We have a lot of stories to tell here at Lanificio Paoletti, and many of those stories are stored in the oral memories of our elders. Every so often one of them opens up their box of memories and harks back to that one time that…
That’s how many of these stories end up coming back up. These are the stories of people whose lives are connected to our company’s stories. There are huge number of them — not surprisingly, considering the Lanificio Paoletti wool mill has been around since 1795. This is one of the reasons we decided to start this blog, to tell some of these stories.
It always starts in pretty much the same way. One day Mr. Guglielmo Toffolatti, a sample machinist, who worked at the wool mill for many years, says, “I remember once having seen this among our papers, but we can’t find it anymore“…
And so a search is launched, and sometimes even the idea for launching a new project.
Here is one such story.
During World War II, the wool mill — located in Veneto, near Treviso — was authorized to produce material for Italian and German (allies at the time) army barracks and to make fabric for military uniforms. One of the materials chosen for their army was a gray blue fabric, which was the color of the German Air Force.
The quality of Paoletti fabrics was recognized even back then! The warmth of wool was most appreciated by German soldiers, who were getting ready for yet another long winter on the battlefield.
But, so we’re told, at a certain point, a good part of this fabric made in the mill, intended for the German military command stationed in Verona, was confiscated by a partisan brigade. The rolls of fabric to be delivered disappeared. This was a difficult moment for the then owners who ran the risk of being accused of treason. Fortunately for them, investigations came up with the proof needed to show that the operation had been headed by the Resistance without involving the Paoletti family.
After the war was over, the rediscovered rolls were used by the local residents who were in a situation of great need. In post-war Italy with its scarcity of all goods, they were thrilled to find this high quality, warm fabric, like manna from heaven. They used it to make clothes, jackets, coats and everything else needed to protect against the cold.
They say that children ran with their new coats, flying them like kites during the celebrations of the Liberation.
With the passage of time, many of these clothes ended up in the back of household wardrobes. But there are lot of people in Follina who still remember the gray blue of their grandfather’s coat or their aunt’s skirt.
A new project born of an old fabric
This story sparked an idea to start a new project involving students of Fashion Design from IUAV University of Venice. Meanwhile we tried to recreate that particular fabric, which had since gone missing.
Incredibly enough, not so much as a scrap is to be found, even in our archives.
To choose the color, we actually showed Guglielmo the color card and asked him — the only living witness we had — which one was closest to it as he remembered it. Then the fabric was recreated and used for the project called “45 LL“.
Students were asked to design some clothes with this fabric. The idea was to create a contrast between the models of a military garment and softer, perhaps feminine cuts, while still conveying the feeling of aeronautical lightness.
Garments made with this gray blue cloth included a pair of woman’s pants and top. Of course pants are very typically military, but the choice was made to make them in a woman’s garment because the fabric was used by women too when the partisans gave it to the people.
The top conveys a particular sense of lightness, suggesting the idea of a kite with its cut and tied shoulder straps. The students also made the photo shoot alluding to a kite, a central theme in the project. The hanging garments lighten the perception of a heavy fabric.
Why is it called 45LL?
The explanation is quite simple: “45” because the fabric was cut on the bias (with a 45° angle to the grain line) in order to make it lightweight and elastic. “LL” stands for “lana leggera” (lightweight wool).
In addition to an outfit, a small book, called “The Wardrobe“, was created by Antonia Salomè, a student in the 2nd year degree program in Visual Arts and Fashion who took part in the Storytelling Storymaking workshop (she is a blogger for the online magazine Frizzifrizzi). The small book was created as if it were a wardrobe, opening to reveal the contents within.
For the pictures, we would like to thank Ilene Pizzato and Andrea Pandolfi, students who took part in the project.