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THE ART OF FABRIC-MAKING ACCORDING TO GIOVANNI BONOTTO
When you buy a garment don’t look at who made it, but rather examine how it is made. This is the advice of Giovanni Bonotto, who understands fabrics and, in particular, their method of manufacture, like few other people in Italy. He is Art Director of the firm Bonotto Spa, based in Molvena, in Veneto. The company is made up of 200 “master-craftsmen” (it would be demeaning to call them “workers”), who manage to produce truly miraculous results day after day. Their task involves delicate and highly complex operations on the loom and beautiful hem-stitching, the only job where the machine is no replacement for work done by hand.
The concept of “slow manufacture” originates here, with all production done on site. The company becomes your world and time can be enjoyed as a luxury. In this organisation, the idea of “quality” in fabric-making has been rediscovered. The company specialises in the production of woollen fabrics, although it also manufactures other types of cloth. These products are sold to the most demanding of clients: those people who are not satisfied with mass-produced materials. As a result the firm’s client list includes top names such as Armani, Chanel, Versace and Saint Laurent, and the company turnover amounts to about 30 million Euros annually.
Giovanni Bonotto, the origins of your family business go back quite a long way...
Yes, the business was founded in the 1860s, when my great-grandfather began making straw hats. After that he moved on to leather-tanning, supplying the famous Bottega Veneta, amongst other clients. However, when my father took over the business they began to work with wool, the activity for which the company is now famous.
Nowadays, however, you and your brothers are experimenting with new fabrics and new processing techniques...How can you square that with the use of the old techniques, which you still wish to retain?
Bonotto has always tried to combine ancient and modern, both with regard to the fabrics themselves and to the way they are made. We have recently rediscovered a forgotten material called ramie. At the same time, however, while our business used to be 100% about wool, now it involves cotton, viscose and another 15 to 20 fibres and polyesters. In the processing we also we also combine traditional techniques like the shuttle loom with some truly experimental methods, like working specially prepared cotton on machines which are generally reserved just for wool. We are the people who started re-using the “scrap-iron” thrown out of the old textile companies, but we have also introduced innovations to our products. In general, these concern materials destined for the world of women’s fashion, and we have them made more “sporty” and suitable for young tastes.
Which are your principal export markets?
Half the business turnover is within Europe. We focus on the principal “classic” Italian export markets, such as Holland and Germany, as well as Eastern countries, from Slovenia to Poland and from Turkey to Russia. We also do business in China, Japan, the USA and even South America.
Is there any other market which might attract your interest in the future?
India is a bit of an unknown quantity for us. We know it as a supplier, but not as an end market for our product.