As I have mentioned before, Italian clothes are known for their high quality, sophistication and style. The “art” that Italians created goes back thousands of years. I remember visiting Pompeii and marveled over the painted frescos that were preserved from ancient times. The use of colors and patterns on the walls of homes and bathhouses was simply extraordinary. This art, these creations, were passed down generation after generation and it reflects today. Not only in the art, but also in the fabric. How did the modern day Italians become so well revered for their fine fabrics?
Let’s start with World War ll. Following the war, Italy was economically devastated. As part of the rebuilding process, the United States government helped restore and rebuild the Italian textile industry, providing the best machines for the job. The Italian government worked diligently to export their textiles to other countries, including the US. But what exactly makes their fabrics superior?
Again, I have to take a page from my grandmother. I remember as a child, she gave me this small pink purse. She said it was “special” as it was created in Italy with the “best silk on earth.” It was a tiny clutch, complete with a pearl button. It was so beautiful. Of course, I left it out and our dog at the time decided he liked the taste and chewed it to bits. I never had the courage to tell my grandmother, or anyone else. But, I remembered the pride on her face as she handed me this purse. “It’s made in Italia,” as she beamed with pride. She pointed to the “Made in Italy” tag sewn on the inside. She said it meant it was “the best” as Italians were known for their excellent craftsmanship, prestige and using only the best available fabrics. I didn’t know at the time where silk came from, but I certainly know now!
Silk is made from silk worms. Italy invested in mulberry trees, the prime source of food for silk worms. They cultivated the worms, gave them the ideal environment, kept them happy. They generated the finest silk around. The Italians would then use special techniques to weave the silk, producing a superior product.
Wool is no exception. Italians knew where to find the best available type of wool, and capitalized on the information. They obtained wool from New Zealand, a country known for the best wool. The wool is soft, silky and Italians used skilled people to make it soft and comfortable. Italy is also known for their fine leather. They would treat the cattle fine, and take only the best hides. They never took shortcuts. They would soak the hides, called curing, over time. No artificially chemicals were used. They used all natural extracts to soften the leather, making it unique, super soft and durable.
Other Italian fabrics such as cotton, lace and linen are produced in the same way. They find the best ingredients, use the finest machinery and employ a knowledgeable and skilled work force. They don’t cut corners! How do I know this? I was raised in the days of making pasta, from scratch. I was raised to make wine, from scratch. I learned to sew clothes, from scratch. It’s the same today…using the best ingredients to ensure the best “product.” It’s the Italian way.