The “quinternetto delle taglie” (literally a “small, five-page list of sizes”) dates to 1663, and amounts to a particularly significant historical document for the Barberis Canonico family. It describes Ajmo Barbero’s sale of a “saia grisa” to the Duke of Savoia, and is essentially the first official document testifying to the company’s wool mill activities. But that’s not all: the document also describes a mastery of the dyeing process (something not everyone possessed) that was jealously guarded and passed down from father to son.
Halfway through the nineteenth century, Giuseppe Barberis Canonico, following the transformation introduced by the industrial revolution, decided to increase production, collaborating with the Maurizio Sella company, which had already automated its production processes. Later on his son, also named Giuseppe, aimed to increase the number of machines the company was using and rented out a wool mill in Flecchia. By the end of the 1800s, the company was using no fewer than 800 spindles and 73 frames. When the first mechanical frames arrived in 1868, all weaving, dyeing, brushing and threading activities were concentrated in the Pratrivero factory.
Between 1890 and 1906, the factory automated weaving, purchasing the best new frames available in Chemnitz (Saxony). The new century introduced a novel, precious resource: electricity. This made it possible for Giuseppe Barberis Canonico to establish a full-cycle factory in Pratrivero in 1910.
Sales continued to increase, and the company inaugurated two new factories in the Triverese region. Thanks to the high quality of the fabrics it was producing, the company began to export successfully the world over, not only in Europe, but also in the Americas, the British Raj, and even China.
The partnership between Oreste and Vitale, on which production was founded, came to an end during a difficult historical period: a global economic crisis had shaken the markets, and in Italy (and elsewhere) Fascism was hindering entrepreneurial liberty for wool merchants. Despite these difficulties – and even as World War Two siphoned away workers, reduced electricity and made it difficult to find replacement parts for the machines and wool dyes – in 1936 Vitale Barberis Canonico® was born.
Thanks to strategic choices and technological advancements that improved product quality, sales more than doubled. The company consolidated its prestigious image in international markets. During the years of Italy’s “economic miracle,” Vitale Barberis Canonico registered sales for half a billion lira.
Vitale’s sons Alberto and Luciano took over the reins at Vitale Barberis Canonico, transforming it into a publicly traded company. Alberto focused on developing the technical and technological sector, while Luciano focused on exports and increasing the wool mill’s prestige overseas, making this area one of Vitale Barberis Canonico’s strongpoints.
A new generation took command at the company helm, guiding it into the twenty-first century. Alessandro, Francesco and Lucia continue to run the legendary wool mill today.
2013 marked the 350th anniversary of the company’s wool mill activities, permitting it to become a member of Les Hénokiens, an international association that brings together family-run companies that have been active for at least two centuries. Vitale Barberis Canonico continues to remain true to its origins and, by creatively renewing itself over time, never stops drawing inspiration from its historical archive, a distillation of excellence that inspires the company’s present and future.