Giuseppe Lisio founded his first manufactory in Florence in 1906. Today, Fondazione Arte della Seta Lisio continues to manufacture priceless silk velvets and brocades just as he did, always by hand, on the same ancient Jacquard looms, and always with the same aim: to keep the art of weaving precious fabrics alive.
A Weaver of All Colours

Giuseppe Lisio’s lively curiosity and his passion for his chosen field led him to investigate art history and to search the museums, churches and publications of his time for examples of artworks that could provide inspiration for his creations.

Chieti 1870 - San Michele in Pagana 1943

Giuseppe Lisio

Throughout his ‘field training’ as a sales representative for the Luigi Osnago company of Milan, the young Giuseppe Lisio, from the Abruzzo region, cultivated a dream: to establish his own manufactory to produce fabrics equal in splendour to the silks of the Italian Renaissance. One of his many intuitions was that the Renaissance, in the period in history in which he lived and worked, was a theme that dovetailed with his clients’ tastes – and he set about recovering it. He began studying and amassing a wealth of documentation concerning ancient textiles, books, reproductions of artworks to draw on for his patterns; he visited museums and collected fragments of ancient fabrics with all the scholarly enthusiasm of a historian.

the Lisio tradition begins

From 1906 to the Twenties

Giuseppe Lisio opened his first shop in 1906 in Florence’s Via dei Fossi and established his manufactory in the city’s Oltrarno district. In perfect Renaissance style, he reproduced the model of the bottega where the master transmitted every aspect of his art and all its secrets to his apprentice – and manufactured true masterpieces of craftsmanship.

In about 1911, Lisio inaugurated his Roman shop in Via Sistina, having intuited that the Capitoline location would have attracted a vast client base.

In 1924, he opened a new manufactory in industrious Milan and inaugurated a new shop at 41, Via Manzoni.

Success was not long in coming and indeed exceeded every expectation. Lisio soon became a well-known name on the international markets.

the ‘prince of the heddle’

The Thirties and Forties

Both personally and professionally, Giuseppe Lisio frequented a number of outstanding personalities on the Italian cultural panorama. Above all, his fraternal friendship with Gabriele D’Annunzio, with whom he shared a land of origin, Abruzzo, but above all great sensibility and an innate aesthetic taste. Lisio filled a great many commissions for the Vittoriale and at the same time offered many gifts to his friend. Their letters reveal how D’Annunzio met every precious scrap of fabric with ‘an infantile and mystical joyfulness’.

The foundation’s archives contain many other proofs of great friendships; for example, that with architect Gio Ponti, whose correspondence from 1939 until a few days prior to Lisio’s death testifies to his profound communion of ideas with the textile entrepreneur and all his warm admiration.

The 1930s were also the years during which the ‘Prince of the Heddle’ was engaged in important undertakings: in 1933, he inaugurated his Paris shop at 365, Rue St. Honoré and accepted prestigious orders in the restoration sector; 1934 saw design and realisation of the decorations for a hall in the Milan residence of Prince Giberto Borromeo, to transform it into a chapel for the wedding of Donna Laura Emilia Borromeo Arese and Count Carlo Borromeo d’Adda.

Florence, 1910 - San Michele di Pagana, 2001

Fidalma Lisio

After completing her studies at the Collegio di Poggio Imperiale in Florence, Fidalma Lisio and her mother, Maria Loero, closely followed Giuseppe Lisio’s career, sharing his labours and his successes.

After her father’s death in 1943 and her mother’s, in 1949, Fidalma decided to come take responsibility for her parents’ legacy, not only in economic terms but also in terms of their ‘intangible’ commitments and intentions: to conserve, hand down, and invigorate the Lisio art fabrics, the precious velvets and brocades in silk, gold and silver. She thus continued to manufacture the fabrics created by ‘Mastro Lisio’ in his time and to prepare the looms or weaving new velvets and brocades.

On the one hand, continuity in production of the fabrics that had made Arte della Seta Lisio a world-renowned name; on the other, a new design approach exemplifying how Jacquard hand-weaving can be a contemporary method for creating exclusive fabrics, newly designed for the here and now.

fifty years in the trade

The Fifties and the Sixties

The 1950s brought many changes. Fidalma Lisio, firmly intentioned to follow in her father’s footsteps, returned the manufactory headquarters to Florence, where she leased several rooms in one of the city’s palazzi and re-launched hand-woven manufacture on a velvet loom assembled by weaver Vittorio Rettori. It was 1954. Two years later, the manufactory celebrated its golden anniversary.

The decision to start out slowly and cautiously proved promising. Mastro Lisio’s heir decided to move the manufactory to more spacious premises; she purchased land just outside the city, in Via Benedetto Fortini (where the foundation is currently headquartered), and built a new ‘Fabbrica’ – as her employees always called it. The new manufactory was inaugurated on 19 March 1960. It was equipped with all the looms, both hand-operated and mechanical, and all the machinery for preparation of the yarns and the warps, from the Milan manufactory – which in the meantime had been closed. The Florence ‘factory’ at one time counted 40 weavers, for a total of 44 employees.

These were the years of Italy’s post-war reconstruction; like many other companies, the Lisio manufactory again ventured onto the international markets and re-established its name as one of the most prestigious of the times.

the birth of Fondazione Arte della Seta Lisio

The Seventies and Eighties

Fidalma Lisio never lost faith in what she considered her life mission: to hand down an ancient art to posterity as a fertile rootstock for future development.

Her iron will to safeguard and perpetuate the art of hand-weaving of silk velvets and brocades led her, in 1971, to establish Fondazione Arte della Seta Lisio. With its manufacturing, teaching and cultural activities, the foundation stands as an exemplary centre for sustaining a tradition on which modern creativity can build.

In this period, the foundation tapped new springs of energy: while the 1960s were marked by important work for the cinema, the Seventies saw Lisio again participating in textile industry events and further developing its offers for furnishings and high fashion.

In 1984, a press conference inaugurated the first weaving courses held by Scuola d'Arte Lisio art school, a touchstone for textile scholars and for companies and designers looking to perfect their skills.

The year 1989 saw the publication of the first issue of Jacquard. Pagine di cultura tessile, the quarterly magazine forum for articles by scholars of textile and costume history, news about professional textile and fashion schools, and the results of recent experimentation by stylists and designers.

recovering the past and setting new goals

From the Nineties to the Present

The 1990s got underway with an event of great significance for the foundation: on 30 March 1990, Lisio inaugurated the Telaio Serenissima loom, the only functioning example of its kind in the world. It is a complex machine that moves upwards of 12,000 silk threads, with almost 2,000 perforated cardboard cards, used by Giuseppe Lisio in 1925 ca. to produce the tri-toned velvet of the same name – perhaps the most precious fabric ever woven by the manufactory.

Other meaningful events in this period were Lisio’s collaborations with the great fashion houses. This direction in development opened with the Fendi sisters: in 1997, the Fondazione Lisio began to supply the incomparable fabrics for the maison’s Baguettes – bags destined to make the wish lists of women of all ages.

In 1999, Lisio supplied its silk velvets to Versace. Then came Valentino, for which the foundation created two new velvets, and Gucci, which in 2004 requested a number of lengths of ciselé velvets bearing the maison’s logo.

In 2005 and 2006, the foundation created new, important works for the Vatican and for Rome’s Great Synagogue; additionally, it supplied the black silk damask for restoring the gown worn by Maria Callas in La Traviata directed by Luchino Visconti in 1955; finally, the Florentine manufactory was chosen to supply the velvet a project of great historic and artistic interest: restoration of eleven early 18th-century ‘Juvarrian’ divans in Turin.

The work of recent decades has centred on specialisation in historic reconstruction projects such as that commenced in the fall of 2009 for the Wilanów Palace Museum near Warsaw: reproduction of the 1730 miroir velvet that covered the walls of the king’s bedchamber. Since 2016, Lisio has been engaged in producing the wall-covering fabrics for refurbishing the Rooms of Augustus the Strong in the Royal Palace of Dresden.

One characteristic that has remained constant throughout all of Lisio’s history is attentive, scrupulous experimental research with the final goal of always ensuring product excellence: every project is exclusive, customised to client needs and demands.

From 2010 to the present, in addition to ongoing collaboration with the fashion world – in 2011 with Bulgari, in 2013 with Cartier and Mon Chat Noir and in 2016 with Paula Cademartori – Lisio has been involved in numerous experimental projects such as reviving the ancient technique – and loom – for producing rete da buratto (a fine net base for hand embroidery) and production of gold and silver coarse-woven teletta fabrics.