of luxury and beauty and manages to enthrall those who exercise.
And, above all, that allows to work. A significant asset for a generation facing, at the time of vocational guidance, in Italy and elsewhere, unemployment and the quest for meaning.