Berto Industria Tessile is an Italian brand of excellence in which family and entrepreneurial history are intertwined. A company projected toward the future has been able to anticipate and interpret the zeitgeist for over a century. The recent collaboration with artist duo Federica Patera and Andrea Sbra Perego proves this ability to look ahead and read the present. Francesca Polato, from the company’s marketing department, told us about this synergy between industry and art in an exclusive interview.
A long textile history that intertwines family and business. How to encapsulate this more than century-long adventure in just a few lines?
It is complicated to recount the Berto family’s entrepreneurial history in a few lines. We are talking about the 4-generation history of a family that, in 135 years, has managed, and still manages, to find its place in the national and international textile and fashion scene.
This long adventure began in Bovolenta, a small town in Padua province, where the company is still located, thanks to Giuseppe and Egidio Berto brothers, who began weaving sails for the ships and fishing boats of nearby Venice.
Over the years, the company went through various areas, from home textiles to workwear. The star fabric of the latter sector is ‘Massawa’. Hence the interest in moving toward the extraordinary and inimitable peculiarities of indigo and denim (a dye-indigo fabric). This happened around the 1970s. Even today, Berto’s main product is denim. Berto, therefore, thanks to the experience gained over the years, combined with innovation, can offer its quality and sustainable denim fabrics to the most important national and international fashion brands.
Yours is a company that has in its DNA social and ethical values – from the labour to the environment – nurtured through ongoing research and new collaborations…
The 5Rs: 5 words, 5 verbs, and 5 statements in the company’s DNA encapsulate our philosophy. These 5 words are RESPECT, REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE and REPAIR. These words guide the owners and employees in their choices and everyday life, from the relations between suppliers and customers to those among the employees or between the company and the surrounding area.
Bovolenta is home to the company since 1887, and the company has always provided work for people from the surrounding area. The result is a necessarily close, intense, and undoubtedly respectful relationship. Berto respects the land; Berto respects and cares for its employees.
In addition to the generations of the family at the company’s helm, Berto has seen several generations of employee families providing work to the son as a form of gratitude for what the father had done in previous years. It is essential to point out that environmental sustainability is closely linked to Research and Innovation. Over the years, all processes have been implemented and rethought to achieve maximum resource use efficiency (water) and CO2 emissions. New collaborations arise from ongoing research that allows us to meet new suppliers, customers, associations, and individuals to open one’s minds and explore new horizons.
Recently, your attention has turned towards culture, particularly art, with a view to upcycling, which allows waste to be transformed into artworks. One of the first partnerships was with Federica Patera and Andrea Sbra Perego’s artist duo. How did this collaboration come about, and how was it implemented?
The collaboration with artists Federica and Andrea arose from a common interest: to give new value to textile waste. Federica and Andrea wrote us an email to which I replied personally. They told me about their work and passion for art, especially Contemporary Fibre Art. They also sent me sample photos of their work, which impressed me. The next step involved sending them what would be the material they turned into a work of art. Specifically, I collected some yarn and fabric scraps, which we inevitably have as a manufacturing company, and sent them off. With these scraps, they made a beautiful work of art, The City of Books, exhibited in Perugia. We also shared this beautiful initiative on our social pages. It is crucial for us to share with our followers and customers the various areas Berto explores.
What can or should be the role of companies in promoting culture?
We are just starting to approach art and culture, and we are doing this thanks to small collaborations with emerging artists, but we are very keen on continuing with this sort of relationship. The idea of giving new life and INCREASING the value of a material is central and fits the company vision that leads us in everything: the rule of the 5Rs, which are RESPECT, REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE, REPAIR. Moreover, since we are a fashion company that proposes itself to great designers, including haute couture, promoting culture should be very important and help us make value-added proposals.
Textile waste is also the subject of a project combining art and education. What does it consist of?
The project is called Detox Circul Art. Since 2016, Berto has been a member of Consorzio Italiano Implementazione Detox, thanks to which we have signed the Detox Commitment, promoted by Greenpeace, thus starting an essential path of improvement. By signing this commitment, Berto Industria Tessile recognises the importance of removing hazardous substances from the production cycle. Furthermore, we share this commitment with a group of companies in the Prato textile district, coordinated by Confindustria Toscana Nord.
This new path aims to enrich our constant commitment to respecting the environment and the health of workers and consumers through quality products and processing. As part of this, the Detox consortium has organised DETOX CIRCULART. DetoxCirculArt is a textile circularity project involving the Cid companies, artist Francesca Pasquali, the Costume and Fashion Academy students with professor Santo Costanzo, and the Terramedia project. The work made with textile waste from the consortium’s companies (including ours) will be on display from 8 June at the Academy’s headquarters in Milano.
How might this commitment to contemporary art develop in the future?
It is still too early to say as we are in the early stages, but it would undoubtedly be wonderful to combine the works of Contemporary Fibre Art with the historical artefacts in the company and create an exhibition that integrates the PAST and the FUTURE of textiles. For example, Berto was founded in 1887, and we have several documents, machinery and ancient tools in the company we’d love to give light to.