Since 2000 Massimiliano Massia has been at the head of Antica Passamaneria Massia Vittorio of Turin, founded in 1843 by his great-grandfather, a Royal Warrant Holder of the Savoy Court. The company is based in Pianezza, where the Museum of Passementerie is also located, the only one existing in Europe. The route of the visit, through historical functioning machinery used in the business, includes the story of all the phases of production and the live demonstration of some processes, together with the history and tradition of a family that for more than a century have devoted themselves with passion and great expertise to an ancient art with a contemporary appeal, today very much in vogue also in furnishing, fashion and design.
Can you tell us your story?
We have always been in Turin and we can say that we are the oldest passementerie workshop in Europe run by the same family. The first traces of our family in textiles appear in the 17th century in the Statutes of the University of master producers of fabrics of silk, silver and gold, to reach the 19th century, when we were officially established as passementerie makers and suppliers to the Royal Household of Savoy.
Our activity is made up of seven different jobs, from cord-making to weaving, and therefore as there are many passages it is difficult to make an average estimate of the production times.
I grew up from a very young age surrounded by looms and yarns, but mine was not a predictable decision. Every summer, when I was a student, I liked to spend days in the factory, getting my hands dirty with the looms that were idle for maintenance and discovering the secrets of textile mechanics.
With the twentieth century came the world wars: they were difficult times and our company underwent severe damage, but this did not stop my grandfather Giovanni from continuing the family tradition. Concentrating on selling and trading in passementerie, the in-house production became specialized in historical reproduction and restoration, of which my father became a cornerstone in the family store.
I have been at the head of the company since 2000 and I have always followed the line of “slow work”: thinking globally while remaining small.
Is there a person or an event that influenced you in the choice of this profession?
It is a passion that in my family is handed down from one generation to the next and it infected me as well. I grew up from a very young age surrounded by looms and yarns, but mine was not a predictable decision. Every summer, when I was a student, I liked to spend days in the factory, getting my hands dirty with the looms that were idle for maintenance and discovering the secrets of textile mechanics.
How many passages are there, and what are they, in the production of a piece? How long does it take?
Our activity is made up of seven different jobs, from cord-making to weaving, and therefore as there are many passages it is difficult to make an average estimate of the production times. It can go from a few hours to make a curtain tie in a minimalist style to weaving eleven centimetres a day to make a gold brocade trim.
Have there been any strange requests over time? If so, which ones?
The restoration of the bandages of mummies and the creation of bows 7 metres high have been rather special both from the point of view of design and of production. Luckily our factory has ceilings which are seven and a half metres high!
Who are your customers? What kind of relationship is established with them?
I admit that I am privileged. Doing a job that usually requires, above all, entering the customer’s head, it is fundamental that the relationship is open and one of mutual esteem. With many customers a bond of friendship and constant discussion has been established though the years.
In which fields is passementerie used?
Countless fields. Passementerie ranges from the world of furnishing to fashion, from carriages to the ecclesiastical world, from theatres to contemporary art, from design to military uniforms. It is precisely this huge range of worlds that makes my work so interesting and never ordinar.
How many and what kinds of trims do you handle?
We have never counted them. Each year we make about 200 prototypes, as well as designing new collections. As our product is almost wholly made by hand, each piece is unique.