Friday, January 8, 2010

a million miles from that bathroom...

In this post, I would like to introduce you to a really cool dude named Michele Gargaro. He's a young man I worked with at a factory in the south of China. Together Michele and I braved conditions that I could never truly describe here in this post. It would take a 100's of pictures and 1000's of words to even get close.

Michele's father was one of the great craftsman in the art of making upholstered furniture in southern Italy. When he was just a young boy, he worked in his father's factory in Italy during the summers and weekends. There, he also learned the fine art of handcrafting upholstered furniture just like his father did before him. Sadly, Michele's father passed away years back, and along with our industry, Michele eventually found his way to China.

Michele simply has a level of talent and experience I've never before seen in a young man of his age, and I learned so much from him during our time together. Each morning we would walk together amongst the sea of humanity and uniforms through the vast courtyard past the open sewer system, to get to the long bank of turnstiles. We would wait for our turn to scan our badges and pass through to the factory buildings. Then the long walk down the dark dirty hallways to get to our shared office in the prototype room.

I was designing, and he was engineering. Every couple of hours we would sneak away to the bathroom across the hallway for a cigarette. The conditions in this bathroom were unspeakable! I do have a photo of it, but I've decided not to post it just in case you will be eating soon. I can tell you this...each day a man would come in with a big hose, and spray down the walls, floor, and the toilets which were just holes in the floor! As we stood in there being careful where we put our feet, and not to touch anything, the conversation would always be the same..."How are we going to get out of this place!"

Because both Michele and I were not so fond of the chicken feet, bird heads, and the other unidentifiable foods in the cafeteria, we would escape from the factory complex each day for lunch, driving past the pig trucks we headed to the nearby town of Danshui. And of course over lunch the conversations about our final escape and starting our own company's would continue. And of course after returning from lunch the first stop was that dreadful bathroom for one last cigarette before returning to work.

Well, the reason that I always say believe in your dreams is because I did get out, and today I'm living the dream of my own company. Also several months ago I got a call from Michele, and he's finally made his great escape too, and he's now back in Italy living his dream as well! Last weekend he came to Gioia Del Colle to pick me up, and take me to see his new prototyping shop. He's now running his own small company. I'm so happy and proud of him!

His company is located in his home town of Santeramo, and he now has several small local furniture factories as clients, and he's making their prototypes for them. He has one sewing machine and two work stations. Take a look at him in action in his new shop...

Congratulations Michele! You're living proof that dreams do come true if you believe and never give up. And,  now we are both a million miles from that bathroom!

If you happen to be launching a furniture line and need samples and patterns made, or an established furniture company looking to outsource, contact Michele at

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