For consumers of luxury goods, the "Made in Italy" designation remains so prestigious that it can add 300% to an item's price. But the days of artisans plying their trade in little workshops are largely over, the Los Angeles Times reports, replaced by thousands of Tuscan factories employing Chinese workers at low wages and in deplorable conditions. For many, the labor is little more than indentured servitude.
Laws governing workplace safety and establishing a minimum wage have done nothing to stop the rise of Chinese manufacturing in Italy: workers put in 14-hour days to pay off debts and often sleep in cells in the factory compound. A recent exposé on Italian television led Prada to end its dealings with a sweatshop there. And while two identical luxury bags might sell for the same price, one made by Chinese workers will cost 90% less to manufacture.