A considerable part of today’s Italian fashion industrial panorama abounds with stories like the ones of Ratti’s, stories that include fortunate and flourishing companies born decades ago, either from a whole family working in concert with one another or with a single person’s dreams and will. The latter example is exactly the case for Ratti, one of the world’s leading fabric manufacturers for international luxury brands such as Gucci, Stella McCartney and others. Ratti’s story dates back to its birth in 1945 when its founder, Antonio Ratti opened his Tessitura Serica to manufacture and market silk fabrics and scarves in Como. Only later, in 1954, was Ratti able to start with a real industrial activity and a few months later, in 1955, one of his first employees, Mr. Clerici, a long-time collaborator of Ratti’s was hired on. Clerici still preserves the story of the company he was part of for so many years to this day and was happy to share the story of his adventure with us. Antonio Ratti started from nothing, simply creating patterns for ties and scarves, buying fabrics and having them dyed, finished, and then manufactured. His abilities in creating patterns soon made his products very desirable though and orders kept coming in increasing quantities so he created his first factory to fulfill the demand for all these requests. As requests continued to grow and time continued to pass, he expanded the company even further and moved to new locations throughout the years.
The work, though successful, wasn’t always easy, consuming a lot of time and effort in the process. Sometimes, as Mr. Clerici recalls, during the hottest days of summer, there was no water coming into the factory and the employees had to take the wooden frames used to print across the countryside and down to the river, where they proceeded to clean them with a sponge. That was just the beginning when there wasn’t a comprehension of the environmental impact as well. During the 1960s however, Mr. Ratti was among the first to care about nature and install a water purifier to prevent ink from reaching the river. This happened about two decades prior to when the region introduced a specific law mandating the use of water purifiers to keep the water supply cleaner. Mr. Ratti has always been a forerunner, both in the field of environmentalism and in caring about people. He opened a school inside his factory to educate his employees so they didn’t have to move to study and constantly pushed them to do refresher courses, as he did with Mr. Clerici. Since the 1960’s, Mr. Ratti has also understood the importance of having a medical clinic nearby opening one in the factory with a doctor in charge of monitoring the employees’ state of health via periodic check-ups. Finally, to guarantee safety at work, he also encouraged his employees to wear safety shoes and noise cancelling headphones even before they were mandatory by law. The people working for him were like family to him and he cared about the health and spirit of each and every one of them. To further demonstrate the extent of how much he cared he would organize shows and concerts inside the factory, as well as soccer tournaments with the employees. The path Mr. Ratti defined during the years has been carried on throughout the decades and improved upon as well thanks to modern technology. From the 1970’s onward new machinery has allowed for the progressive reduction of pollution and consumption while making production more efficient. Furthermore, experience has improved significantly, which made the fabrics from Ratti’s factories a point of reference in the field for quality and craftsmanship among many other international companies since the 1980s, as well as the benchmark for sustainability while maintaining quality.
Finally, as a show of goodwill to the public, and in an effort to foster sustainability goals for other firms, the factory has been opened to foreign visitors to come and see how Ratti works without any fear of intellectual property being stolen. Clerici says there is no need to fear machinery being copied or methods of work being stolen because imposters could never replicate their know-how.
Cover photo: Ratti Factory