After toiling in clothing workshops, newcomers are now contributing significantly to the local fashion industry
Prato is located in a beautiful region of Tuscany known for its rich artistic heritage and has been known as the center of Italian fashion production for centuries.
But in the 1990s, this medieval city faced pressing challenges: a labor shortage and an inability to keep up with the rapid changes in the fashion industry.
As a result, waves of Chinese immigrants flooded into the city, answering the call to collaborate with Italian immigrants to produce quickly produced and affordable clothing.
fast fashion or protomoda
As a result, Prato now has one of the highest concentrations of Chinese immigrants in Europe, with one in four people of Chinese origin.
Many of these individuals actively contribute to the field known as “fast fashion” or “pronto moda” in Italian.
One such person is Mr. Xu Qiulin. He visited Prato in 1989 where he fast started his fashion career.
He recalls his humble beginnings, with his first workshop occupying an estimated area of 150 to 200 square meters, divided into 5 to 6 rooms, each containing about 5 to 6, sometimes 12 machines. A sewing machine was provided. “I had a team of two or three workers and he actively participated in procuring materials and supporting the work,” he said. “Communication was difficult because my Italian language skills were limited.”
“When I first came, there were very few Chinese people, about 500 to 600 people. But now the Chinese population has reached 50,000 people.”
His story highlights how much the Chinese community in Prato has grown over the years.
Mr. Xu admits that for the first 10 years after his arrival, even though he had his own workshop, he made very little profit and often felt like he was working for the Italians. Ta.
In 2000, he branched out from the fast fashion industry and founded a mid-range clothing company called Giupel, which does some of its own designs.
Over time, Prato’s Chinese community has also undergone notable changes, carving its own path while embracing the entrepreneurial spirit of its hometown, Wenzhou, a city in eastern China’s Zhejiang province.
A strong desire for independence and a natural tendency towards innovation give them a decisive advantage.
Another Chinese business owner in Prato, Wang Zengli, said: “Wenzhou people are very smart. After working in an Italian factory for a while, I realized that it is not difficult to run such a factory.”
“From 2000 to 2006, they all gradually became their own bosses. Fast fashion peaked from 2005 to 2010. Almost all of Europe flocked here to order. Ta.”