In late 1966, the most lauded act in popular music history were suffering serious ennui. The staples of rock music — guitars, drums, twin-track recording gear, punishing touring schedules, three-minute chorus-and-verse singles, vacuous album concepts — no longer sated their creative hunger. Instead, given carte blanche by EMI, they started to dabble not only with exotic instruments — ukuleles, sitars, tablas, darbukas, mellotrons — but also backwards guitar riffs, speeded-up piano solos, epic orchestral segues and avant-garde album concepts.
I mention this because a similar vociferous hunger for experimentation, for expansion of repertoire and, crucially, for improvement has characterised Loro Piana’s approach to textiles since its founding, almost a century ago, in Quarona, Italy. “Our whole history is about innovation in fabric manufacture,” a spokesperson for the brand — 80 per cent of which was acquired by LVMH in 2013 — tells The Rake. “Unique knowledge that has been developed, built up, over almost a century can today be exploited by discovering and selecting the rarest raw materials, converting the fibres into the finest yarns, and producing the most beautiful fabrics. Only if you master each single step of the process can you really innovate.”
Pier Luigi, the son of the brand’s grandfather, Pietro, once told The Rake that sourcing fine fabrics “is like being in a kitchen: if you have the best raw ingredients, you have to be a pretty bad chef to ruin the end product”. The ‘chefs’ in Loro Piana’s case, of course, are seasoned craftspeople with intimate knowledge of how cashmere and wool behave and function, while the quest to improve the brand’s fabric offerings remains tireless. Pier Luigi’s mission to elevate Loro Piana’s material repertoire has seen him scour the world for fresh raw materials: whether it’s visiting Peru in search of the fleece of the Golden Vicuña, or his discovery of sacred lotus flowers, which grow only on lakes in Myanmar, from whose stems one of the most breathable and lightweight fabrics in existence can be made.