Few Italian regions embody the history of fashion like Tuscany. With 11 textile districts it’s one of the biggest Italian and European hub for the production of textiles. One of the largest of them is Prato.
Prato is one of the areas in Central and Northeast Italy (the so-called “Third Italy”) where centuries-old craft skills have successfully merged with modern industrial growth. Originating between the 19th and 20th centuries, the industrialization process underwent a rapid acceleration after World War II and was definitely established by the 1970s.
Prato began to specialize in textiles in the 12th century, when garment manufacturing was regulated by the Wool Merchants’ Guild. The political and economic decline experienced in Italy during the 16th and 17th centuries caused a drop in textile activities, which resumed in the late 18th century with the production of knitted caps made for Arab markets. The Prato district became thoroughly established during the 1970s.
The emerging of fashion as a mass phenomenon, together with the higher salaries and the revolution in customs, marked a historical division in the clothing market (and not only), and the demand became more fragmented, differentiated, unsteady and seasonal.
During time the Prato district underwent a fundamental transformation, from a product-oriented, wool-processing district to a market-oriented, fashion/textile district. The re-orientation of its competitive identity in terms of “satisfied needs” cleared the way for a considerable increase in the variety of products and production technologies.
During the seventies new possibilities were explored and developed, often with a pioneering spirit, in textiles (patterned combed yarns for knitwear, knitted fabrics, furs, coated fabrics, flock fabrics, etc.) and in non-wool fibres, both natural and synthetic. Since then, the fashion world (the world leaders in prêt-a-porter, the garment-makers for industrial brands, the large industrial retailers) would turn to Prato to find what other textile districts could not provide: constantly renewed collections of great variety and creativity and the ability to answer increasingly complex service requests; the district has been able to channel its strengths into increasingly innovative and sustainable techniques and processes, thus earning the appellation of “Recycling Capital.”
Bags of used clothing are arriving in Prato from all over Europe. An initial selection is made to remove the clothes that can be destined for second hand and those that are destined for recycling. A selection of materials is then made, discarding those that do not contain wool. At this point buttons, zippers, labels are removed. The material is selected by color and is sent to the recycling process. It is selected by color because another positive factor of this type of processing is that the dyeing phase is not carried out: the fiber is already dyed and therefore a very polluting phase of textile processing is saved.Used clothes become fiber again thanks to the so-called “carbonizzo” processing, which takes the name “mechanical wool” ready to become the protagonist of new creations.
Certainly the Prato district is a virtuous example to follow under any aspects. Don’t you agree?