Welcome to Prato

a person pulling a piece of fabric off of a roller in a velvet factory

Where craft means tradition, modernity and passion

Marta Franceschini (opens in new window) (European Fashion Heritage Association)
Laura Fiesoli (opens in new window) (Museo del Tessuto di Prato)
Anna Carniel (European Fashion Heritage Association)

The term ‘craft’ has the power to evoke a far-reaching, diverse universe: a universe made of traditions, family stories, techniques handed down from generation to generation, intimate memories, beautiful objects and symbols of identity. Around the world, each territory has its own history, and specific crafts are an integral part of the history of different areas.

The history of Prato, a city not far from Florence in Tuscany, Italy, and of the district that developed around the city is woven (pun intended!) into the textiles that started being produced there in the 12th century, when garment manufacturing was regulated by the Wool Merchants’ Guild. After a period of political and economic decline during the 16th and 17th centuries, the production of textiles resumed in the late 18th century, and since then Prato has embarked on its fascinating route to modernity, merging centuries-old craft skills with industrial development and growth.

One of the objectives of the CRAFTED project is to recover traditional crafts and the people preserving them, amplifying their voice and presenting them to a wide audience, to appreciate, protect and celebrate the efforts to keep these invaluable crafts - and the knowledge associated with them - alive. This is why EFHA, in collaboration with Museo del tessuto di Prato and thanks to the help of the Università degli Studi di Firenze, decided to focus on Prato for four videos part of the #craftingheritage vlog series.

For Prato, velvet is a sort of royal banner. Since the Renaissance, its velvets have been the most admired textiles - a true element of pride for the region, where different techniques and machines were devised over the years to reach heights in the quality, garb, preciousness and desirability of the Pratese velvets. In the first video, Honouring Tradition, Imagining the Future of Craft, the past, present and future woven in velvet are evoked by the detailed accounts by Daniela degli Innocenti, conservator and curator of the Museo del Tessuto, whose extensive collection of velvets are able to unveil stories (and secrets!) of European aristocracy. The fascination with the Past seems vivid in the words of Ivo Vignali, head of the Rifinizone Vignali, who recalls how contemporary practice is always inspired by the crafting techniques and methodologies developed over time, allowing manufacturers to craft objects of timeless charm.

From textiles to embroidery, threads are pulled together by Franca Verteramo, the passionate protagonist of the second episode Embroidering Memories: Minds, Hearts and Hands Enriching the Future of Fashion. Trained as an amateur embroiderer by her mother and aunts since she was very young, Franca grew to become a professional embroiderer praised by fashion designers and artists as Mary J. Blidge and Shakira, for whom she embroidered the iconic outfits she wore for the Super Bowl. Her passion for what she does leads her to always experiment with different materials and techniques, combining a traditional skill set acquired as part of her upbringing with the fantastical and luxurious ideas of fashion designers such as Roberto Cavalli and Peter Dundas.

In the third episode Creatività filata - Creative Threads. Textile Tradition and Machines: Poetics of the Future, Luigi Ricceri, from Lanificio Luigi Ricceri, talks about how tradition drives innovation in his textile factory, where study and knowledge combine with the poetics and possibilities offered by nature. Answering the complicated question: how can machines help create a future for craft? Mr Ricceri shows how nature and tradition are applied to technical tools to produce objects able to bridge past and present, demonstrating how craft can evolve: thanks to the hands and minds of those who know it and care for its future. Answering the question - and preserving artefacts that show how modernity was, indeed, crafted through textiles made with machines - is also one of the missions of the Museo del Tessuto di Prato, as explained by Laura Fiesoli, responsible for the contemporary collection of the museum.

The last episode, Tessere il futuro di Prato - Weaving the future of Prato. Preserving and Passing on the Savoir Faire of the Textile District sees Emanuele Lucchesi, of the Marco Lucchesi Srl "Vivere In Tessuto" factory, reflect on the current meaning of creativity: creativity, for him, is making something special, something ‘important’. Making is thinking, and craft results from the collaboration of hands and minds, whose harmony produces beautiful and meaningful objects. Both Lucchesi and Margherita Tufarelli, researcher in the Department of Architecture of the Università degli studi di Firenze, state clearly how the savoir-faire of the textile district can only survive if younger generations understand its value and vital role in the local community and society at large.

The four episodes illustrate the rich heritage, creativity, commitment and passion for the craftsmanship of Prato and its people - testimonies to listen to, learn from, and treasure forever.

This blog was written as part of the CRAFTED project, which aimed to enrich and promote traditional and contemporary crafts.