Craft / November 2017

Piacenza Cashmere: Noble Knitwear

As one of the oldest makers of knitwear in the world, Biella-based Piacenza Cashmere knows the importance of fine fibres – and how to turn them into exceptional pieces.

Piacenza Cashmere has been making knitwear since 1733. Photograph by James Munro.

Little of lasting historical consequence occurred in the year 1733. France declared war on the Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI. America’s first Freemason’s lodge opened in Boston. Georgia was founded at the site where Savannah exists today. The British passed the Molasses Act, taxing the syrupy substance, earning the enmity of American colonists and fanning the flames that would lead to the War of Independence. The French and Spanish Bourbon kings sealed the Treaty of the Escorial — signed at and named for the traditional residence of Spanish royalty, which lends its moniker to Escorial wool, shorn from Antipodean sheep descended from the Spanish king’s flocks.

One of the few natural fibres that’s even softer and more luxurious than Escorial wool is cashmere — and (yes, patience please, we’re getting to the point) it is this textile that is the speciality of Lanificio Fratelli Piacenza.

Founded in 1733, the same year as the aforementioned historical happenings, for almost three centuries Fratelli Piacenza has milled and dealt in noble fibres from its base in Italy’s textiles mecca, Biella. Piacenza belongs to the elite group known as the International Hénokiens Society, whose members are all family-run firms boasting at least two centuries of history. Today, CEO Carlo Piacenza represents the 13th generation of the family to helm the business, which creates pieces under the name Piacenza Cashmere. Members of the 14th generation have already begun training from the ground up at the factory in Pollone. Milling the finest cashmere, camelhair, vicuna, alpaca, mohair, wool and silk, and producing an exclusive line of garments and accessories, Fratelli Piacenza now employs more than 200 staff and reaps annual revenue in excess of €40 million. We’d love to report that the company arose from humble beginnings, but the fact is, it’s done a brisk trade since its earliest days. This thriving artisanal business got its start when Pietro Francesco Piacenza and his son Giovanni Francesco established a wool mill almost 300 years ago. An immediate success, by 1757, their factory employed 100 people.

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Christian Barker

Christian Barker is The Rake's Asia editor-at-large, a frequent contributor to this site, and an enthusiastic consumer of fine whiskies, sashimi and classic disco music - ideally in unison.