for TextilWirtschaft home / Photo: Jonathan P. Levy
(extract) Mr Etro, how important to you personally are textiles?
They mean a great deal to me, having been my principal occupation since I was knee-high. At a very early age, I was already travelling the world with my parents and able to explore many places, among them India and Mexico. Back then, people in many of these countries still wore traditional costumes, which appeared very exotic to me. As an eight-year-old boy, I was especially fascinated by the colours and patterns. This first exposure to textiles at an early age had a lasting influence on me. Later, before going to university, I was waiting to be called up for military service and decided to work in my parents’ firm to pass the time until then. In those days, Etro was a classic textiles trading company. My job was in the samples room, cutting swatches to size for customers und assigning them numbers. I had, in other words, to handle a whole lot of different fabrics and cut them into squares. It was while doing this work that I developed a sense of the quality of materials, since you are, after all, constantly feeling them between your fingers. That was a good place of learning for me, though it really did spoil me, our company, even back then, having sold only the vey best fabrics. In a word, therefore, it was my eyes that were the first to encounter textiles, and then my hands: two completely different approaches, each with its own special attractions.
Is that how your wish to work with textiles came about?
Indeed it was. I began to visit weaving mills to learn more about the manufacturing process. I wanted to understand fibres. Then I went to the fabric printers. The more I saw, the more I wanted to know. I wanted to understand the entire process of fabric production. I was thrilled to see how a fabric is created on a loom, and how the pattern is gradually transferred to the fabric from the design. The printing process, with those huge machines, is something I found rather less appealing. It is noisy, heavy, dirty, and was still pretty primitive back then in the 1980s. Fabrics were basically printed using methods harking back to the 19th century. Later came inkjet and then digital print. Suddenly, the future was there, giving us more ways in which to achieve faster results with less environmental impact and reduced labour input. For all this, however, I felt we were losing something.
What exactly do you mean?
I realize that the textile industry has to move on, to keep on developing, But I personally am always searching for a traditional, artisanal approach. That’s why I travel to places where I expect to discover this – not to North America or Canada, in other words, but to the Far East or Africa. But it is getting to be ever more difficult to find traditional textiles. Increasingly, for example, local costumes are being discarded in favour of western attire. (...)