Just kid­ding

The su­pe­rior qual­ity of loro Piana’s baby cash­mere is no joke

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My of­fi­cial ti­tle at Wall­pa­per* is qual­ity ma­niac-at-large, a moniker that I adopted af­ter meet­ing Pier Luigi Loro Piana in early 2014 to talk about his vicuña, which, he ex­plained, was prized by ‘qual­ity ma­ni­acs’ (W*181) – some­thing I could to­tally re­late to. An­other fun fact is that one of my first pieces for this mag­a­zine nearly 16 years ago was about the Ital­ian brand’s de­liv­ery van, which was em­bla­zoned on its sides with ‘At­ten­tion, cash­mere in tran­sit’. Af­ter spot­ting it in Mi­lan, I ex­plored the jour­ney of a raw fi­bre that started in Mon­go­lia and ended up as a fin­ished Loro Piana prod­uct.

My in­ter­est grew when I saw a pre­view of the col­lec­tion now hit­ting the stores and met Raf­faella Redaelli de Zi­nis, Loro Piana’s chief prod­uct of­fi­cer. There is much to be cov­eted in the new range, which fo­cuses on sub­lime un­der­state­ment with sub­tle changes to pro­por­tions and pal­ette. In a lux­ury mar­ket in­creas­ingly geared to­wards mil­len­ni­als, these kinds of prod­ucts are as rare as the fi­bres they are made from.

So I set some time aside to visit Loro Piana’s pro­duc­tion fa­cil­i­ties in Roc­capi­etra and Quarona in north­ern Italy to wit­ness first hand the trans­for­ma­tion of the world’s most select noble fi­bres – in­clud­ing cash­mere, vicuña and su­perfine merino wool – into yarn, which is then knit­ted or wo­ven into cloth be­fore be­ing tai­lored into gar­ments. The sweater pic­tured above is knit­ted from baby cash­mere, an ex­cep­tion­ally fine fi­bre that comes in at 13.5 mi­crons (one mi­cron is one-thou­sandth of a mil­lime­tre). It’s harm­lessly brushed from a kid goat in Mon­go­lia just once, at age four to eight months, with each brush­ing pro­duc­ing only 80g of raw fi­bre (com­pared to 250g of reg­u­lar cash­mere).

Af­ter be­ing washed and checked in Loro Piana’s own plant in Ulaan­baatar, the wool is trans­ported to Roc­capi­etra, where the fi­bres’ pu­rity and shape are ex­am­ined un­der a mi­cro­scope. Then it’s passed un­der a UV light and some­one counts the num­ber of ‘ac­cept­able’ black hairs – no more than five for ev­ery 10g. Once washed and dyed, it’s turned into yarn in a tem­per­a­ture- and hu­mid­ity-con­trolled en­vi­ron­ment. If the yarn is to be wo­ven, like the cash­mere and vicuña used for the bomber pic­tured above, that hap­pens at Loro Piana’s Quarona mill.

The most mem­o­rable part of the visit was watch­ing the fi­nal pro­ce­dures car­ried out by the menders. Armed with the eye of a gold­smith, a mag­ni­fy­ing glass and a pair of tweez­ers, they check the fin­ished cloth, inch by inch, pulling out any stray fi­bres that don’t make the grade. Then an­other crafts­man re­pairs any minute im­per­fec­tions with a tiny nee­dle. Only a qual­ity ma­niac can fully ap­pre­ci­ate that. loropi­ana.com

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