In a second-floor apartment in the southern Italian town of Santeramo in Colle, a middle-aged woman sat in a black-padded chair this summer, hard at work at her kitchen table. She carefully stitched a sophisticated woolen coat, the sort of style that will sell for 800 to 2,000 euros ($935 to $2,340) when it arrives in stores this month as part of the fall and winter collection of MaxMara, the Italian luxury fashion brand.
“It takes me about one hour to sew one meter, so about four to five hours to complete an entire coat,” said the woman, who works without a contract, or insurance, and is paid in cash on a monthly basis. “I try to do two coats per day.”
The unregulated work she completes in her apartment is outsourced to her from a local factory that also manufactures outerwear for some of the best-known names in the luxury business, including Louis Vuitton and Fendi. The most she has ever earned, she said, was 24 euros ($28) for an entire coat.
Homework — working from home or a small workshop as opposed to in a factory — is a cornerstone of the fast-fashion supply chain. It is particularly prevalent in countries such as India, Bangladesh, Vietnam and China, where millions of low-paid and predominantly female homeworkers are some of the most unprotected in the industry, because of their irregular employment status, isolation and lack of legal recourse.
That similar conditions exist in Italy, however, and facilitate the production of some of the most expensive wardrobe items money can buy, may shock those who see the “Made in Italy” label as a byword for sophisticated craftsmanship.
Increased pressure from globalization and growing competition at all levels of the market mean that the assumption implicit in the luxury promise — that part of the value of such a good is that it is made in the best conditions, by highly skilled workers, who are paid fairly — is at times put under threat.
Although they are not exposed to what most people would consider sweatshop conditions, the homeworkers are allotted what might seem close to sweatshop wages. Italy does not have a national minimum wage, but roughly 5 to 7 euros per hour is considered an appropriate standard by many unions and consulting firms. In extremely rare cases, a highly skilled worker can earn as much as 8 to 10 euros an hour. But the homeworkers earn significantly less, regardless of whether they are involved in leatherwork, embroidery or another artisanal task.
For decades, Formula One was synonymous with tobacco. Not only was the sport awash with money from cigarette companies, but the cars’ liveries were also reflections of their sponsors, from the red and white Marlboro McLarens to the black and gold of the John Player Special Lotus.
一級方程式賽車（F1）曾有數十年是菸草的同義詞，不但這項運動充斥著菸商的資金，賽車的外觀也反映出贊助商是誰，例如紅白兩色的萬寶路麥拉倫車隊，以及黑金二色的John Player Special蓮花車隊。
Tobacco brought in an average of $350 million per year for Formula One earlier this decade, and companies like British American Tobacco and Philip Morris International helped pay for the sport’s continuous cycle of development, the technological arms race that often ensured that those who spent the most won the most.
But that all ended late in 2006 after Formula One banned tobacco advertising. In 2015, the last year for which public figures are available, the sport’s 10 teams raised about $750 million from sponsorships, a $200 million drop from 2012. That loss of income hit the sport about the same time as the financial crisis, which forced the Honda, Toyota and Renault teams to shut down, although Renault eventually returned. And now Formula One is reconsidering whether to continue to accept advertising from alcohol, fast-food and snack companies.
So the sport has been looking for a new vein of money, and in the last few years teams have been working to form partnerships with the deep-pocket companies in the technology industry that would bring not only high-tech expertise, but also revenue.
Technology and Formula One are natural partners, and companies like Microsoft and Dell have long invested in the sport. Mercedes, the current champion, has a number of technical partners, including wireless technology company Qualcomm and audio experts Bose, as well as Tibco, Pure Storage, Rubrik and Epson. Microsoft Dynamics has partnered with the Renault team since 2012, and Dell returned to the sport this year with McLaren, having previously worked with the now-defunct Caterham team.
McLaren has been aggressive in obtaining partnerships over the past decade.
James Bower, McLaren’s marketing director, lived through Formula One’s sponsorship upheaval.
“Towards the end of that era — between 2001 and 2006 when the new directive kicked in — what you did see was some brands (and I would say West and Lucky Strike were probably the more innovative) pushing harder into lifestyle and pushing harder into what we recognize now as the deeper activation levels, as opposed to just slam Marlboro on the side of the car, throw a few parties, entertain some B2B trade retailers and call it a day,” Bower said, referring to business to business.