Italian manufacturers abide by some of the most stringent environmental and labor laws in the world. Laborers in handbag ateliers have paid vacations, health insurance, and must undergo a yearly physical exam to determine their fitness to perform their jobs.

"Made in Italy means tradition, know-how and standards,” Andrea Calistri, whose third-generation family business has been making handbags for top brands for more than half a century, told Tracy Wilkinson of the Los Angeles Times. “It means not only made in Italy, but made in the Italian way."

Ateliers are passed down in the same family for generations and employees often work for one employer for their entire lives.  Manufacturing in Florence dates back to the Middle Ages and much of the knowledge of Italy’s famed craftsmanship has been passed down for centuries.

Calistri, whose company has manufactured for Jill Milan, Bulgari, Donna Karan and other top luxury brands, has formed a consortium composed of 65 companies to promote the value of genuine Italian craftsmanship. They call themselves 100 Percent Italian.

But these strict regulations and renowned craftsmanship come at a price.  

Most handbags made in Asia cost less than $30 to manufacture, but traditionally made Italian bags cost brands such as Jill Milan hundreds of dollars to make. However, many handbags made in Prato, an Italian city where significant numbers of illegal immigrants produce fashion items at greatly reduced costs.  Because these companies often ignore basic safety standards and employ sweatshop labor, they enjoy a price advantage.

Calistri points out it is possible for a fancy store to have expensive designer bags made by Chinese workers in Italy displayed next to the same bags made, also in Italy, by Italian workers.   The former costs 20 Euros (about $25 US) to produce, the latter about 250 Euros (about $320).

Jill Milan’s handbags are produced by family-owned ateliers in Italy, including the Calistri family’s, in Florence. The cost of making our handbags can be 20 times that of making a bag elsewhere, but we believe it is the best way to guarantee the quality and the ethical considerations of our brand.