THE GLOBE-TROTTER X VITALE BARBERIS CANONICO CASE

Globe-Trotter’s latest collaboration sees its classic Centenary Case given a very special treatment by being covered in natural fabrics from one of the world’s most famous fabric-makers, Vitale Barberis Canonico in Biella, Italy, founded in 1663. Here we meet its creative director, Francesco Barberis, 13th generation of the founding family.

Using sustainable fabrics (the H.O.P.E collection, made from natural, recycled or plant fibres) there are three different-sized cases: the small 7” London Square in camel check wool with tan leather trim; a 14” Mini Attaché Case in charcoal check wool with black leather trim; and a 20” Trolley Case in natural herringbone alpaca with burgundy leather trim. A leather patch on the interior of the lid identifies the cases as part of this special initiative.

Using sustainable fabrics (the H.O.P.E collection, made from natural, recycled or plant fibres) there are three different-sized cases: the small 7” London Square in camel check wool with tan leather trim; a 14” Mini Attaché Case in charcoal check wool with black leather trim; and a 20” Trolley Case in natural herringbone alpaca with burgundy leather trim. A leather patch on the interior of the lid identifies the cases as part of this special initiative.

“I moved to London and I started to notice how well-dressed certain men were – the politicians in smart chalk stripes, the men about town in Mayfair”

Ciao Francesco, you are the 13th generation of the Barberis Canonico family. Did you always want to follow in the family trade?
No, not at all. In fact when I was young, I had dreams of going into music, which is still one of my passions. But then I moved to London and I started to notice how well-dressed certain men were – the politicians in smart chalk stripes, the men about town in Mayfair. So I found a tailor in London, just off Savile Row, and that was how I reconnected with the family business – I started to have suits made and began looking at fabrics. Maybe it is in the genes after all. Now I love this trade and this job. That was about 20 years ago in 1998, and to begin with I just liked Italian fabrics as I found the English ones too heavy. I ended up liking both.

Vitale Barberis Canonico is more than 350 years old. How do you think it has managed to stay relevant over time?
That’s easy – they always had the right product and have moved with the times, Luckily in Italy, we have beautiful manufacturing and highly skilled labour. But ironically at Vitale Barberis Canonico we come from the English school in the way we make fabrics in some respects, in that the cloth is always very well constructed and very well set. And we never consider price. Instead, we source the best possible material to make the best possible yarn – we always come up with fabric that is world class.

“Now fabrics have got so much lighter, which is important because people live and work in heated places, and they travel so much”

What are you famous for?
Historically, we used to be very famous for our wool and mohair. But over the years we have become specialists in creating suiting fabrics that you can wear all year round. Now fabrics have got so much lighter, which is important because people live and work in heated places, and they travel so much, so you don’t want heavy fabrics.

So fabrics have changed?
Oh sure. Today they have much better performance than they used to. Today you can wear tailoring for several days running without need for pressing. When I travel, I take one little trolley case – I don’t need to pack so many suits.

And do you think your fabrics look particularly Italian?
I think so, yes. We’re lucky because Italian people are considered to be quite stylish. When we sell our fabrics to designers and tailors all over the world, they say that when a customer buys a length of Italian fabric he feels Italian. So you are buying a little piece of Italy when you buy Vitale Barberis Canonico cloth. It’s like Globe-Trotter. One of the reasons I like my cases is that they make me feel a bit like an Englishman. I am a self-confessed anglophile.

“Buying a Globe-Trotter is an investment. And the more you use it, the more beautiful it becomes; it gets a patina with age”

You mention your Globe-Trotter cases – do you have many?
I am great fan and have several suitcases and a navy blue briefcase. What I love about them is that they are built to last. Buying a Globe-Trotter is an investment. And the more you use it, the more beautiful it becomes; it gets a patina with age. It’s like when I see a gentleman wearing a wonderfully worn-in flannel suit. It speaks of character.

And you use them all time?
Yes, all the time. The trolley is the most convenient. But when I travel with the car I use the whole set. They are in a very elegant red/orangy colour. The beauty is that they don’t crush your clothes – so they don’t crush our lovely fabrics. Other suitcases tend to squeeze and squash and the contents come out like compressed ball. Globe-Trotters are lightweight and rigid; if you don’t pack them too tightly, the clothes don’t get squashed.

“A person who buys a Globe-Trotter is someone who appreciates quality and beauty”

So they’re practical. But you’re clearly an aesthete – so what about the look?
You don’t have a Globe-Trotter by chance. A person who buys a Globe-Trotter is someone who appreciates quality and beauty. It’s always special when I see someone in Italy, or in Paris or Stockholm with a Globe-Trotter case. I know then they are people with special taste.

Let’s ask about your travelling habits… What is your favourite city to visit?
London. In London you have history and the history of tailoring. I love going to Savile Row and Jermyn Street. I love the eccentricity of the English – those old aristocrats who wear an old jacket of their father’s or grandfather’s. They’re not flashy. So London – for work or for pleasure. Because it is both so English and so international – it is a unique melting pot.

What is on your travel bucket list?
I would like to visit Africa – it is the future. There are so many interesting cultures on the continent, and so much we can learn from there. It will become the Asia of the future.

“The Martinez Hotel is one of my favourites – it’s an Art Deco wonder”

What is the best hotel you have ever stayed in? 
The Ritz in London, and I’d have to say the Martinez in Cannes. It’s a 1930s Art Deco wonder. I like classic hotels. I’m not keen on modern, minimalistic hotels where everything is white and there is no furniture.

What is the best meal you have had while travelling?
The best place for fish is Wiltons in Jermyn Street, London – have the Dover sole. The best meat is at Plachutta in Vienna. They serve you by bringing a small stove to the table with a little pan on it. It’s a historic place and serves typical, very heavy German food – wholesome with potatoes.

And bar?
Another London venue: Windows on the top of the Hilton in Park Lane, The best views of the capital.

“Lock & Co, the hat makers in St James’s provides a unique experience – they shape your hat with steam”

Where do you shop when you are on a trip?
It depends for what. All my clothes are made to measure in London, New York and Milan. I like shops that have charm and are authentic. Lock & Co, the hat makers in St James’s, for example, is a unique experience – they shape your hat with steam. But these days I shop for clothes a little closer to home. I have a little tailor here who is nearly 90 years old who just makes for me and his sons. He’s been tailor to three generations of the Barberis family now – to my grandfather, my father and myself. He lives in a small village near Pratrivero, where our factory is, so I have to travel less than a mile for a fitting.

“I always pack a navy blue blazer, for summer or winter; wear it with a shirt and tie to look smart, then just take the tie off to go to a bar or pub”

What do you never leave the house without when travelling?
My Globe-Trotter luggage for sure. Then if it is a business trip – a navy blue blazer with gold buttons. You can wear it in summer or winter; it’s a fantastic piece for your wardrobe. Wear it with a shirt and tie to look smart, then just take the tie off to go to a bar or pub. It looks good with everything, with jeans or flannel trousers, or cotton trousers; liven it up with a nice handkerchief. I couldn’t live without my blazers; I have so many I’ve lost count. I actually enjoy wearing a jacket. Unlike women, we don’t have a purse, so a jacket is where you can carry your telephone, wallet and keys. And you look smart. Even on a Saturday and Sunday, its comfortable to have something on, as long as it’s well-made. Then I pack headphones and comfortable trousers, in flannel or heavy cotton – I don’t like everything so skinny and am relieved that now styles seem to be going back to proper sizes. I also take pairs of English shoes by Church’s or Crockett & Jones or John Lobb. You need to break English shoes in, but then they are very comfortable. And I always carry a briefcase.

“My friend gave me my Globe-Trotter briefcase after flying over from Japan. It is a reminder of our friendship”

What is your packing style?
I’m not bad. I have my own system – I put my shoes around the clothing. But the beautiful thing about suits made with Vitale Barberis Canonico fabrics is that they don’t need any pressing. Even if you get creases in them through transit, you just hang them up and the crease fall out. There’s no need to hang them up in the bathroom and run the shower to create humidity. This is true of all our fabrics, and not just the special ones specifically designed to be crease resistant, though we have those too. Like the ‘Supersonic’ collection of cloths, that are performance materials, most of which are made from high-twist yarns, with a lot of stretch. These are comfortable to wear sitting at a desk, or when driving, and are crease resistant.

“We have developed a series of low environmental impact H.O.P.E fabrics. This stands for ‘How to Optimise People and Environment’”

Your collaboration with Globe-Trotter uses fabric from another of your special collections. Can you tell us about this too?
We have developed a series of low environmental impact fabrics called H.O.P.E. This stands for ‘How to Optimise People and Environment’. As everyone is quite rightly talking about being sustainable and not so cruel to nature and the environment and animals, we wanted to explore how we could make fabric that supports this philosophy. So we have created a collection where, for example, the silk worms that create silk are not killed, but left to fly away, and wool is not dyed with chemicals, but is left in its natural colour. We also work with recycled wool, and have developed a special label made of organic cotton, which is biodegradable – if you bury it, it will dissolve and will not be harmful to the environment.

And H.O.P.E. fabrics are what you have used with Globe-Trotter?
Yes, we have covered three different types of case in H.O.P.E fabrics. It’s a beautiful idea. You don’t need to dye material if there is a great colour in nature.

The Globe-Trotter x Vitale Barberis Canonico collaboration cases will be on display at the Globe-Trotter Flagship store in Burlington Arcade during London Craft Week (30th September until 10th October 2020). Click here for more information.

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