On the Grand Canal in the Santa Croce neighbourhood, is Luigi Bevilacqua’s weaving workshop, a business that dates back to 1875. It is an extraordinary place that resembles the interior of The Inventor’s castle in Edward Scissorhands. Complex and confusing wooden contraptions, thousands of reams of thread and gorgeous shimmering fabrics fill the long room.
Four women work on 18th century looms. One, Gloria, studied fashion and art at the local university and has been working here for the last 15 years. Across her arms and legs are tattoos of objects related to textiles and tailoring. She works with great concentration, as do the others. The textiles they produce are made of silk (which comes from China) and velvet. The fabrics are made using designs committed to memory. Gloria carefully lines up long pins that correspond to next thread of fabric. The tension of the loom is maintained by rocks that hang at one end. It is an incredible sight. Then, with everything in place, a great clattering fills the room as she pulls various wooden levers and steps down on peddles and the loom draws on over one thousand rolls of silk. After all of this effort another millimetre is added to the fabric.
Each day, each worker produces about 4cm. It is time consuming and labour intensive work. The results though are perhaps unique in the world. Clients include most of the great Italian fashion houses, the White House and the Kremlin.