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The archives, a memorable collection

Modesto Bertotto is one of the very few textile mills in Biella to have preserved its professional archives since 1889.
The archive consists of about 400 volumes, a real treasure from the historical point of view, that provide information about three centuries of both the company’s history and the national history of costume.

Most of the other companies in Biella lost their archives, or found them seriously damaged, during the flood in 1969. So, what kind of information do these tomes contain?
There were no computers in those days: therefore, fabric designers drew up the specifications by hand for weavers who would actually work the looms to produce the fabrics to make the garments.

The volumes contain information on the kind of yarns, the colour, the loom settings for weaves, several notes useful to form the warp, and then information on the actual weaving process.
Clients can leaf through the pages of these books, turned yellow with age, at the Biella and Turin outlets. The books include the specification sheets with the relevant notes concerning use – suit, blazer, trousers or coat – along with fabric swatches, thus providing an immediate reference to this sort of handcrafted “catalogue” of the collections.

Collections that include many “exclusive” items produced for designers and fashion houses which requested special kinds of fabrics manufactured specifically to ensure the absolute exclusiveness of the garments. One-off lines that even had a customised selvage to add a further touch of prestige (the customisation of the selvage was done also for the most prestigious tailor shops).

Today, these historic sample collections offer inspiration to designers and experts of the sector. Fashion is full of comebacks, and while the former trends are reviewed and reinterpreted, they are an essential aid in the work of fashion designers. Obviously, today’s fabrics are lighter than those produced in the past. However, looking at the fabrics woven 60 or 70 years ago, we can’t help but appreciate the style and taste handed down to us from yesteryear. Fashion houses know this very well, as they cyclically draw on this heritage of experiences to update them and restore their well-deserved prestige.