How does Francesco Barberis Canonico, scion of the eponymous family clothmaker, keep a 357-year-old business creatively fresh? Heritage, he says, is a reference point, not a dogma.

Even for the casual observer, a loom weaving an intricately designed fabric is a hypnotic sight. For those who adhere to the tenets of this magazine, witnessing weft interlace with warp — based on complex mathematical sequences that, like the chalk equations on a physicist’s blackboard, reflect the intellectual efforts of the very finest in their discipline — is a life-enriching experience.

It’s a process that happens at a rate of around 10 million metres per year, using three million kilograms of wool, at Vitale Barberis Canonico (VBC), the three-and-a-half-century-old establishment based 50 miles north of Turin in the Biella region of Italy. VBC not only farm wool in Australia but also comb, dye, spin, design, weave and finish stunning fabrics for the most prestigious bespoke workshops in the world, not to mention many of the major brands.

As Creative Director and the 13th generation custodian of what is a family business in the most distilled sense of that phrase, Francesco Barberis Canonico, along with his seven designers, is the driving force behind no fewer than 4,000 new fabrics per year. And, as The Rake finds each time we encounter him, Francesco is a man whose passion for his mission is inexhaustible.


    December 2020


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