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vitale barberis canonico: the company

the history
the henokiens association
the values and the csr
the strengths
the production cycle
the range and the collections
the distribution throughout the world
the numbers

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vitale barberis canonico: the company

Vitale Barberis Canonico as a wool mill is a symbol of the excellence of

Made in Italy in the sector of textiles for garments.

For more than 350 years, all the phases of the wool processing have been
carried out in the historical buildings in Pratrivero in the Biellese Prealps,
the heart of the textile-producing area, where the best waters flow for the
processing of high-quality wools. This is where the textiles come from
which are bought by the most famous gentlemen’s tailors, from Caraceni to
Panico, from the tailors of Savile Row to all the other masters of the tailor’s
skill throughout the world.

The first documentation of the wool-producing activities of the family

dates back to 1663, but the company first became Vitale Barberis Canonico
in 1936, to then become a limited company in 1971.

Throughout the years, Vitale Barberis Canonico has always recorded

positive trends: in 2013 the production reached 7 million metres, and the
turnover rose to € 107 million (in comparison to € 103 million in 2012).

With over 400 skilled workers, 40 agents all over the world, two state-
of-the-art establishments in the Biella area and avant-garde management
methods, VBC has taken its place amongst the top companies in the world
for the production of high-quality wools in terms of both value and quanti-
ty, and on a global level as the main exporter.

The company has turned export into one of its key strengths: today
it sells on every continent exporting more than 85% of its production to
100 countries. It has been represented in China, one of its main markets, for
more than 40 years and realises approximately 20% of its entire turnover

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Moreover, production is carried out 100% in Italy: the company in-
vests to a large extentin Italy, where it is at home, and in a period when
Italian wool-producing companies have poor prospectives.

Vitale Barberis Canonico uses highly innovative machinery and

technology which are also costly in terms of research and development.

The company guarantees maximum respect for the environment

and the health of the employees by adopting ecologically-sustainable
methods, and it has been highly commended for its efforts in this field.

Another point of excellence is the selection of the best wools in the

world, amongst which are the highly-prized Australian Saxon Merinos.
Every year, the mill processes around 2 million kg of greasy wool with an
average diameter of only approximately 17.5 microns.

The company, known throughout the world for the excellence of its
wools, the fineness of its yarns, the refinement and elegance of its designs
and colours, the pleasurable comfort and wearability, is a leader in the
field of super-fine wools as well as being the main producer in terms
of quantity and exports.

The range of products, which is characterised by its sobriety, ele-

gance and optimal quality, is increasingly aimed at a younger and more
modern customer who wishes to harmonise elegance with a dynamic
and unconventional lifestyle. Also, thanks to the new generation at the
helm of the company, the range has been augmented by the introduction
of new fabrics in natural and innovative blends.

Heritage and innovation live together in the name of

elegance which looks to the future and
understands the tastes and trends of younger styles,
and even sometimes breaks with tradition.

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the history

The first document pertaining to the wool-producing activities

of the family dates back to 1663: in the archives of Trivero, there is the
«quinternetto delle taglie» (community record of sizes) which reports the
payment of taxes by all the heads of families to the Duke of Savoy and oth-
er local dues. Ajmo Barbero, the grandson with the same name as in the
original document, is also reported as paying in cash and delivering «saia
grisa» (grey wool) in exchange. It is interesting to note that today’s “saglia”
or prunelle is still one of the fabrics most sold byVitale Barberis Canonico,
but it was already being produced in the Biella area in Roman times, and
has been perfected over the ensuing centuries.

In the following 50 years, the wool-producing activities are extended

and in 1770, the up-andcoming company is awarded a contract as military
suppliers. After various successful tenders by the Barbero family during
the next four years, Giovanni Antonio Barbero receives two important
recognitions from the commercial council: in 1776 the ducal licence as
“manufacturer of cloth”, which permits him to add his own initials “g.a.b”
to the fabric, and in 1780, his brother Giuseppe is awarded the licence
as a trader at markets and fairs in the towns within the province.

The splitting of the tasks between the two brothers proves to be posi-
tive for the expansion of the company: the factory begins to grow and the
profits made are invested most importantly in the acquisition of land, the
harvests from which are used to pay the workers.

During the Napoleonic period, the competition from the French wool
industry becomes fiercer and the death of Giuseppe in 1804 leads to the
dissolving of the company in 1808.

After the splitting of the company in 1808, Giuseppe’s descendants

are forced to come up with a compromise to adapt to the changes, and so
the hand weaving, the dyeing and the milling of the fabrics is carried out in
the Pratrivero establishment, right beside the family home, while the spin-

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ning is commissioned in other establishments which are already mecha-
nised. Mechanisation takes place over a very short period, although some
hand looms are still used, a practice also continued by the competition.

In the late 1800s, the factory counts 800 spindles and 73 looms with a
production of 4,000 pieces of medium-quality fabric per year.

At the turn of the century, there is a general improvement in the

standard of living as a result of the increase in employment and subsequent
rise in salaries.

In 1910, as a result most importantly of the arrival of electricity, a facto-

ry with a complete manufacturing cycle is inaugurated in Pratrivero with
a subsequent significant decrease in costs and gain in competitiveness in
a market where the standard of living is steadily rising. Already in 1915,
production is seven times higher, the employees now count 400, the num-
ber of spindles has increased to 3,000 and there are 120 mechanical looms
leading to an annual production rate of 30,000 pieces and 300,000 kg of
yarn which are now exported to the Americas, the East Indies and China.

During World War I, the company is awarded a large contract for mili-
tary supplies which enables it to increase the size of the establishment at
the end of the conflict, to buy new land and buildings, and in 1921, to build
two new factories, also in Pratrivero. At this point, there are three factories
which are managed by Giovanni and Alfredo, Luigi and Guglielmo, and Or-
este and Vitale respectively.

In 1936 the association between Oreste and Vitale is

dissolved and the contemporary history
of the company Vitale Barberis Canonico begins.

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• from 1936 to 1970 •

The splitting-up of the company is problematic and leads to an impasse

in production for some months. The situation has become difficult firstly
due to the fascist dictatorship and then the war, which means the loss of
workers and a reduction in provision of electricity and spare parts for the

However, at the end of the conflict, the company has a turnover of

223,522,375 lire (eur 3.5 m today). But producing and exporting low-cost
textiles has become increasingly difficult and in the following years, Vitale
Barberis Canonico is forced to completely reorganise its factory, creating
new departments, seeking and purchasing machinery which is more tech-
nologically advanced and building up new commercial relationships.

In 1956 turnover has more than doubled as a result of the new build-
ings and state-of-theart technology, leading to a rise in qualitative standards
and consolidation of the high-prestige image on the international market.

• after 1970 •

When Vitale dies in 1970, he is succeeded by his sons Alberto and

Luciano, who have already been in the company for some years, and turn-
over exceeds two billion lire with approximately 635,000 metres of fabric
being produced, half of which is destined for other countries, predomi-
nantly France, Germany and Holland.

In 1971 the company goes public and the two brothers separate their
fields of activity: Alberto, who graduated from Milan Polytechnic in me-
chanical engineering, takes over the technical and technological side of the
business. He renews the technology used, studies the machinery and its be-
haviour in terms of the product with the aim of increasing the quality of
the process whilst reducing energy consumption.

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Luciano, who graduated in economics at the Bocconi University in Mi-
lan, has increased the export business to 80% of the turnover. His ideas
cross international borders to embrace the whole world and he creates a
capillary network of agents in various countries using an approach where-
by all of them receive the same treatment.

Since 2008, the two directors have left the management of the company
to the new generation of the family, who have already been working in the
company for some years, during which time they have had the opportunity
to learn how to successfully run a large and important company such as
the wool mill is today.

Alessandro, who is Alberto’s son and who graduated in engineering at

the Milan Polytechnic, is the managing director whilst Francesco, who is
Luciano’s son and who studied in the UK, runs the offices concerned with
style and communications. Finally, Lucia, Daniela’s daughter and a gradu-
ate of Bocconi University, plays an important role in trade marketing.

Today, Vitale Barberis Canonico, with its 350 years of history, is the old-
est wool mill in the world and one of the most prestigious and highly-re-
garded “made in italy” trademarks.

Today, Vitale Barberis Canonico, with more than

350 years of history, is probably the oldest wool mill
in the world and one of the most prestigious
and highly-regarded “Made in Italy” trademarks.

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the henokiens association

In October 2013 Vitale Barberis Canonico has become a member of

Les Hénokiens, the association of family and bicentenary companies. The
membership in Les Hénokiens has come in the very year that Vitale Barb-
eris Canonico celebrates a most important anniversary: 350 years of busi-
ness which have been characterised by constant growth and success, but
during which the company has always remained in the hands of the Barb-
eris Canonico family.

The association, which was founded in Paris in 1981, takes its name
from the biblical character of Enoch (who managed to live 365 years before
being taken up to Heaven by God). The foundation of the association was
brought about in 1981 by Gérard Glotin, President of the French company
Marie Brizard, and it has a very precise objective, namely that of telling the
success stories of companies which are a real alternative to the multina-
tionals, creating collaborations and talking about histories, traditions and
longevity over the centuries. The same principles which can be said of Vi-
tale Barberis Canonico.

With the new entry Vitale Barberis Canonico, the number of the mem-
ber companies increased to 44: the number of Italian companies is 17
(these include such names as Amarelli 1731, Fratelli Piacenza 1733, Fabbri-
ca D’Armi Piero Beretta 1526, and Distillerie Nardini 1779), in comparison
to 11 French companies, 4 German, 3 Swiss, 2 Dutch, 1 Belgian, 1 Austrian,
1 Northern Irish and 4 Japanese (including Hoshi 717, the traditional Japa-
nese hotel which is the oldest family business in all the world).

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the values and the csr

The superiority of Made in Italy textiles, the quality of the raw mate-
rials, their elegance and their style, protecting the environment, paying
constant attention to the health of the employees and customers and the
excellence of the services offered all make up a convincing example of the
strategy of ingredient branding.

These are the values of the company and the secrets of the success which it has
consolidated over the years. Vitale Barberis Canonico represents a point of ref-
erence in the world in terms of the finest Made in Italy fabrics and is an excel-
lent example of corporate social responsibility. This policy applies to all sectors
of the production department of Vitale Barberis Canonico and demonstrates a par-
ticular sensitivity and culture which aim at excellence not only of the product itself.

In Rome on 24th October, 2005, the wool mill was awarded a prize for the plan-
ning, construction and installation of specially sound-proofed cabins at each loom
in its premises. The prize, which is conferred by the European Agency for Safety and
Health at Work, Bilbao, was awarded in the context of the European Week, an infor-
mation campaign at European level to promote activities which improve safety in
the working environment.

A weaving shed in a wool mill is, in fact, often a challenging environment due
to the high levels of noise pollution (exceeding 100 dB) which cause damage to the
hearing and entail risks for the employees. Thanks to the installation of these particu-
lar anti-noise hoods, the Vitale Barberis Canonico weaving shed in Pratrivero is the
only one in the world where the noise pollution is lower than 85 dB with 88 looms
working within a space of 3500 sq.m.

The first integral loom cover was implemented in 1989, even before Italian legis-
lation recognised European Directives.

Noise reduction does not only apply to the working environment. Noise could
also cause disturbance to the housing near the factory and has been practically elimi-
nated thanks to the particular ventilation installations in the buildings.

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Social responsibility also means valuing water. Water consumption is one
of the priorities in the planning of the dyeing and finishing processes. In com-
parison with the averages in the textile sector of 50 - 60 litres per metre of fin-
ished fabric, Vitale Barberis Canonico only consumes 39. The analysis of the wa-
ter emissions and the attention paid to the quality at the end of the purification
process are extremely rigorous, so much so, that goldfish and carp live happily
in the final tank. In this area too the company has always been avant-garde: the
treatment of the water emissions was started by Vitale Barberis Canonico even
before the Merli Law (319/1976) regarding the environment came into force. In
this way, the wool mill at Pratrivero was one of the very few to pass inspection
when it became the legal requirement.

Through such continual progress, the plant can now boast of its improved
efficiency: the biological treatment using active sludge is capable of purifying
approximately 1,200 cubic metres per day. The water then flows into a stream,
the Rio delle Mollie, and is well below the limits imposed by the anti-pollution

Vitale Barberis Canonico additionally pays great attention to the use of chem-
ical products and uses only the absolutely necessary amount (both with regard
to quantity and type), with an evident advantage for the customer: the company
can in fact guarantee the absence of any residual toxins in the finished product.

Particular attention is also paid to atmospheric pollution. The burning off

of the excess surface fibres of the fabric (one of the finishing processes) creates
a characteristic odour, which is made particularly unpleasant by the volatile or-
gano-sulphur substances called mercaptans. In order to prevent any disadvan-
tage to employees or those living nearby, Vitale Barberis Canonico has adopted
a sophisticated post-combustion plant, which is normally only used in the phar-
maceutical or chemical-petroleum industries, and which has enabled the com-
pany to completely eradicate such disagreeable odours. This is a three-chamber
regenerative thermal combustion plant able to purify 15,600 cubic metres of
fumes per hour.

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the strengths


The entire company production is carried out in Italy. In the face of a

situation regarding norms which are still incomplete both at the Italian as
well as the European level, the company has decided to take the route of
self-certification in order to protect Italian industry and to offer transpar-
ency to its customers.


The selection of only the best wools in the world and the meticulous
attention paid to production procedures represent the fundamental factors
which lead to the highest of quality standards and comprehensive uni-
formity across all our products.


These are the elements on which the company bases its decisions, also
thanks to the innovative and forward-looking style which are also charac-
teristics of the new generation (the thirteenth) who are now at the helm of
the company. Vitale Barberis Canonico, the oldest wool mill in the world,
distinguishes itself on the market by marrying the concept of “Classic with
a Twist” and a very British style. With a flexible approach towards the limi-
tations of the present and with a constant and attentive regard towards the
future, the company is able to manage change with a sense of coherence, in
perfect equilibrium between vintage and innovation.


With an export business reaching 80% of production, of which approx-

imately 20% go to China, Vitale Barberis Canonico stands for a successful
example of the feasibility of confronting the competition in emerging mar-
kets and investing in export without outsourcing production to overseas.

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It has always been a pioneer in new markets, and today, it is the most
widely represented company in the world, and has understood how to win
recognition and appreciation for its products and their quality on every


The facilities are equipped with very advanced and sophisticated tech-
nology with exclusive software and internally-programmed machinery, a
true example of brilliance in the technological field. It was the first compa-
ny to equip its looms with sound-proofing systems, which were designed,
built and installed all within the company.
In the dye works, a new automation process has been introduced, also
developed internally, which offers a number of advantages: in fact, it ena-
bles dyeing to be carried out during the night, with no lights, with no work-
ers present, thus guaranteeing a notable saving in terms of time and ener-
gy, and also offering improved precision in the processes. Every year, the
company invests important sums in machinery and new equipment, and
in research and development of innovative technology which is always


Continual research and development for technological innovation,

study, planning and implementation of new production plant solutions,
automation to increase capacity, uniformity and production quality for the
various processes; all these represent the principle factors which enable
the wool mill to excel in terms of efficiency and to guarantee an excellent
price-quality ratio.

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the production cycle

The Vitale Barberis Canonico is a complete cycle factory where all

the phases of wool processing are carried out using a high level of automa-
tion and machinery which is technologically avant-garde, and by employ-
ing rigorous quality control measures which are carried out using high-
ly-specialised techniques.

the production process can be broken down into

the following phases:


after careful selection, the greasy wools are purchased

at auction from the best
suppliers in the original markets to guarantee constant
high standards.


this means ordering the fibres after they have been

carded and has two main
1) selection of the length of the fibres, discarding the
shorter ones;
2) orienting of the fibres in one direction along the band,
on the basis of which the yarn will
be spun.


this is the complex sequence of operations necessary to

transform the fibres into a thread or yarn. The essential

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aim of spinning is to obtain an end product which is as
homogenous as possible, meaning uniform characteris-
tics in terms of resistance, count, colour, integrity and


this operation is carried out by warping machines

which position the threads parallel to each other, wind-
ing them around the respective cones. These are the
threads necessary to form the warpage of a fabric in
the desired width (or more correctly, height), and then
winding them onto the beam destined for the loom.


in the weaving process, the warp yarns are interlaced

with the weft yarns. These operations are commanded
directly by a sophisticated computerised system to ob-
tain the design and weave desired.


dyeing can be carried out at different stages of the pro-

cessing. The names of the different types of dyeing are
top dyeing, yarn dyeing or piece dyeing.

all of the fabrics are minutely checked in order to elim-
inate any impurity or flaw.

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the range and the collections

With its long tradition of wool manufacturing, the wool mill produces
the best traditional textiles for menswear: two million kilograms per year
equates to nine thousand kilograms per day, predominantly Saxon Merino
wool, the highest quality wools from Australia.

Today’s styles, while still rigorously observing the edicts of classic ele-
gance, are very much characterised by the presence of a new component:

Being elegant means paying attention to new generations and their life-
styles and trends. It means asking questions while looking at the present
and the future and knowing how to manage change with flexibility and
coherence, in a perfect balance between vintage and innovation.

Contemporaneousness and “Classic with a Twist” are the elements

on which Vitale Barberis Canonico bases its decisions, also thanks to the
innovative and forward-looking style which are also characteristics of the
new generation (the thirteenth) who are now at the helm of the company.

The best wools, which are painstakingly selected during the purchasing
phase, excel both in terms of fineness and style. The average fineness is
17.5 microns, the style is a result of the combination of factors such as reg-
ularity of the fibres, crimp and absence of scale.

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The collections can be sub-divided into
FOUR principle ranges:


The wool mill Vitale Barberis Canonico is proud of its international

reputation which recognises its particular ability to interpret and produce
classic fabrics.

Classic is a term which covers a number of values and nuances. It de-

mands innovation without innovation becoming its only objective; it has
no need to demonstrate its status. Its aim is elegance and its method is
equilibrium. Classic is like a dictionary with a word for every thing and
every feeling. Wool, cashmere, mohair, but also silk, cotton and linen, all
the natural fibres are used by Vitale Barberis

Canonico according to their character, increasing the range of the col-

lection, giving profundity to the individual fabric and expression to the
personality of the individual customer.

The spirit with which the articles for this line are planned and chosen
is to harmoniously bring together products whereby the quality of the ma-
terials and the virtuosity of the technical processes are hidden behind the
naturalness with which they are presented. Classic is not about loudness
or boasting, but about refining the person wearing it and enhancing his
innate elegance.


The Orient Express was a representation of a new kind of luxury, ad-

venturous and modern, but also a way of enabling men to be what they
dreamed of being. Vitale Barberis Canonico has dedicated a sophisticated,
exquisite range with an international syntax to this magic and sumptu-
ous environment, where you feel as if you are everywhere and nowhere, in
perpetual movement. Item for item, the finest of worsteds, the most scru-
pulous of finishings, with designs suggested by light rather than by colour,

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these all link together to form a chain of formal and vital, contemporane-
ous products, which can express gravity or glamour, essentiality or refine-
ment depending on the disposition and mood of the person wearing them.
THE RANGE AND THE COLLECTIONS 10 Fabrics which have the talent
to convince by day and astonish by night, always projecting an image of
confidence, composure; a choice which is up to date and is never wrong.
With very differing structures and weights, the Orient Express range is de-
signed to be easy to wear, at any hour of the day and on any occasion. As if
you were meeting people of every language and culture and therefore, in a
certain sense, travelling even when sitting at your desk.


If lightness were only a physical quality, to produce summer fabrics,

it would be sufficient to reduce the weights and use cooler fibres. But in
reality, people need to be able to perceive coolness in terms of colour and
luminosity, and even touch, and this is the case with the dynamic hands
which promise not to cling to the body or be uncomfortably warm.

The Vitale Barberis Canonico Vintage range is the result of constant

technical research in this field, but also of a textile culture which allows
us, or even obliges us, to use only natural fibres.

As a result of demanding and coherent solutions, the Vintage range rep-

resents a system of tasteful and topical products for the gentleman who
loves to wear contemporary styles without falling into the trap of eccen-
tricity without depth or value. This range includes fabrics for jackets and
suits which can be worn during the day, while travelling, during leisure
activities, casually, but without ever compromising its exclusive feel. Fi-
bres, counts, weaves, blends and finishes have been chosen to obtain the
maximum in terms of wearability and flair, but also include certain ref-
erences, certain details, which make the garment recognisable and give it

This makes it extremely easy and pleasant to wear, while distinguish-

ing itself in terms of class and complexity.

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Earth, Wind & Fire RANGE

The new line dedicated to the world of functional fabrics, where the
wool is combined with technical materials that enhance the performance
without compromising the enjoyment of the natural fiber.

The line comes in seven families that take their name from the most
important places of winter tourism in the world. This is how Chamonix,
Sankt Moritz, Aspen, Méribel, Cortina, Gstaad and Zermatt, where some of
the most classic fabrics of combed wool mill as flannel, flannel carded and
combed Perennial, are combined with high-performance technical fabrics
for a balance perfect combination of comfort, performance and technolog-
ical innovation.

The Line Earth, Wind & Fire is designed for outdoor leaders capable of
challenging the most adverse weather conditions without sacrificing the
innate elegance.

— 19—
the distribution throughout the world

Today the wool mill is one of the best-known textile companies in the
world which is a result of the efficient commercial network supported by
50 agents. Exports have grown constantly over the years and now repre-
sent 80% of production. Vitale Barberis Canonico’s customers throughout
the world can be sub-divided into two main groups:
• Men’s Clothiers and shops, where 80% of production is destined;
• Wholesalers, who take the remaining 20%.

the numbers

As of As of As of As of As of
31/12/09 31/12/10 31/12/11 31/12/12 31/12/13

turnover (mln a) 63 71 99 103 107

n. of employees 336 336 344 344 400

metres produced 4.224.000 6.322.000 7.497.000 6.930.000 7.167.000

% export 77% 77% 77% 78% 81%

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for further information

Vitale Barberis Canonico

Simone Ubertino Rosso

+39 015 738 88 55 +39 334 69 50 052

Press Office fcomm

Francesca Pelagotti
+39 02 365 86 889 +39 366 70 62 302

Valentina Berti
+39 02 365 86 889 +39 342 06 86 448

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