Biella and the Italian Cashmere Trade

25 Oct

There are 1,800 family-owned textile producers nestled in the hills around this northern Italian town. Together, they employ 28,000 people–an average of just 16 each. In the era of the global marketplace, where even giant corporations must fight to protect their turf against low-cost third world competitors, such small-scale operations might seem quaint anachronisms, doomed to extinction.

Biella’s textile-weaving community is the product of centuries of growth. The industry grew rapidly in the 19th century after textile machines were imported from Belgium and Britain. In time, Biella boasted all layers of textile work, from spinning to weaving to finishing. To supply the textile makers, local textile machine companies sprang up.

In the 1960’s, the local industrialists banded together to finance a training school for textile workers. In the 1970’s, they started a joint trade fair to promote Biella’s textiles. And in the 1980’s, local textile-machinery manufacturers formed a consortium to sell their products in China’s newly liberalized market.

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