Vitale Barberis Canonico: 350 Years of Italian Textile Excellence
Posted: Jul 19 2015
Vitale Barberis Canonico is a fabric mill from Biella in northern Italy, the epicenter of Italian wool production. With over three centuries of documented history, and a reputation for comfort, character and quality, it is no wonder that VBC is one of the most popular choices here at Tailor On Ten.
The first documented dealing of the Barberis family, was a sale to the Duke of Savoy back in 1663. The duke ordered some grey wool, a fabric that to this day is still one of the company’s bestsellers, and since that transaction, the Barberis family has not stopped.
During the next century the enterprise expanded significantly, ultimately signing a contract as military suppliers, and from 1770 the mill produced larger volumes of fabrics for the royal troops.
The Barberis family was not scared to embrace progress during both the industrial revolution and the advent of electricity, and, as the First World War roared, the mill was again awarded large contracts for military supplies - a testament to the durability of their fabrics. The growth of the company was exponential, and by 1929, while most of the world struggled with The Great Depression, the Vitale Barberis Canonico Empire became boundless, exporting textiles to the Americas, the East Indies and China.
Following WWII, the company concentrated its efforts on innovation, quality control and customer relations, and claimed a central role in the modern gentleman's formal wear, becoming a favorite with bespoke tailors from Naples to Savile Row. The sweeping success of the firm allowed the Barberis family to go public in 1971, and to permanently establish their brand with their core values of innovation, elegance, and tradition. Today, a new generation of Barberis is at the helm, a generation projected into the future, but that draws from its past when in search of direction.
What makes the Vitale Barberis Canonico fabrics special is the attention to detail and the strong focus towards quality. The company is vertically integrated, allowing the mill to supervise each step of wool production, from sheep to shelf.
The process starts with the selection of the best wools in the world, amongst which are the Australian Saxon Merinos. The wool that is used is a prime material, particularly hard to clean and comb, but that holds softer and fluffier properties than usual. The wool continues to Italy, where all the successive steps of production take place, closely monitored by the Barberis family. Once it reaches Italy, the raw wool is combed, spun and warped to obtain the yarn. The yarn is then weaved, dyed and finished. The result of this process is excellent fabrics with an average yarn diameter of approximately 17.75 microns (that’s 1/1000th of a millimeter), which equates to Super 120s, under the famed Super system for classifying fineness of fabrics. These come in a wide range of styles that are famous not only for their finesse and pleasurable comfort, but also for the refinement and elegance of designs and colors.
The Company Today
VBC recently celebrated its 350th anniversary, an impressive achievement and an important celebration for the Biellese mill, as it coincided with two other significant events: the company’s historic archives were opened to the public, and VBC became a member of the prestigious Les Hénokiens association.
Les Hénokens, founded in Paris in 1981, accept as members only family run companies that have 200 or more years of history, holding a record of the annals of their fascinating trades. The Barberis family’s heritage is equalled only by 43 others companies worldwide, but very few can boast a treasure as precious as the VBC archives.
With over 2000 volumes cataloguing ancient fabrics from all over Europe, the archives are a true testament to the mill’s longstanding devotion to its craft, and the recent opening to the public shows how the Barberis family cherishes its heritage and values, values that were passed on from father to son over countless generations.
Drawing on these values, Vitale Barberis Canonico makes fabrics that are renowned for their outstanding quality and designs. VBC is the single most popular mill here at Tailor On Ten, and for good reason. We stock a huge range of their fabrics in store, from classic to fashionable, and we have access to thousands more on customers’ requests. Our attention to detail, sense of design and precise tailoring skills, combined with VBC’s fabric expertise, all certified by the over 350 years of tradition boasted by this immortal Italian mill, makes for truly outstanding suits, which will keep you looking dapper for years to come.
Please click here to see some of our current range of Vitale Barberis Canonico or shop online now.
Astute readers/tailoring geeks may have noticed that we sometimes speak about Giovanni Tonella in the same breath as VBC. Giovanni Tonella shares many traits with VBC; its history goes back 100+ years, it’s based in Biella and it is also known for outstanding fabrics. These similarities did not go unnoticed by VBC, who purchased Giovanni Tonella in 2001. Production is spread over the VBC’s various facilities, and consequently many fabrics overlap between the VBC and Giovanni Tonella collections. So, if you’re after great Italian wools, make sure you browse through our ranges of both VBC and Giovanni Tonella.
VBC3105 : This Super 110s is given character through its strong check, yet is easy to match thanks to the navy base. A definite favorite here at Tailor On Ten, which is why we gave it prime position in our recent lookbook.
VBC253: At Super 140s, this fabric is made up of extraordinarily fine fibres, making it soft and giving it a great drape. The base of grey glencheck is given a stylish touch with an overcheck in purple.
VBC457: VBC shines with their blend of heritage and innovation, creating a fabric of a truly classic navy color but adding pindots, which lend a modern feel. The beauty of the fabric is in the subtlety of the detail, which is only visible at close distance.
VBC150: Hopsack, named after the sacks used to carry hops to beer production, is a truly versatile and distinctive fabric. It is breathable and crease resistant - and looks great. You can see why it’s a constant favorite at Tailor On Ten. Check out some of our customers wearing hopsack here and a celebrity here.