Luxury silk returning to Italy
Italy’s silk industry began as early as the 12th century in the cities of Lucca, Venice and Florence, with exports of silk spanning Europe to satisfy the high demand from the elite. The Italian peninsula once boasted 50,000 spinning mills during their 1950s heyday, but in the 1970s companies started looking for cheaper alternatives in China and elsewhere in an increasingly competitive silk market. Italy’s world-renowned silk makers were forced to abandon their last spinning mills around 40 years ago.
From that time onwards, Industry experts have said that there has always been a strong demand for raw Italian silk. Recently, many ‘Made in Italy’ silk scarves have been handcrafted in the country, but most likely spun and woven in China.
Due to a decline in the number of mulberry trees, there has been a sharp increase in the cost of exported silk from China. Today, a kilo of silk exported from China is only slightly cheaper than the price of silk in Italy. As a response, the Italian industry has announced plans to create 1,000 silk worm factories in the next five years. Already, 100 businesses in the north have begun breeding silkworms following a rise in demand for home-grown silk.
Whether Italy can establish itself as a legitimate competitor to China is yet to be seen, but for the time being, fashion lovers can hope for a future where the whole process returns to the peninsula.