Italian textiles have been famous since the Middle Ages and they continue to set a world standard for quality of design and production. Italian weavers have traditionally focused on producing woolen and silk fabrics, but they also produce fabrics of cotton, synthetics, and blends including cutting-edge “techno-textile” formulations. The existence of a high quality textile industry was an essential ingredient in the conquest of world markets by Italian fashion designers in the 1960s and 70s, and continues to be a mainstay of the Italian fashion industry today. Textile manufacturing on a mass-production basis worldwide has long since migrated to low-wage developing countries, but Italy’s textile industry has continued to prosper by emphasizing high-end, high-quality products. Many of Italy’s textile firms are relatively small and family-owned, often with a tradition of several generations. They can call upon a highly skilled workforce in all fields of textile production, from the spinning of yarns to fabric design to engineering to manufacturing. Flexibility is also a key; many Italian textile mills are able to set up looms to produce complex fabric weaves and willing to produce them in relatively short runs for the high-fashion industry. The use of literally inimitable textiles in Italian garments continues to be a key factor in producing a distinctive Italian Look.. Italian textile manufacturers also do a substantial amount of export trade, selling finished fabric abroad (especially to other European countries) for tailoring in those markets.
As with many other industrial sectors in Italy, textile manufacturing is diversified regionally, reflecting the small scale and family ownership of many textile companies. Centers of textile production include Tuscany (especially the city and province of Prato, Italy’s number-one textile producing site). Veneto is a leader in many aspects of the fashion industry, including textile production. Lombardy is the center of the Italian silk industry; silk and other textiles are also produced in Campagna, Puglia, and Sicily. Taking advantage of the concentration of petrochemical industries in Bari and nearby cities, Puglia is the country's leading producer of synthetic fibers and textiles.
With the world slowly recovering from the Great Recession of 2008-10, Italy’s textile manufacturers are emphasizing their traditional strengths -- timeless elegance, sophisticated technical skills and processes leading to fabrics with a rich, hand-made feel and appearance – but also the continued development of technically advanced fabrics. Colors include timeless black and a range of muted, natural tones that harmonize with cultural trends of ecological awareness and environmental concern.