The cenciaolis: a journey through Prato textile tradition with the craftmen with its leading actors

Cenciaioli Pratesi tradizione tessile artigianale

The city of Prato has a long tradition in the textile sector and in particular in the fiber regeneration one, the process that leads to the creation of new yarns from the regeneration of old clothes, rags, or industrial waste.

Since the birth of Rifò, our goal has always been to enhance this ancient tradition that made Prato’s history and to give value not only to old clothes but also to those who produce them.

The cenciaolis tradition, the craftmen who were working sorting the rags to upcycle them, has  been considered of little value activity which lead to poor quality years. On the contrary, the value of this tradition is invaluable and consists in its intrinsic sustainability, which puts recycling and saving of dyes and of water first.

The history of Prato textile industry: the cenciaiolis

Prato textile tradition sees the cenciaiolis as protagonists, a working figure that has deeply marked the history of this city.

Everyone could be a cenciaiolo. Very often it was a job that kids did after school to gain some extra money. Also thanks to this tradition, Prato experienced a period of full economic flourishing.

The work of the cenciaiolo has very old history that dates back to the XII century AD, but it is in the second post-war period that it reaches the peak in this city, due to the lack of raw materials and so to the need to recover used materials.

The ragmen, with their skilled hands, learned to recognize fabrics with a single touch, dividing them by color and consistency, tearing them by hand. And from those shreds of rags, a new material was extracted to create a new fabric.

The cenciaioli is more than just a job. It is a noble, refined art, capable of telling the story of those who had worn those used clothes, creating the new from the old. All according to an economic logic that precedes consumerism: that of common sense.

Rifò has dedicated a mini video series of 6 episodes to this profession rich in tradition and history: don’t miss it if you want to listen to the direct testimony of retired cenciaioli, who carried out their activity during the second half of 1900. Here is the first episode, follow our Youtube channel for the other ones!

The regeneration of textile fibers nowadays

The city of Prato has an industrial tradition linked to the regeneration of fibers and although the craft of the cenciaiolo is no longer so widespread. Nevertheless in recent years the companies that have resisted the crisis have been understanding the value of eco-sustainability that distinguishes this activity.

That one of the cenciaiolo is an art of which the older ones are proud and at Rifò we are happy to testify it with the creation of our sustainable garments.

Thanks to the available technologies of Prato, in fact, we have been able to start a local production that involves the use of sustainable and responsible yarns to create durable, low environmental impact garments.

The first phase for the creation of regenerated fabrics is precisely the one of collecting and selecting old cashmere or cotton garments, but also jeans, which are then divided by color.

The collected fabrics are then frayed through the use of particular machines, now industrialized, the carders. The new fibers are layered and spun, maintaining their original coloring.

A raw material that gets even more value than the original, which is first transformed into fabric, then into sweaters, t-shirts, scarves …

Cenci tradizione tessile pratese

For us at Rifò, the regeneration of textile fibers represents an priceless resource. A tradition to explore thanks to which we can experiment with new forms of production.

For this innovative approach tied to its roots, Rifò remains not only a brand, but also a circular economy project. Its primary objective is in fact to explore the many alternatives to the economic models that we have known so far, which are the cause of the pollution produced by the fashion world.

If you are curious to discover what we know how to create thanks to regenerated fabrics, come take a look at our online shop or visit us in our shop in Prato, where you can see for yourself our regenerated clothing and personally know all the our team!

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