Ready-to-wear Italian-style clothing is back in fashion

You have to think about that for a moment. Paris is not the fashion capital of Europe and neither is Milan. Its center is in Bologna (central Italy). In any case, the city is the main place where Pronto Moda is produced and distributed.

Pronto Moda is a process whereby ready-to-wear clothing is produced on-site and within a short period of time, usually in small batches. This typically Italian method has been around for decades, but with the demand for corporate social responsibility, it’s back in fashion, so to speak.

Downtown Bologna© E. Kieckens

Opposite of fast fashion

While Pronto Moda is also based on speed of manufacture and distribution, it also depends on core concepts such as small scale, local manufacturing and quality. Fast Fashion and Pronto Moda are related like Fast Food and Slow Food (also based in Bologna, Italy). “Pronto Moda is the absolute opposite of fast fashion,” Piero Scandellari hastens to point out when we speak to him in Bologna.

Scandellari is the boss of center gross, Europe’s largest “hub” of Pronto Moda. “Our way of working is geared towards sustainability. Mass and overproduction is avoided.” Because the products are made locally, Pronto Moda is also more sustainable in this respect.

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© Centergross

center gross

Centergross was established in 1976 as a production and sales center for the clothing industry. It was originally intended for wholesalers, as in ‘wholesalers‘, hence the (not so sexy) name. Nevertheless, Centergross is not there for consumers, but for agents and fashion retailers. With an area of ​​one million square meters, the location is the largest European center for Pronto Moda, where around 700 fashion brands and textile companies have set up their offices.

Around twelve kilometers from Bologna, designs are created and manufactured here. Every day, tens of thousands of agents and intermediaries visit the various manufacturers’ showrooms to buy clothes that can be shipped immediately or in a short time.

The added benefit for buyers at Centergross is that the collections are constantly updated with new designs without having to stock clothes in their own stores. This saves storage costs and puts less strain on the financial balance sheet.

Those who go to Bologna traditionally buy collections twice a year. Goods that only go over the counter (or go on sale) months later are usually paid for in advance by the retailer or a down payment is made. Stores with pronto moda inventory are also less dependent on annual sales.

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Daniele Belotti © E. Kieckens


Imperial is one of the Centergross companies. The company owns a 6000 m2 showroom. The collections are designed and manufactured on the second floor. On the ground floor there are clothes racks that can be bought and taken away by the agent or retailer. “Especially at the beginning, the customer still has to visit our showroom,” says Daniele Belotti, one of Imperial’s managing directors.

If the retailer or other buyer is familiar with the type of clothing Imperial makes, orders can also be placed online. “Once we have a design, it’s sent to the production floor. The first pieces can be made the same day,” says one of Imperial’s nine stylists.

Italian design

The collections that most companies offer at Centergross cost more than those of H&M and comparable fashion chains. At the fast fashion chain Mango you can buy a cardigan for €29.99 (made of 57% viscose and 43% polyester). At Imperial, on the other hand, you can get a similar cardigan (52% viscose, 26% polyester and 22% polyamide) for €59.90. The difference lies in the smaller scale, the local production and thus lower CO2 emissions and the Italian design. It is up to the retailer and the consumer to appreciate that difference.

Michele Bentivogli © E. Kieckens

“Green” rolls of fabric

The fabrics used by Imperial also come from fast-fashion countries (such as Vietnam and Bangladesh). Not much can be done about this, as some raw materials (cotton, silk) are scarcely available in Europe. However, companies are trying to produce more sustainably or to be part of a “green” supply chain.

Argomenti Tessile is a key player at Centergross. “For a number of years we have had a number of sustainable fabrics that have been certified across the board,” says Michele Bentivogli, Managing Director and owner of Argomenti Tessile. On the way to his office on the second floor, you pass hundreds, maybe thousands, of rolls of textile in every imaginable colour, print and type of material. Not all buns are “green”, but every year there are more. Every step in the sustainable manufacturing process is subject to strict regulations. These apply not only to Bentivogli, but to all process chains such as raw material producers, spinning and weaving.

The entire process is checked by international certification bodies. Argomenti Tessile is associated with the Global organic textile standard (GOTS), the Global recycling standard (for fabrics made from recycled materials) and with a certification organization dealing with forest management certification (natural yarn). “This process costs 30 to 40 percent more than producing non-sustainable fabrics,” says Bentivogli. The costs range from adapting the production facilities and training the staff to the certification itself, which can amount to up to 10,000 euros per year.

Bentivogli is very honest when he says he started making his green certified fabrics because his customers asked for it. “I supply to Dior, Gucci, Armani and other haute culture manufacturers and they only want sustainable fabrics. But brands below that high range don’t want it because the cost is so high.”

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Katia Giannini and model © E. Kieckens

“We don’t have a second planet”

Fashion designer and entrepreneur Katia Giannini has also recently changed course. For the second season in a row, it is marketing winter coats made from recycled wool. She does this under a new label called ‘Private‘.

The designer has been marketing mid-range clothing under her own name and under the brand since 2011 Katya G for thirty years. “We don’t have a second planet,” Giannini explains her decision to go green. “We were able to create a line where every aspect is eco-friendly, from certification to recycled communication materials.”

The recycled material that Giannini uses comes from Prato, a town in Tuscany a hundred kilometers south. Prato is traditionally known for its cenciaioli – Rag dealers – and the sorting and recycling of rags is still an important industry there. This is also an industry with a future.

In a nutshell, the process looks like this: After sorting, the lining is pulled out and the zippers, buttons, elastic bands and all other accessories are removed. The rags are heated to remove all dirt and other impurities, then washed and frayed. Rags are restored to a fiber state ready for processing. “Nine kilograms of CO are produced for every kilogram of new wool2 are generated; One kilogram of recovered wool accounts for only half a kilogram of CO2 pollutants,” explains Giannini.

Also read how Gucci wants to grow. Cotton in a sustainable way

And how a Sicilian company makes clothes from citrus waste.

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