Saturday, September 06, 2014
This is an informative albeit promotional video of Antico Setificio Fiorentino, Florence's last silk-making factory. It was established in 1786 and bought by the Stefano Ricci group in 2010. The factory specializes in silk and silk-linen damask, brocade and Ermisino taffeta woven on hand looms. Ermisino taffeta is perhaps its most well-known silk.
The video provides a glimpse of the 1,800 mechanical and 1,700 hand looms used in the factory. The equipment includes original 18th century looms - some of which are based on a Leonardo da Vinci design for a warping machine.
Production is 40-80 centimeters per worker per day. This is an astonishingly low rate compared to modern, high speed looms. In contrast, the fastest looms today (air jets and multiphase looms) can achieve weft insertion rates of 5,000 meters per minute. Simply put, this shows why very few products are handmade these days.
It also implies that if you appreciate such artisanship you'll have to be prepared to pay for such handmade luxury. The same applies here since ASF fabrics start at $435 per yard. As you might imagine, the factory's customers, such as Versailles and the Kremlin, tend to have deep pockets.