As one of the world’s top fashion labels, Loro Piana – one of the largest cashmere manufacturers and biggest single purchaser of the world’s finest wools – has always strived for uncompromising quality in the materials and goods that they sell, whilst supporting local communities and encouraging long-term sustainability. Prepared to go to the ends of the earth to find the finest fibres known to man, The Luxury Channel followed them to Peru in search of the fleece of the Golden Vicuña, a material worth its weight in gold, but Loro Piana’s latest extraordinary venture has seen the announcement of the “discovery” of a natural and antique raw material, never before used in the textile industry of Western countries: the Lotus flower fibre (Nelumbo Nucifera). Extracted from the stems of these sacred flowers which grow naturally on Burma lakes, especially on Lake Inle, this extraordinary raw material has an unmistakeable morphology, similar to perforated tape, light in weight and breathable. It’s one of the finest aquatic fibres ever weaved.
Flowers are picked between May and December and the fibre is then extracted manually from their stalks and must be weaved within the following 24 hours to prevent deterioration. The yarn is obtained by joining the filaments of 3 to 5 of the stalks (which can grow to up to two metres in length), then “rubbing” and spinning it by hand. This is done by the local women, who can obtain just 120 gr of yarn per day. It’s a slow process resulting in a low yield – around 6,500 stalks are needed for little more than four metres of cloth – and the transformation from raw material into useable thread is done entirely by hand.
The resulting fabric has the appearance of antique linen or raw silk, with an irregular weft; it’s soft, exceptionally breathable and crease-resistant. Available only in its natural colour (ecru), it will be offered during the forthcoming months in extremely limited quantities (20/30 cuts) and packed in special Burma lacquered boxes, resulting from the local century-long craftsmanship.
The Lotus flower represents for Loro Piana another opportunity to support a magic, marvellous world threatened with extinction. Through co-operation with the local population, this material can be introduced to and appreciated by enthusiasts of extreme quality and nature. The development of this project will give the native people, the Intha, the possibility to work in their original environments, so this very antique tradition will not be lost. On the contrary, it will become the means to support future generations, thus allowing this art to survive.
Pier Luigi Loro Piana proudly commented: “The Lotus flower gives an extraordinary aquatic fibre which I would define as Summer Vicuna for its exclusivity. The quantity today is really very limited, but we hope our long-term project will allow us to increase it so that locals may improve their quality of life in harmony with the natural environment.”