POST-GAZETTE - Res Publica

It's Not All Pasta and Provolone

by David Trumbull

October 19, 2007

Christopher Columbus' bold journey across the Atlantic opened new frontiers of exploration and demonstrated the power of perseverance. His journeys inspired other risk-takers and dreamers to test the bounds of their imagination and gave them the courage to accomplish great feats, whether crossing the world's oceans or walking on the moon. Today, a new generation of innovators and pioneers continues to uphold the finest values of our country discipline, ingenuity, and unity in the pursuit of great goals. --George W. Bush, October 4, 2007.

Throughout October we’ve celebrated Italian-American heritage in food, music, visual arts, and, especially in love of family. But there is more to the Italian heritage than Puccini and fettucine.

In searching my wife’s DiZazzo family roots I found that when the immigrants from Rocca d’Evandro in Caserta came to Massachusetts they went to work in the worsted textile mills in Lawrence. The job of mill hand in the early twentieth century was tiring and sometimes dangerous, but it was at least a start in America for the immigrant who spoke little if any English. Most of those immigrants from southern Italy knew nothing of the textile industry when they arrived. They were simply the mill hands, but the mills would never have run without them. Had they come from Biella in northern Italy or Prato in Tuscany they might have arrived with textile mill experience, for those are the centers of the traditional Italian wool and silk textile industries.

Today Italy is the world’s leader in the production of the finest wool and cashmere fabrics for high fashion and the luxury tailor-made suit market. One company in particular, Loro Piana operates in the luxury goods industry with the mission of providing uncompromised quality. For six generations, the company has been supplying the finest cashmere and wool fabrics to the most sophisticated and demanding clients. In doing so, Loro Piana has become the largest cashmere manufacturer and the biggest single purchaser of the world’s finest wools.

Next year marks 20 years since Loro Piana entered the North American market by acquiring an American wool textile mill, Warren Corporation, in Stafford Springs, Connecticut. Pier Luigi Loro Piana and his family invested tens of millions of dollars to modernize the Connecticut facility and bring to America the Loro Piana expertise in processing the worlds more expensive and luxurious fibers.

And so we have progressed from Italian semi-skilled laborers in American mills to highly skilled Italians with strong financial backing running the mill and teaching the American operators the latest textile arts and sciences from Italy.