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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Interviews: The Long Term Pursuit Of Quality Shirting - An Interview With Mauro Canclini - Head Textile Designer @ Canclini

On my first trip to Como I was fortunate enough to make a detour one day in between visiting silk mills to arrive at Canclini HQ. Over the small number of years since I have been working with them I have noticed a marked increase in the number of new weaves, blends, printing and finishing techniques that have been employed by the company. Although it is not nearly as big as some of the other mills producing shirting, and although a great deal of production in shirting is done in all sorts of lower cost countries, Canclini remains one of the beacons of light for European shirting weavers. By using technological and design advances they have remained ahead of the game when it comes to shirting. It is with great pleasure that I offer our readers a chance to meet Mauro Canclni, the brains behind Canclini's design team.

Mauro Canclini, head textile designer of Canclini,  at a desk in the archives studying designs and swatches
Mauro, can you tell our readers a little about shirting production? For example, how many metres of shirting does each loom produce per hour and how many different types of yarns do you turn into warps?

Producing shirting fabric is a very long and complex process. For example, you have to consider that regarding the weaving component only, a loom can only produce about 5 metres of shirting fabric per hour, which equates to roughly 2 or 3 shirts, depending on the size of the shirt of course.
We are usually trying to use only one kind of yarn in the warp; but for very special fabrics and effects, we can use up to 3 different kinds of yarns in order to obtain a richer look and/or touch/handle.

Shirting fabrics being weaved at the Canclini mill

Does Canclini make the yarns that goes into it’s cloth or are they produced by outside makers? Can you explain to our readers the difference between single ply, 2 ply and 3 ply yarns and what quality fabrics are usually constructed of?

By tradition, Canclini is involving the full textile chain industry of our area in the North of Italy. When my grandfather started Canclini he was sourcing the yarns directly and then he gave them to subcontractors for weaving -  managing therefore all the individual steps of the process - from the yarn spinning to the finished fabric. Nowadays, we are mostly working with the same spirit: we buy the yarns from 3 suppliers - which thanks to our long term business relationship, grants us the upmost continuous quality of the yarns that go into our fabrics. We are then dyeing the yarns in 2 specialist yarn dyeing mills close to us and that we’ve been working with for many decades. For over 50 years we’ve been then taking these dyed yarns and weaving them into shirting fabric. The finished woven shirting fabric is then sent to the finishing mill which is also less than 1 hours drive from our company HQ. We employ the exact same methodology for our printed fabrics. By taking this position as a weaver and not taking on the additional infrastructure of the other processes allows Canclini to forge strong partnerships and thereby allows us to be quick and reactive in a manner that no other weaving mill can match.

Once yarns are spin they are ready for dyeing

Yarns are spun very close to the weaving mills of Canclini so that there is a synergy between all aspects of shirting cloth production which allows Canclini to take advantages in new technologies offered by yarn weavers through to dyers and cloth finishers.
To answer your question about yarn plys the difference is really quite simple. A single yarn, as per its name itself, is a single thread yarn. A 2-ply is made of 2 single yarns spun together to create a single thread with 2 yarns. A 3-ply is made of 3 single yarns spun together to obtain a single thread with 3 yarns. The dimension of the thread can vary a lot, from a 40/1 for example which is quite thick, up to a 170/1 which is very thin, but you have a lot of different thread sizes. Each single size gives the thread different visual aspects (less or more hairy, less or more shiny) and different strengths. So it’s not just the ply of yarns you look at but the dimensions of those yarns too.

In Sydney there is never a time of the year where it is absolutely essential to wear one weight of cloth or another –but I gather in Europe there would be many men who prefer to have heavier weight shirting cloths and blends for winter and lighter ones for summer. For example, I know that Canclini produces blends of cotton and cashmere for winter and cotton and linen for summer. Can you explain to us what types of blends, constructions there are for the seasons and the basic types that Australian men might consider given the climate conditions Down Under?

Yes, it's true that in Western countries, but also in Japan and China for example, where temperatures goes down several degrees under freezing point during winter time, our customers are using much different weights of fabrics respecting to the ones used in the Australian market. Therefore, we can talk about different blends (cotton/cashmere for example) but also flannels in 100% cotton, that thanks to special finishing techniques pretty much give the end product a cashmere feel which is really appreciated by our customers in winter. On the other hand in summer, beside playing with different light weights from a yarn and structure point of view (like our cotton mousseline ULLALLA), or our light and compact popeline SKIN and micro weaving structures DANDY range); we make 100% cotton fabrics but also blend fibres such as cotton / linen fabrics to keep the freshness and breathability needed. However, in modern office environments that are centrally heated in winter our customers still choose our light weight ranges to keep their consumers comfortable and push a more layered style of clothing to allow for changes in temperatures between inside and outside.

Canclini range of striped cottons from their skin range.

I wrote a few weeks ago that a baby blue cotton shirting fabric is for cotton weavers what the fruit bowl is for painters – every company offers some form of this cloth. In Canclini I particularly like your Rothschild baby blue twill 200 2 ply. Can you tell our readers what are some of the staple cloths that you produce which are timeless and what kinds of staples we might find in an Italian man’s wardrobe? (Eg: white twill, blue herringbone, pink, white popeline etc)

We are making each season (each 6 months) a full collection that is respectful of tradition but which also pushed the incoming fashion trends, textures and colours. However, the truth is that most men prefer a white or blue shirt in all kinds of weaving structures and weights. For this reason we have a Stock Service book which is available year-round with over a 1000 swatches of fabrics with a great deal of variety in both micro structures, blends, printed fabrics, linen, flannels, denim – every conceivable staples that a man might have in his wardrobe.

Finished fabrics on the roll at a Canclini mill ready to be sold to luxury shirt makers around the world.
My understanding is that a lot of cotton shirting weaving production has moved from Italy to India, Turkey, Eastern Europe and many other places where wage costs are lower. I imagine that cloth weaving is not a labour intensive business as it mostly relies on machines does it not? What are the benefits of moving cloth production for these companies and does Canclini produce any of it’s range outside of Italy?

As I said earlier, our production has been focussed on Italy for over 50 years, where we have also our partners like the yarn dyeing mills and the finishing mill not far from us. However, to contain the increasing costs of running a mill like ours a small part of our production is weaved less than 600 km away from us, in Eastern Europe. This has been a logistical and economic decision. Consider that Rome is even further than 600 km from us here at Canclini. In our Eastern European mill, with our Italian looms, Italian managers and Italian technicians, we take advantage of a cheaper labour cost which compensates the huge increase of the costs of the materials that go into the fabrics.

This is where warps are made - warps are the base roll of yarns from which the shuttle will weave the weft threads. Many of the subtle differences created in shirt weaving begin with the warp.

Yarn spinning - this is the imperative process which gives Canclini the base threads from which it makes the warps above.

Moving through an operating mill is very loud. Don't be fooled by the picture, you would need ear muffs to walk down this aisle.

In the last few years laser printed fabrics and jacquards have been more prevalent in shirting cotton. Can you tell us about the rise of technology in fabrics and what as a designer are your constraints when producing shirting on classic looms and what are your constraints on producing shirting using new technologies?

The market is requesting more and more ‘fantasy’ in patterns and designs. Thanks to the use of Jacquard looms and inkjet printing machines, I have the possibility to push even further my creativity and we have made innovation in fabrics we would never have been able to produce in the past. The only problem is that the machinery used is not as widely available as our traditional looms and therefore we are not able to achieve the same kind of capacity that we could from traditional looming which means production at this stage is limited.

The technological improvements in machinery also allows us to use thin yarns and make very light and compact fabrics, something that was impossible 30 years ago when fabrics were much thicker and the weaving was not nearly as dense. Modern machines have allowed us to innovate to create modern fabrics, and the improvements are only just being seen with many more technological advances coming.

Innovation in shirting fabric can come in the form of yarns, blends of yarns, weaving techniques or, in finishing techniques. Above, shirting fabric being finished.

Can you tell us what some of your favourite Canclini cloths are which you think are signatures of the company? 

Unlike most of the other shirting mills, Canclini has heavily moved into the use of 80/1 compact yarn, and this a strength in versatility for our fabrics range. For example we have our DANDY range with micro weaving structures, our MC KENZIE which is a light brushed flannel, but also once weaved with a 140/1, we obtain our SKIN quality, which is both light and compact but also breathable and still very elegant.

Over the years technology has meant that shirting fabrics can be woven more densely with greater colour, more innovative print techniques and lighter handles.
Please tell us a little about your own fashion taste and what brands you follow? Lastly, can you please tell our readers if you were to cut a suit which Italian tailor would you use?

I am rather simply in my dress – always a shirt of course – a pair of jeans or light trousers (I prefer Jacob Cohen or PT Torino). Then I add a simple cashmere sweater in the winter time and a pair of sneakers or Churches shoes depending on my mood.

If I need to dress up I prefer to wear a Paolini suit, which is modern with a young cut and fit and, on more formal occasions, I will naturally tend towards Zegana Sartoriale.

Mauro Canclini overlooking work in progress

Dressed simply for work - Mauro Canclini prefers Jacob Cohen jeans, a Canclini cloth shirt, a cashmere sweater and sneakers for day workwear.
To find our more on Canclini visit their website on , their Facebook page or their Instagram account.

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