So folks: I’m preparing to return home after 2.5 months working in Italy. I actually can’t believe my time here has whizzed by so fast. But there have been times when it’s seemed Father Time was slow and I really missed New Zealand, my dogs, horses and relaxed lifestyle. Fortunately, hubs came over for five weeks and my great mate came for five days on her way back to Oz (via Santorini and London).

Since my wonderful bright green suitcase I bought in Hong Kong years ago is about to cark it, I thought I’d best buy another one for the return journey. Don’t want all my makeup spilling out as my bag gets x-rayed by customs. After cruising into a few shops, I finally find a suitcase I really like. Has to be a bright colour for me. I get bored just watching all those dull grey or black suitcases revolving around on the baggage carousel.

I found a suitcase by RV Roncato, an Italian brand. And on the home page, you’ll see a photo of the exact suitcase I bought (without knowing it was on the home page). You can also see a photo of me next to the suitcase – the stunning model in a black and white polka dot dress. Oops, no sorry that’s not me. Dang.

The suitcase is just another example of the quality stuff the Italians make. Not only can they whip up an amazing gelato or cappuccino, they’re pretty good at suitcases too. The dude who sold me the suitcase was telling me about what it’s made from – polycarbonate – you can literally bend the suitcase this way and that. It’s interesting reading about the history of RV Roncato, which was basically started by Giovanni Roncato in the 1970s. Their products are still made at the original production premises in Italy and their designs and technology secrets are locked up by industrial patents.

The suitcase comes with a TSA locking system, which according to the dude who sold me the suitcase, is pretty much what the Yanks now expect if you’re travelling to or through the US. If the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) want to snoop around in your suitcase, you’d better be able to open it pronto or they’ll break your lock. With this suitcase, TSA dudes have the key that opens the suitcase. But I don’t plan on testing this out as I refuse to travel to the United States, given the circus that is their immigration system.

I’ve noticed that people in shops here are very quick to tell me that whatever they’re selling is NOT made in China. I must say this is a welcome relief, so I’m busy snapping up a few items to take back home, like sparkly leather sandals and a few T-shirts. This is the thing: everything is still made in Italy it seems. In a world dominated by the narrative of globalisation, why is this? Is it because Italians (so it seems to me) are fiercely nationalistic and simply refuse to outsource production? Is it because they haven’t lost artisan skills like leathercraft so they can keep on making goods?

I’m not saying that all products are made in Italy. An Italian apparel manufacturer moved offshore to Tunisia, for example, to lower production costs. And I’m sure there are other examples. But compared to Oz and NZ, there’s an awful lot of stuff still Made in Italy.

I suspect (and hope) that the local movement will become stronger in the next few years. Farmer’s Markets are a big thing in New Zealand and it’s something I really appreciate – good quality produce, grown and sold locally. I remember growing up, when strawberries were out of season, it was tough luck. No strawberries. I remember my mum would take me to a local shop in Turramurra, on Sydney’s North Shore, to buy my school uniform that was made locally.

When I arrived in NZ in 2010, I was a bit stunned at the stuff that was Made in China. I (naively) thought that New Zealand continues to make its own products but many NZ companies decided to move offshore to save on labour and production costs. I’m hoping that this trend will reverse. I buy locally-made NZ products as much as I can – NZ skincare, NZ honey, NZ (Whittakers) chocolate. I guess the more money we each put back into our respective economies, the more opportunities there might be for small businesses to start up local manufacturing.

Advertisements