Thursday, December 25, 2014

85 Years at Casa dei Tessuti

It's Christmastime and everyone loves a party.  But what are those bolts of fabric doing behind the
hors d'oeuvres?  As a tailor's daughter who appreciates fabric, without ever learning to sew, I was glad to be invited to the 85th anniversary bash of Florence's House of Fabrics,
Casa dei Tessuti, on via de'Pecori,
along with faithful blog photographer Lakota Gamill.
This is one of the window displays with an alluring evening gown
made from one of the bolts of fabric displayed within the shop and for sale.
Any takers for New Year's?

Even the unsuspecting visitor could see that tradition reigns at the Casa dei Tessuti.
These are present-day representatives of the militia of the glorious Republic of Florence, hired for the
celebration to welcome guests.  Normally they are on duty during city ceremonies as well as for the
parade preceding the yearly Calcio Storico (in semifinals and finals, representatives from four Florentine neighborhood compete against each other in a Renaissance sport combining rugby, soccer and occasional brute violence).

Casa dei Tessuti was founded in 1929 by Egisto Romoli.  His sons Romano and Romolo Romoli still run the shop today. The brothers believe that the store is carrying on the tradition of Florence's glorious Wool and Silk Guilds.  Artisan guilds were so important to Florence that delegates from each formed the ruling city council during the medieval times in the republic that eventually gave way to three centuries of control by the Medici family.
Above left is Romano Romoli next to Kathy Knippel, director of Studio Fuji Art Studio, a Florence school of textile design, silkscreening and fashion. She created the soft sculpture above the antique cash register depicting the workers of the wool guild and gave it the Casa dei Tessuti as a gift.

Romano's father, Egisto, decreed that all the personnel hired by Casa Tessuti for posterity would be men.  So it was, and continues to be: to the right is Andrea Spulcioni, who accepted an offer of employment at the shop at the tender age of 15, in 1974.

"I have seen the world without leaving Florence," says Andrea. "I've served the queens of Holland and Denmark, Bedouins in their native dress, bejeweled women with no credit left on their cards, and people who appeared down and out (straccioni, literally: dressed in tatters: Maybe they needed a new wardrobe!) who purchased 7,000 euro worth of fabric." Buying habits have changed, he notes, the locals who would make small purchases have diminished, giving way to the "well-to-do tourist who spend a bundle and takes away bundles and bundles."

All have the option to have clothes made to measure by tailors and seamstresses.  My father would have been content.

My heart-sister, Mary Louise, calls me "the hand," for my ability to touch and assess fabrics and textiles, my father's legacy.  Well, "the hand," reached out to touch cashmere, wool, alpaca, linen, cotton in addition to silk prints, gorgeous brocades and damasks.
The store carries original fabrics by Valentino, Ungaro, Dior, Pucci and Cavalli
as well as textiles inspired by the designs of Chanel.
My heart-sister recalls, on a visit to Florence, that Romano showed her
a small swatch of "fabric"
made with woven peacock feather strands.

On a more modest note, Andrea is especially proud of the selection of
English fabrics and genuine Scottish tweeds,
including Harris tweed, which, because of the loom, can be no wider than 70 cm (27 1/2 inches).

I asked Andrea why Egisto preferred to have men only at the service of customers.
"He believed that a women could not, in complete honesty, advise another woman on the choice of fabric and color.  Egisto felt there was always a touch of
hidden jealousy in dealings between the gentle sex.
Since men and women are not competitive in regards to fashion, a man can be counted on to be completely honest on what best suits a client."

I wonder what Egisto would have thought of his grandson Alessandro, Romano's son, and his companion Sibilla,
who are pictured below with the celebratory anniversary cake.

Rest in peace, Egisto, for again in keeping with tradition, Sibilla has set foot in Casa dei Tessuti to participate in 85th anniversary bash; career-wise she is a Florence tour guide.
At present, Alessandro flanks Andrea in customer care.  He will carry the fabrics and unmuted, unchanging tradition of the Casa dei Tessuti into the future.

Reporting live from Beautiful Florence
      -- Rosanna

1 comment:

  1. hello Rosanna, I just read your beautiful article. I remember the event as I was there too directly from Frascati, Rome with my just finished tryptich quilt "Flowers of the Mind" ( a seven years long quilt project) that I showed for the first time for this occasion! It is currently on display at the Museum of Embroidery in Pistoia. You can read more information about this and other quilts of mine focused on Florence on