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Mill of the Week: Berto

Berto Industria Tessile is a mill with a history and a culture that attracts companies looking to tell stories.

The mill was founded in 1887 in Bovolenta, Italy by brothers Giuseppe and Egidio Berto and has consistently reinvented itself since its beginnings, starting as a manufacturer of sailcloth fabrics, moving to workwear, home textiles, shirting and finally denim. Today, the company continues to work in several categories including cotton, silk, cashmere, wool and shirting.

In addition, the denim collection itself shows a lot of variety. Berto’s denim offerings range from 3.8 oz. to 21 oz. and includes shirting, yarn-dyed and printed denim, as well as denim fabrics that have been used for sunglasses and furniture.

Being made in Italy is an important part of Berto’s identity. Arianna Morimando, Berto marketing manager, said, “For our company, Made in Italy is not a mere style issue, it means Italian production chain, workers’ and territorial respect.” The brands that choose Berto are looking to use something special, Morimando explained. “Not just a fabric, a story,” she added.

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High fashion brands have been key customers for Berto; in addition to the main line, named after the mill, Manifattura 1887 is the mill’s premium brand. These brands desire something special, and can afford the slightly higher price point that accompanies Berto’s use of fine yarns and its European production. The brand works with haute couture companies like Valentino, Chanel, Ermenegildo Zegna, as well as premium denim brands like 3×1, Diesel and Replay.

As people become more concerned about where their clothes are coming from, Berto is also gaining the opportunity to become a brand in itself. The mill creates a label for each of its denim brands and gives them to the apparel brands with whom they work. Morimando commented that slow fashion is coming back into vogue, and that if a consumer sees something was made with an Italian fabric, that lends the garment value. After the slew of manufacturing scandals in Asia, brands are eager to show where their clothing is being made.

The brand is further reaching out with its new Le Mani brand, which is made on handlooms. Berto is organizing events with its top customers who want to show how the fabric is handmade. Berto held an event for Le Mani with New York brand and retailer 3×1 in November 2015. The mill shipped an Italian handloom from Italy to 3×1’s storefront and gave a demonstration of the weaving process.

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Exposure of this type will also help the mill demonstrate its quality to American brands. Berto has had difficulty communicating its message as clearly in the American market, though they would like to work with more American brands. So far, American brands have been very committed to their current suppliers, Morimando said. Before American mills sign on with Berto “they need time to know the mill, to understand the fabrics,” she added.

In addition, the mill’s continuing emphasis on craftsmanship and heritage, Berto is meeting the latest demand for comfort. The mill collaborated with DSM Dyneema for a collection called Amstrong with patent-pending technology for a high-strength, lightweight denim fabric. The fabric is designed for heavy duty applications and extreme sport.

The mill also partnered with performance fiber company Nilit to create heating and cooling fabrics. They used Nilit Heat, which is a yarn made with coffee charcoal to ensure natural insulation and Nilit Breeze, made with a unique nylon that maintains a comfortable body temperature.

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“For Berto, tradition and innovation are not antagonists, they cooperate,” Morimando said. “We should define Berto as a contemporary artisan: technicality and manual skills combine together with a modern knowledge giving birth to exceptional products.”