Massimo: How did you start your company?
Quartino: Actually, my mom started this company. She is 91 now and she is still knitting at home during the afternoon making pieces in Punto Francescano (Assisi Embroidery) which is a variation of cross-stitch embroidery that goes back to middle age.
When she was young, she was a seamstress, then she started hand knitting and selling the garments she made. Of course, back in the days, she had no machines and it took time to make something. She bought her first handloom to speed things up. After a year or so, she became well known for her products and she gathered a small group of friends to help her. She worked hard and saved even harder, until she was able to buy her first motor driven loom. It was a lengthy process, made of small investments that became bigger and bigger until she was able to buy modern machines that can do whole garment sweaters and patterns.
After buying this machine, she started working for a sweater maker as an external laboratory, but that was not enough for her and, since she has always been a very enterprising woman, she opened her own factory, which is the one I am currently running.
Massimo: This is amazing. So, you now run the business but, did you want to do this for a living when you were little or you had other dreams?
Quartino: I did not want to work at all. I just wanted to enjoy my life. Thank God, or thanks to my mother, we were doing well for ourselves. I was a rebel, I grew up and I realized that I was not a kid anymore. I started working with her at the factory, she taught me all the secrets of this art.
Massimo: I love your company’s philosophy of working only with top quality yarns and making high-end garments. Is this your idea of business or your mom’s?
Quartino: It is all me. My mom used to work with big quantities, and in the 80/90s, we reached our peak. One year we did almost 2 million pieces. The times have changed and so did I. I think that, in order to be successful and stand out over the crowd, you need to deliver an excellent product. The world is packed with people that are willing to make the same middle/low end product. You try to pinch pennies and save 10 cents here or there. That becomes a daily war. You have to constantly try to find a way to be competitive. You then end up cutting the costs by cutting worker’s salaries or cutting the quality of the yarns. I did not want to get involved in this, so I make the best product I can, asking for the best price I can. Now, I do not have to fight over 50 cents because when people see my products, they are happy
Massimo: You and your family have been in business for decades. Let me ask you this: has global warming changed the way you work?
Quartino: You cannot even imagine. 20/25 years ago, most of our production was in 8 and 10 gauge sweaters. Now, I mostly make 18 gauge products and we are specialized in this ultra-thin gauge. In my factory, I have machines for all gauges, and the 3 gauge (super chunky) machine is taking dust. Global warming has also affected the price of raw materials and yarns. Cashmere, for example, had a 40% price increase from last year, which is huge in such a short period.
Massimo: Unfortunately, this is a real tragedy. Now, from one tragedy to the other, what do you think of Americans that put pineapple on pizzas?
Quartino: (Starts laughing) This is a tough question. I am a person that loves simple food, not very refined and exotic. I like a nice stake, sausages, cheese, and I adore seafood and fish. I know people like different food and I respect that.
Massimo: I am not going say what I think because there may be Americans reading this. One last question now that I am hungry. What is your favorite food?
Quartino: I cannot answer that. I like too many things: steak, truffles, all the meat in this world actually. And my mom’s homemade pasta.
Massimo: Ok, you are on a desert island. What food do you get?
Quartino: On a desert island… prawns and octopus.