Italian handcrafts: The Textiles of Prato
- WTI Magazine #99 Jan 20, 2018
Since the Middle Ages, fabrics and yarns have been the main products of the Prato area, thanks to the creativity of those who, over the years, have been able to renew a tradition that has never waned. Today, the industrial district of Prato is one of Europe’s largest and is a production model that has attracted the attention of the most eminent economists. It covers an area of approximately 700 km2 and 13 municipalities; 8,000 businesses operate there with more than 30 thousand employees. Its water is supplied by a system designed to recycle industrial waste water, which is the only one of its kind in Europe.
Prato’s industrial system is based on the division of production among numerous independent small and medium-sized enterprises, each specialising in a specific activity (spinning, warpage, weaving, dyeing and refinement or finishing).
The Prato businesses are involved in the research and design of samples, the organisation of production and the marketing of finished products, forming one vast workshop that ensures high standards of quality, rapid delivery times and competitive prices.
All the steps of the textile manufacturing process are carried out within the district, in addition to which, the operators display enormous creativity: every six months the Prato companies develop 2,000 new yarns, 60,000 new textile designs and hundreds of new fabric collections.
Most of the production is exported throughout the world and bought by many of the best known designer labels, which use fabrics from Prato to enhance their collections.
The local tradition includes “regenerated carded wool”, a product that was developed after the war from the recycling of used clothing and scraps, which are reintroduced into the production cycle through a process that restores them to a fibrous mass.
The recycling culture is also based on the great expertise of the industry, which over the years has managed to revitalise a product that is part of the district’s tradition in a way that is relevant to current concerns.
Prato is also at the forefront in highly specialised production, thanks to its technological innovation and research, together with courageous investments for the purchase of machinery.
It includes companies that produce paper fabrics, medical textiles for slow release of drugs, technical fabrics for aviation use and even textiles that light up.
The long history of textile production in the area and its fascinating future prospects are presented in the Textile Museum, located in a former industrial factory in the city centre. The museum houses a permanent collection and organises temporary exhibitions on contemporary themes.
Even Hollywood has become aware of the wealth of district’s proposals, seen in the establishment of increasingly close ties with the film industry.
Some of the most famous costume designers are regular customers in Prato, where they have found interesting material for their creations. Prato fabrics were used to make the costumes for “The Gladiator” with Russell Crowe and Mel Gibson’s clothes in “Braveheart”, as well as the costumes for “Gangs of New York,” directed by Martin Scorsese.
By Camera di Commercio di Prato