With the azure waters of the Caribbean Sea winking behind him, Pier Luigi Loro Piana – a gracious, moustachioed man – seems to lead a pretty charmed life. As deputy chairman of the luxury goods and textile empire – now part of the LVMH group – that bears his surname, he has a string of homes worldwide, a loving family and is not only an accomplished yachtsman, but dabbles in a handful of equestrian sports, to boot. ‘I work hard to play hard,’ he explains. ‘I love nature, so anything like sailing, skiing or horse riding is something I have always been attracted to.'
Originating from humble beginnings in the northern Italian town of Trivero, the Loro Piana family were wool merchants in the early 19th century before the company, as it’s known today, was established in 1924. Slowly carving out a standing in high fashion, it wasn’t until Franco Loro Piana took over the helm that raw materials became the firm’s focus, in turn creating the framework for his sons, Pier Luigi and the now late Sergio to make their mark in the world of sustainable fine fabrics. In fact, the pair were so particular about sourcing the best raw materials, they even went as far as to purchase a natural reserve in the mountains of Peru to protect the vicuña, an endangered camelid – which was depleting through poaching – that yields the most precious fibre in the world.
Not stopping there, the Loro Pianas then went on to woo China and Mongolia, first by gaining access to the finest cashmere and then – after a decade of persuading the growers – by initiating baby cashmere, the harmless collection of the sparse underfleece of Hircus goat kids under the age of 12 months. ‘There is always something new about the same raw material,’ says Loro Piana. ‘Cashmere is our traditional fibre and there is always something to learn and to better,’ he continues. ‘The output of this new material can be a new product: softer, nicer, stronger, more functional and the quality more superior.’
Inevitably, in a bid to remain at the top of the game, Loro Piana is continually on the hunt for new and innovative forms of natural textiles. And high on the list is the Lotus flower fibre. Unused as a yarn in the western world, the stems of this aquatic plant – which only grows in the waters of Lake Inle in eastern Myanmar – are used to make a fine raw material that sees them first collected by hand and then once the filaments are rolled, worked with a wooden loom- all within 24 hours after picking. (6,500 stems are necessary to obtain the yarn to make a single cut length for a blazer.)
Pioneering projects aside, Loro Piana’s latest venture focuses on the attributes of the humble sheep, with the group gaining exclusive access to Australia and New Zealand’s finest offerings, which at a record-breaking 10.6 microns per fibre, is 29.4 microns less than a human hair.
The global luxury market, worth around €223bn, is flourishing. ‘I see the absolute luxury segment growing faster than the rest of the economy,’ says Loro Piana. In response, the company now has a growing product range and a coveted interiors collection that includes over 600 fabrics specially created for a range of homes from mountainside chalets to seaside lodges and of course, superyachts. There are 156 stores in locations as far flung as Azerbaijan and Kuwait, and with the participation in a host of sporting events from sailing to show-jumping and vintage car racing, it is apparent that Loro Piana is not just a brand, it is a lifestyle.