Santini Factory Tour
Our next stop was to Bergamo Italy. Bergamo is located in northern Italy and is about 30 km from Switzerland and 40 km northeast of Milan. It's also known as the “The City of the Thousand”. Its a old city and is also the home to a few cycling companies. One of them is SMS. Otherwise know just as Santini. SMS is short fo Santini Maglificio Sprotivo. Santini clothing has been around since 1965 and was started by Pietro Rosino Santini.
Let's start with a little history about SMS. Pietro started out helping his sisters out in the family run artisan knitwear laboratory in Sforzatica and eventually left to start his own small knit sportswear company in 1965 with SMS. At the time Pietro was not making cycling clothing. He would not get into making cycling clothing until 1973. At that time Santini only made cycling clothing for local clubs and teams. From there it just grew and in the 80’s lots of professional teams were wearing Santini clothing. Needless to say today Santini is one of the best known cycling clothing brands in the world. Not only do they do world tour team clothing but they are best know for the Magila Rosa and the UCI World Champion jersey.
There is a saying with the Italian press when it come to Santini clothing. Nomen Omen, which means destiny is in the name. And if you go back and look at the family names it seems it's Destiny that Santini would be the official supplier of the Giro Pink jersey. In Italy the color pink is also is also intended as the symbolic color for Feminine Excellence. And with 78% of the Santini workforce being women, Nomen Omen seems appropriate.
We arrived in Bergamo late by train and it was pouring rain and the hotel sent a van for us. In about 15 min we were at the hotel and only 5 min from the Santini Factory. The next day we were met by our PR person Alessandra and we headed right over to Santini. The company sits in the middle of town and just off a main street right in the heart of Bergamo. Walking up to the the building is impressive as on the front walk is the SMS logo made from tile just in case you didn't know where you were. Going in is even more impressive. You know right away where you are and that there is a lot of cycling History here. Check out the pictures for the bike and Jersey display in the entry of the company.
The tour started off with a meeting in Santini’s new showroom. Its brand new and pretty awesome. Its this really large room that is a staging area for the Santini line. There is also an area that the Santini team meets to go over designs, productions and ideas for the coming season. In this area is anything and everything you need to construct a garment. There are fabrics, zippers and white boards and a big table. We were given a tour around the room as it had the new 2018 Santini line. Each particular line has a story behind it now. It seems that the passion has been brought to the main message in each and every garment. Now when you put on any Santini jersey you are putting on a story that has meaning and will fuel your cycling take to dig deep within yourself. I have known the previous lines and there was only a few items that that really had a passionate story behind it. That has all changed for 2018.
After the extensive tour of the 2018 line we wanted to see just how the clothing was made. So we got a step by step tour of the facility. Needless to say it was impressive.
The first step is in the design of the garment. This is one that I think we are all familiar with if you belong to a club or team. This takes place only 50 feet away from the show room and with some really experienced people. When you submit artwork it’s a game of tetras for the design team. Each logo has to fit on the jersey or short. So it has to be sized to each part for the smallest size that you are going to order. This way you don’t have to resize each artwork for each size. That would be a massive undertaking in time. So the artist has a template for each piece. Each template has sizing lines that show that particular garment edges or bleed. The artist needs to receive the artwork and drop it in so it fits in all of the lines and boom, it’s done for all of the sizes for that garment. Remember that a jersey has several pieces to it. So there are front, back, side panels, sleeves, collar, pockets and a zipper. But hold on that’s just one garment… For a team that means Shorts, tights, arm warmers,knee warmers, leg warmers, vests, jackets etc. So it can get complicated really quickly. Once the logo are dropped in then its sent to the printer. There is a big roll of special paper and then it's printed on the rolls. Once all of the items are printed the roll is taken down and put on another machine waiting for the clothing parts. At the other end of the factory the fabric is pulled from the racks and then rolled out on a big long table. The fabric is layed out again and again so that there are up to 10 layers. The table is special in that the surface looks like peg board. It has small holes located all over it. Once the layers of fabric is layed up a sheet of plastic is placed over the layers of fabric. After the plastic is layered over the fabric then all of the edges are sealed and a button is pressed. That button turns on a vacuum machine and all of the air is sucked out of the fabric layers. Then when all of the air is sucked out the fabric tech comes and cuts out all of the individual parts to the kit. Once that is done then the parts are taken over to the printer. The printer is really a oven. That the paper slowly rolls through. Once the roll starts to go through the oven a print tech lays each individual piece of a garment perfectly on top of the print. As this goes through the oven the ink is transferred from the paper to the fabric. The garment piece is then taken off and placed in a bin. After everything is printed the roll is discarded and the printed sections are taken over and the garment is sewn together. The last step in the assembly is the zipper. Once the garments are assembled they go to Quality control. Each one is hand inspected to make sure each and every one is perfect. After QC is passed the garments are packaged and then boxed up and sent over to shipping.
This process is really col to watch and gives us a better understanding into what goes into making a jersey or jacket. This process is completely different than what I thought it would be. I thought the fabric was printed while it was still on the roll and then the individual pieces (chest, arms, sides) were cut out and then sewn together.
Having the opportunity to actually go to the Santini factory and see the passion and the quality control that they have in place then adding to the scale that they are able to produce and operate on is nothing short of impressive. You put that with the history of the company and you have nothing short of a legend