I have long been a fan of Italian fabric makers Dedar, so I jumped at the offer of a trip to interview the people behind this endlessly innovative textile company. (It helped of course that their HQ is in Como, a few miles in-land from the lake and its celebrity villa flanked shoreline.)
Dedar is a small, family-run company (the current directors, Caterina and Raffaele Fabrizio are daughter and son respectively of the founders) which has built itself an impressive reputation for visually stunning and exquisitely made furnishing fabrics and wall coverings.
What became clear as I spoke to both Caterina and Raffaele is that the secret of their success (and success it is – in 2011, at the height of the Europe’s financial crises, turnover was 30m euros) lies in their ability to honour the region’s rich textile history without being restricted by it. Their fabrics blend natural and synthetic fibres and are woven using both hi-tech and ancient artisanal skills. For example, the current collection contains outdoor fabrics woven from Polypropylene, a moiré that has been rubbed by hand just as they were hundreds of years ago and a Duchesse satin woven on a Jacquard loom that weaves this fabric’s 200 yarns per cm at a speed which made me catch my breath. ‘Our skill is knowing what we want to achieve with a fabric,’ explains Raffaele. ‘Our fabrics must be beautiful and respond to a function so we use whatever yarn and method of production is most suitable.’
His words chime with the craft world’s on-going discussion about the role of technology and the importance – or not – of the hand made. Looking at fabulous fabrics made by hand and machines both traditional and modern in a thriving, state of the art mill set in the ancient heart of Europe’s textile manufacturing industry, I can’t help feeling that we are worrying about nothing. Methods of production are just that: skills are what matter and there is no shortage of those.