Massimo Civita is the administrator of Rossoporpora, the brand of the total look of underwear worn by Melissa Satta.
The underwear Melissa Satta wears is designed and made in Puglia, Andria. We enter the factory of Erman srl. The generous silhouette of Melissa appears on an advertising poster next to the Rossoporpora brand. We are in one of the companies that has grown a lot in the Italian total look underwear segment. Massimo Civita and his brother Fausto run a company that produces everything that is underwear for men, women, boys and girls: from lingerie to boxers, underwear t-shirts and pyjamas. Another
image gives us the face of Aldo Montana, Olympic fencing champion, another historical testimonial of the company Erman Rossoporpora. Founded by Armando Civita, Massimo and Fausto’s father, Erman has taken only one generation to climb the ladder of Italian underwear fashion. The numbers say so: 40 employees working at the Andria headquarters, in addition
to 250 other resources working at Erman Alba in Tirana (Albania), another production centre of the group. Thousands of underwear items are sold every year not only in Italy but also in Russia, the Balkans and even Spain, France and Portugal.
We meet Massimo Civita, Erman’s director and head of external relations.
Your father founded Erman in 1990, in the years 2000 you and your brother Fausto joined the company: this is the moment of the turning point.
My brother Fausto and I joined the company very young, we were both just under twenty. We were lucky enough to receive trust from our father and a great deal of freedom to say our own words, to bring our vision to life and to realize our ideas.
What is the added value that your entry into Erman brings?
At first, this was just a small, family-run factory. In addition to my father, my mother and a few workers worked there. Then in the nineties we felt a strong need to give this reality a precise identity and role in the market.
And that’s how the Rossoporpora brand was born with you. Why this name?
I’ve always had the idea of making a product that was different from the others. I also believe that in the underwear market you can make a difference by offering an elegant product, with a “clean” style and at the same time outside the conventional canons. We thought of a name that could reflect this idea: purple is the color of nobility, the color of the aristocracy. This is how Rossoporpora was born.
Your story is identical to those of other family businesses in the North of Bari. So the question is always the same: how does a small company in the textile sector become an international brand? What is the secret?
There is no secret. There is only the desire, the ability, the belief in what you are doing. I’m increasingly convinced that when you’re doing something, when you’re doing a project, you must first believe in it and be convinced first of all of the goodness of what you’re doing. Everything that comes afterwards is and must be a lot of work, a lot of sacrifice and putting aside the presumption, having the humility of knowing how to listen to the market, admitting that you can’t know everything and never stop learning and getting to know.
Have you ever had, in recent years, the clear perception that you were making the proverbial leap in quality becoming among the protagonists of Italian fashion?
Not a particular moment, but you perceive the growth every time you take out a new creative line. When we created the Rossoporpora brand and started the first communication projects with our first ever testimonial, Aldo Montana, at that time
we actually experienced the thrust that communication could give to our ideas. We operate in a market with a product that is difficult to differentiate, we produce an item of clothing that by its nature is hidden and what’s more, we are in a sector in which our ideas take little time to be pursued. In such a context, the presentation and communication of these ideas become important.
So you have focused on the quality not only of the product, but also in the communication
of the product…
Yes, communication is absolutely essential for us.
How do you see the relationship between women and their femininity changing through your underwear?
Women today love to be looked at and then try to discover themselves to capture the attention of the man. She does this by highlighting the underwear she wears under her normal clothing. Once showing off the underwear was a taboo, almost a shame, a dishonor. Today, on the other hand, women, and men too, show off their briefs, wearing short sweaters so that you can see the strip of underwear that comes out of their pants. The see-through effect always works.
The appearance has become a bit exasperated.
Yes, we must be careful that elegance does not become vulgarity.
It is surprising that a company that works with brands such as Paciotti or Iceberg is based in Terlizzi and not in Milan, considered the capital of Italian fashion: how difficult is it to produce creativity here in the south?
Making fashion here in the South of Italy is not easy. There are no training schools and this is a serious deficiency that we pay a high price for, because the skills mature not only with experience in the company but also and above all in the school. There is also a lack of logistical infrastructure: the crisis in the port of Taranto does not help, the commercial port of Bari does not work, the aircraft system is a marginal segment in our sector, there are no fast rail or road connections. We are playing it out successfully because we operate in the medium-high segment of the clothing market, a sector that in Puglia is worth about 45% in terms of production on a national basis.
Where is this boundary between elegance and vulgarity?
The see-through effect always remains the ultimate point of elegance, I would say chastity, before it turns into an easy blink.
In recent years, technology in the intimate has also intervened in the relationship with the body, I am thinking, for example, of push-up bras.
The market has experimented different solutions in recent years: the bra was born with the “fish” that pads and creates volume at the breast, or the panties with the raised seam, in short, there are now many techniques to highlight the beauty of the woman. In this evolution, however, there is first of all the will of the woman herself to be always in shape through fitness and body care.
Massimo, what fascinates you more than a woman?
I like to talk to a woman. It is precisely by talking that a woman manages to win attention. The physical appearance, the
external beauty, the bearing, come after.
You told me before that you are engaged, what role does your girl have in your choices?
I always involve her in the choices that concern Rossoporpora, I show her the new lines and ask her for an opinion. She works in the field of fashion so I really care about her opinion, her “eye”.
Is it possible to make fashion here in the South?
In the South we are very creative, we are very reflective. We always try to put ideas to good use, perhaps because we have a great sense of adaptation that goes beyond the difficulties of the territory.
What there’s “Beyond” in your company?
You will see it in a year. There are many things that boil in the pot…
Rosanna Vendola: “The beauty of Puglia also inspires us in our creativity”.
“Zero & Company is an important piece of my heart. I was born here, it’s part of me, it’s my rib, my son. I believe that each of us should do a job that he likes: I deal with style and creativity, I’m lucky enough to do something that excites me, more congenial to my way of being. How do you make fashion in Puglia? Paradoxically, the province has a positive side: this land offers extraordinary views, we have the sun, the sea, the green. Even simply taking a coffee break or smoking a cigarette can become a moment of inspiration. It is no coincidence that many important Italian and international managers also spend their holidays here in Puglia. Today, all this representing our way of being has become a brand andan added value also for our work.”