Francesco Vitale Barberis Canonico is a true Italian gentleman. At 45 years-old, dressed immaculately as ever, he is the creative director of the Biella Woolen Mill, which boasts a tradition more than 350 years old.
Growing up with quality and excellence, Francesco Canonico learned how fabrics can turn natural fibers into elegant pieces from a young age. This knowledge also translates into his poise, style, and way of talking. Each fabric he creates communicates a way of being; mixing together textures and patterns to express different shades of a personality.
This is one reason why Francesco ― and many classy men ― prefers tailored suits, as tailors are able to reproduce an exact image, giving Francesco the opportunity to create a suit exactly the way he wants it.
“A saglia blue blazer, a grey flannel suit, a tweed jacket and something with a Prince of Galles pattern.”
According to the Biellan businessman, these are the fabrics found in a real gentleman’s wardrobe, classics that can be seamlessly worn on many different occasions.
Classic with a twist is the underlying philosophy of the creative director, whose main goal is creating classic articles of clothing with a touch of eccentricity ― like a violet stripe on a very formal grey suit, for example. It is that almost imperceptible detail that makes Francesco’s approach unique and original.
“The secret, for his company and for his life as well, is to have respect for the past, without taking himself too seriously.”
The idea is simple: Canonico believes in treasuring past experiences and reinterpreting them to create contemporary clothing with hints of vintage tradition. Fabrics acquire so many associated values and meanings that they become a personification of cities, cultures, etc. For example:
“If Florence was a fabric, it would be the monolithic retwist canvas 4 woolen article of clothing 21 microns.”
An open mentality, a creative, frank attitude, Barberis has character traits typical of those who get straight to the point. He is a businessman and entrepreneur, on one hand, a free spirit and artist on the other hand.
In his free time, he has been always spotted on a motorcycle or jamming on a jazz guitar ― symbols of his energetic and imaginative vein.
Maybe it’s precisely this that distinguishes his others in his industry. Although his family background opened to him a brilliant and certain future, Francesco Canonico originally had no plans to manage the woolen mill business.
In the 90’s, Barberis had moved to London to study economics but was still dreaming of a career in music. His dream, indeed, was to become a jazz musician. But, at a certain point, something changed.
“I lived in the UK for many years and I used to love watching politicians wearing heavy suits with pinstripes. I found a tailor in England. I developed a passion. It got me really interested. I realized that I loved it.”
And based on this passion, for years now Francesco Canonico has been a proud storyteller of his society’s tradition, a herald of values of made in Italy and a style icon for today’s gentleman.
One of his most important missions as a creative director has been to transmit the passion and emotion that Francesco and his team have for fabrics ― the respect and deep knowledge they have for each fabric.
A series of interesting exhibits demonstrate Francesco’s love of Italian excellence. This is seen in the new archive-museum of the company, which boasts 1,200 pieces and is shown at trend collections and trade fairs.
“A journey through the history of fashion in Italy, France, Scotland, UK, Germany, and the USA; a real hotbed not only for fabric creators but also for fashion designers.”
“The king of fabrics” also has other important projects going on at his showroom in Milan, which is a sort of private club of “authorized personnel.” He also recently created Tailor Tips, a series of 12 videos which tells of the beauty of hand-sewn fabrics that make a look authentic and personalized.
Francesco Vitale Barberis Canonico is the thirteenth generation of his family to lead the woolen mill. He has inherited the romantic tradition and commits every day to affirm the company’s historical identity, craftsmanship, and sustainability.
He has run a timeless, but also state-of-the-art product that only Italians ― thanks to their “flair” ― are able to fully recognize.
“Our clients love our country, imagine an idyllic Italy, and believe that eating our food, tasting our wines, and wearing our clothes is strongly tied to our culture and feel as Italians as well. This is a big thing for us.”
Canonico always gives importance to tradition, maintaining the company’s brand, while still giving it that extra something. As he says:
“Classic with a twist.”