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Hats and Velvet: two never-ending traditions in northern Italy

Why Italian handicraft is famous all over the world

Hats and Velvet: two never-ending traditions in northern Italy

Claudia Astarita

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From North to South, Italy is very famous for its niche productions. Among them there is certainly Borsalino's hats. Actually, people are used to say that Borsalino's are much more than a simple gentleman's hat. What the brand is offering is style, elegance and quality. It's not surprising, then, that it took only a few years to Borsalino's hats, and especially their fedoras, to become the "hat of choice for many Hollywood legends, world political leaders and fashion identities over the past century".

In 1857 Giuseppe Borsalino and his brother Lazzaro opened a small workshop in Alessandria, their home town. With hats being very fashionable at that time, the Borsalino brothers succeeded in building a small studio producing up to 300 hats per day. In the early 20th century, instead, they decided to invest in a proper industrial production, upgrading their manufacturing capacity to up to 5500 hats per day.

In the 1920s, the Borsalino company "was employing a total of 3000 factory workers and had an annual production of 2,000,000 hats for local trade and international export". This was when the Borsalino's fedora became an icon, a label that, one hundred year after, the brand has not yet lost.

Another success story is the one of Venetian velvet. The whole area of Venice is very famous for its fabrics. However, it is thanks to passionate artisans such as Luigi Bevilacqua that local productions gained international prestige.

Since 1975, "Luigi Bevilacqua Ltd specialises in fabrics that include handmade velvets, lampas, damasks, brocatelles, silks and satins". As the fourth generation of Bevilacqua have explained, "the art of velvet weaving started in Venice in the 14th century. By around 1500, there were about 6000 looms in the city, so thousands of people were involved in velvet production". Today, Bevilacqua is specialized in soprarizzo velvet, the most precious and complex kind of velvet, "achieved through the union of the cut velvet at the top, which defines the pattern, and the curly velvet at the bottom, which defines the borders". If velvet was born as the fabric of aristocrats, soprarizzo velvet is today an icon for stars, world leaders and fashion icons. The same that for sure have at least a Borsalino hat in their closet.

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