Berto Mill

Berto is a family-owned mill located in north-eastern Italy in the province of Padova, in a region with a strong textile production heritage. The mill was founded in 1887 by brothers Giuseppe and Egidio and today it is run by Flavio Berto, the fourth generation of the Berto family.

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As a large employer in the region there is a strong sense of family at the company, making it a champion of ‘made in Italy’. Lots of the workers have family members who also work here or who did so in the past.

Francesca Polato, who leads Berto’s communication department, explains that from its roots producing cloth for sailing boats, today the company is known as a specialist in denim production. Their customer base is made up of both Italian and European fashion brands.

Polato takes us through the production process. “We buy the organic cotton yarn we use from Manifattura di Cene, a yarn spinner near Milan. And we send our own production waste to Marchi & Fildi a yarn spinner in North West Italy which they then use to produce 65% recycled yarn that we use to make new fabric. We also have some fabrics with a weft made from recycled post-consumer waste.

The indigo used to dye the yarn before it is woven is natural and we have a yarn dyeing method that uses less water and chemicals than in a standard production process. We’ve made our weaving looms more energy efficient and reduced emissions.”

Finishing processes are vital for giving fabric its softness, allowing it to be cut. This is a process that can notoriously use a lot of water and hazardous chemicals. Polato says that at Berto they have invested in new machines that allow them to half their use of water and chemicals. All the chemicals used are REACH and DETOX approved.

A key challenge is price. Polato explains that many clients are not ready to pay more for a more sustainable fabric. “As we have minimum production levels it can be tricky for us to support young designers starting out as they can’t always afford the high minimum order quantities. Our organic cotton fabrics are GOTS certified, because GOTS certification is about the cotton itself and about all the other aspects of the raw materials used and about the production process.

Francesca believes that transparency is key and that companies should show how they are producing fabric or garments.

I really like it when a clothing brand uses Berto in their marketing as a key goal for us to explain the value chain so that people have more of an idea about where the fabric used to make their clothing comes from. After all, the fabric is the most important part of any garment, we should give it the attention it deserves.