Bergamo: the Regional Home of Italian Textiles

The Textile District of Bergamo

pictureTextiles and fashion have always been a major part of the Italian Lifestyle. Dolce Vita and the Zambaiti Group have its roots in the historical home of the Italian textile industry, Bergamo, in the Lombardia region of Italy.All around Bergamo the textile industry is very important, even today when production is limited to a niche of high quality products. Where creativity is not required, textile production in Italy is anachronistic. The Lombardia Region of Italy, with its main city Milan, is known as a key player in the fashion world. This is traditionally due to two key factors: the presence of three rivers (Serio, Brembo and Oglio), and the arrival of a complete ‘Swiss textile community’. These offered the ideal conditions for this industry to grow. The presence of water is important because it is largely needed for the dyeing, finishing process, and of course, for energy production. All of the major “Cotonifico” (Cotton Mills) could count on hydroelectric generating plants.  Around the second half of the 19th century many Swiss families moved to Bergamo. This was for 3 reasons: the presence of a cheap labor force, the presence of water and energy, and access to a bigger consumer market at a time where protectionism was still strong.
Legler, Honegger, Niggler, Zopfi and other families created a real community where people were able to live, work and follow their religion. A few businessmen from the Milan area followed their path. Cotonifico Albini was then named Cotonifico Borgomanero.  Today, among the big players, three out of four Italian shirting producers are located in this area, Cotonifico Albini, MVB and proudly us, Cotonifico Honegger.


Within the Bergamo textile district we have to mention the Leffe area. Some time ago there were Hawkers, called “compertini from the word coperta (blanket) and merchants of textile products. The moved around with horses (later on with small trucks), visiting villages and towns, attracting people with their loud music and voices, selling them any kind of home furnishings. The most famous was the grandma blanket “coperta della nonna”, a blanket made with any kind of wool waste. picture
The textile production was located in Leffe and in the nearby village of Gandino. Later the traveling merchants started to settle down in cities and to open up their own textile wholesale or shop. Some of them opened ne production facilities, entered new markets and sectors (Promatech Group is located here) to create brands.
This small town of just 5,000 inhabitants is where most of the leading Italian textile families are from; the Radici, Zambaiti, Pezzoli, Martinelli, etc. It has become an important center of production for home furnishing.
During the golden era of the Italian textile industry (the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s) this area was considered one of the richest Italy. Today the world has completely changed and most of the original producers has become importers, with merchant products being made elsewhere.