Which is why the company — these days helmed by the 13th generation of the family that founded it — has added a new
wool fabric to its repertoire, gleaned from the fleece of local ‘Biellese’ sheep that have been reared in adherence
to transhumance, a farming method dating back to nomadic practices in prehistoric Europe that involves moving
livestock from one grazing ground to another, in accordance with the climatic cycles imposed by the titled axis on
which the Earth spins.
The animals that provide this cloth’s raw material graze at an altitude of 2,600-2,700 metres, in mountainous
pastures at the foot of the Bo mountain range’s Alpine glaciers, from May to September, but are moved to Piedmont’s
lowland pastures for the cooler months. As well as ensuring a rich, varied diet for the animals, this ancient
practice, according to VBC, forges “an indissoluble bond between humans, animals and the environment”. Francesco
Barberis Canonico, the Creative Director, says: “It’s really about going back to local traditions, to our roots,
because there have been pastures here for centuries.”
The lower carbon footprint involved with sourcing fleece from locally reared animals, of course, slots neatly into
Vitale Barberis Canonico’s broader sustainability ambit. There’s more to the sourcing of wool from Biellese sheep,
though, than ecological smarts and authentic local provenance. “The sheep being kept in a totally natural
environment, where they’re free to roam, are not enclosed in artificial light and don’t need treatments such as
antibiotics — all of this is reflected in the quality of the fabric,” says Barberis Canonico, referring to the
28-micron Biella cloth derived from the Biellese fleece. “People are prepared to spend extra to make sure that the
animals are kept in humane conditions. Younger people especially are very concerned about this stuff.”
And the product itself? “The wool is quite rustic, robust and vigorous, giving the fabric a lovely retro look,” he
says. “We’ve made some overcoats from it in herringbone, and you can see that the colours are very natural — beige,
cream, camelhair colour. With these, we’ve just taken the fleece from the sheep and spun and woven it — no dyes.
Where dyes are used, they’ve been derived from botanicals — plants, flowers, leaves, roots, fruits, even tree bark —
which, crucially, means a healthy lack of uniformity, consistency, when it comes to the colouring of garments.”
Read the full story in Issue 80 of The Rake - on newsstands now.
Available to buy immediately now on TheRake.com as single issue or 12 month
Subscribers, please allow up to 3 weeks to receive your magazine.