The Renaissance of design - Como, the city of textiles

The Renaissance of design - Como, the city of textiles

As well as being a breathtakingly beautiful city and celebrity playground on the Italian lake of the same name, Como has historically been the heart of the Italian silk industry.

This is no coincidence, as Bianca Passera, president of the Museo della Seta di Como (Como silk museum), explains, “Water is essential to the entire process of silk manufacturing. Lake Como is a freshwater lake with an extremely low lime content, satisfying the ideal requirements for manufacturing high-quality silk.”

Despite the long local heritage and the well-preserved nature of the town, Como’s textile industry is no museum piece. It continues to be relevant to this day, as Marco Brenna, head of local textile company Stamperia di Lipomo says, “The ability to reinvent is built into the DNA of the people of Como. We are able to understand new products and markets very quickly. It’s in our blood. We use our own history and modernise it, then create something entirely new, and that is manifested in the market and by designers.”

More colours without increasing costs

In fact historically, the only things curbing the ambitions of Como’s designers have been economics and the limits of existing technology, as Adalberto Guggiari, CEO of another Como textile company, Nomega s.r.l. explains, “Designers design as dictated by their creativity, but, as engineers, we were limiting that creativity. Using the traditional method of printing, each colour requires a different printing screen, so it becomes more expensive as more colours are used. Therefore, no matter how high the quality, the traditional method could only use ten to fifteen colours at most. Any more and we would lose cost efficiency.”

Marco Brenna continues, “With the advent of digital technology, the fashion industry changed completely. In comparison to the days of analogue technology, designs are now more varied, and prints are faithful to the original designs.”

Faithful recreation of digital colours

Textile designers are excited about the possibilities offered by digital technology, such as that offered by Epson and Robustelli. “The first time I handed over a file for digital printing, I couldn't wait to see what the finished fabric would look like,” says designer Andrea Angeloni. “The design on the monitor was faithfully recreated on the fabric. That is one of my favourite memories, and it was great to experience”.

Sara Bianchi, CAD operator at Stamperia di Lipomo, adds more detail. “The designers began spreading their wings when they encountered digital printing,” she says. “Even designs that would have been difficult with traditional printing, designers are now able to visualise how their designs will look when realised. Our role as CAD operators is to act as the facilitator between printer and designer.”

Nurturing the next generation of digital designers

Como is keen to both capitalise on digital printing technology and nurture a new generation of designers who understand its potential and can make best use of it. “For the textile industry in Como, digital printing is the second industrial revolution”, says Salvatore Amura, head of Accademia di Belle Arti Aldo Galli in Como. “We really want to nurture talented people. The global market has made a rule for us - you can never stop. Digital is the key to that.”

His students are excited by their inspirational location. “The old city of Como is unbelievably beautiful. I find everything about it inspiring,” says fashion design student Deborah Sguazza. “There are an enormous variety of fabrics to choose from in Como. The town has been cultivated by its long history and tradition in the craft industry. I think Como's designers are influenced by its architecture and the town's history.”

Salvatore Amura continues, “Young people are able to create what we can't even imagine. The younger generation is very knowledgeable about the history and traditional assets of this area. They reuse it and rearrange it to suit their needs in the genres of fashion and design. Students are waiting for all kinds of innovations and phenomena - they're waiting for something to help them work faster.”

Lucrezia Tonin, another student, says, “When I become a designer, first and foremost I want to make something everyone can wear. I want people to fall in love with the clothes I make, and to want to seek out the story behind them.” In Como, and in many textiles centres around the world, digital printing technology is now helping to tell that story, thanks to Robustelli and Epson print technology.