A Visit to the World’s Finest Fabric Shop

finest fabric shopI know, I know..this is a big assertion, “the world’s finest fabric shop..”  After all, the world’s a big place and there are a lot of good fabric shops, but please read on and you’ll understand.  As I’ve written about many times before, I’ve been sewing all my life.  I’ve also been fortunate enough to have lived in quite a few different countries and travelled a lot.  So as you can imagine, I’ve seen a lot of fabric shops in my day.  All that being said, nothing could have prepared me for what I discovered in Florence, Italy a few weeks ago when we were on holiday there.

finest fabric shop

Florence, Italy from Plaza Michelangelo

I was walking down one of the beautiful side streets just next to the famous Duomo and I saw this window display with some of the most lovely fabrics I’d ever seen.

I found myself in Casa dei Tessuti or simply “House of Fabrics” in English.  From the cover photo in the article, you’ll see the Duomo in the background and get a sense just how central this shop is.

Inside the shop were shelves and shelves of some of the most incredible fabrics I’d ever seen.  I’ve definitely been to bigger fabric shops, but certainly nothing like this in terms of quality, brands and history.

finest fabric shop

Names like Dior, Dolce & Gabbana, Chanel, Versace, Valentino, Ungaro, Pucci, Cavalli and Armani are known to many as fashion designers, but most don’t know that these fashion houses not only design garments but they also design their own original custom fabrics that are used in their creations.  All made in Italy.

Most of these fabrics are produced by the storied Italian fabric mills based around what’s poetically called the Stada della Lana or the “Wool Road” in Northwest Italy roughly between Milan and Turin.  These names are less well known but form the backbone of the global fine and luxury textile markets where quality and design are paramount.  Some of the better known are Lanificio Egidio Ferla or simply called Ferla as well as Vitale Barberis Canonico who have been producing fabrics since 1663!

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I’m not sure anyone could consider the fabrics on offer at Casa dei Tessuti to be inexpensive.  They most definitely are not, but they are of truly exceptional design and quality.  And the selection that the store carries is extraordinary.  It would be easy to spend a fortune in this place.

Stunned with being surrounded by so many wonderful fabrics, I was was furiously snapping photos to share with you on the blog when I was approached by a portly man who seemed a little concerned with my now overheating iPhone.  (In hindsight, most of the fabric designs are originals and proprietary to the designers, so the apprehension is understandable.)

finest fabric shop

In the end, I had a long conversation and interviewed the the manager, Mr. Andrea Spulcioni, who has worked at the shop for more than 40 years.  Casa dei Tessuti, dates from 1929 when it was founded by Egisto Romoli, a native of  Florence.  The store has been the inspiration and source of many designers from around the world.  Andrea said he has tended to the Queens of Denmark and Holland as well as international stars like Cher and various rock bands.  He has also tended to people who walked into the store seemingly in rags and walked away after spending thousands of Euros.

The conversation with Andrea was interesting.  Today, he laments that most people don’t seem to dress with care like they used to.  Most of his customers today come because they are connoisseurs of textiles or those, like me, who are attracted to the quality from the window display.

finest fabric shop finest fabric shop

On a curious note, Andrea said that only men work in the store.  In Italy, it’s perceived that women would potentially be limited by jealousy while a man only cares to see a woman more beautiful and therefore is better at recommending colors to them.  Ahh, Italy..

My biggest regret is that I could not speak with Andrea more.  I can only imagine the stories he has to tell in more than 40 years working at Casa dei Tessuti.

Here were a couple of my finds that hopefully you’ll see in upcoming posts, a Dior silk print with lace back and a Chanel pure wool double crepe in red.  Wow.  Magnificent.

finest fabric shop

While I didn’t know it at the time, if you look on their website, you’ll note that Casa dei Tessuti offer guided tours of the shop.  Any fabric shop where people line up for tours is probably a pretty good fabric shop.  In my book, it’s the finest fabric shop in the world.  If you’re ever in Florence, you really must check it out.  Any please say hello to Andrea for us!


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25 Responses to A Visit to the World’s Finest Fabric Shop

  1. Linda C Martin says:

    Thank you for telling us about this wonderful shop. I will definitely add it to my “go to” places next time I get to Florence. Another fun store that shouldn’t be missed is called Mustafa’s in Little India in Singapore. It is a huge store (8 floors and over 400,000 square feet) that sells everything imaginable but when I asked where the fabric was, nobody knew. They only knew what they sold since the store (really 2 stores) was eight levels and about a square block large. They even sold cars in their parking lot! On the way out, after looking for fabric on several floors and losing my husband more than once, he spotted it in the basement. We ran down the stairs and spent a couple hours looking at all the piles of bolts of fabric, and many batiks, and selecting some to take home. The prices were very reasonable and it was fun to search the mismash of bolts, piled higher than we were tall. We had a salesman help us pull the desired bolts so we could see them better and make our selections. So, if you get there, now you know where the fabric is located, down the stairs in the basement. Have fun!!

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      Hi Linda, yes, indeed Mustafa’s is an institution here in Singapore and even one for much of the rest of Asia. There would be people who travel from all over the region to Singapore just to go there. Anyone traveling to Singapore should definitely check it out. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

  2. Catherine says:

    Wish I would have heard about the store sooner. My daughter was in Florence last week and is on the plane flying home as I type this. Would have had her stop and shop for me.

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      Hi Catherine, sorry to hear your daughter missed it. If she’s into fabrics and sewing, she was in for a treat.

  3. Claudette says:

    Wow I wish I had know about this fabric store when we were in Florence last October 2015 ! How I would love to go back !

  4. Marie Stanley says:

    I totally understand. After living in Europe for 6 years I’ve seen some of the most beautiful Ladies ( they seem to be more careful about their looks then we are) . I’ve always thought the same about beauticians, the best cut, the best colors are gotten from men. They see us through a different eye

  5. Beverly says:

    I will try to contact my girlfriend who just left for two weeks in Italy. She had one day set aside for fabric shopping but she would be traveling during that one day. She could just stay in Florence and shop. I like the leather school also.

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      yes, Beverly I do hope your get can reach your girlfriend, and you are right the leather school is a great place to pick a flawlessly made handbag, it is a great school. If I knew Italian I would make a point to take a class.

  6. betty cuykx says:

    I know the shop. I agree with you it is really the best shop I know!!

  7. Ana Sullivan says:

    I have been there!!! What a beautiful store. I always make it a habit to find fabric stores wherever I travel. I don’t always have something in mind to make. At this store, I did not have any idea of what to make so I left with just the experience of touching and seeing such incredible fabrics.

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      I think is easy to feel overwhelmed by the choices. I spent most of the time browsing, in fact I went 3 times until I gather enough courage to choose what I wanted.

  8. LV says:

    It sounds like a beautiful treasure trove. Definitely, on my places to see when in Florence.

  9. Elisabeth says:

    Great post, so fascinating! I travel quite a bit too but I’m not sure I could afford Dior fabrics… Can you suggest other shops in the world for tighter budgets? I’m heading to either So. France or Italy in Dec and would love some suggestions. I might also spend a few days in Morocco looking for textiles there as well. Thank you for all your hard work!

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      Hi Elisabeth, thanks for your note. I can assure you I didn’t buy much Dior fabric, but just couldn’t resist. I’m just planning to use it very sparingly and to plan my pattern well so as not to waste any. While I can’t promise you it is a lot cheaper, if you’re in Paris, a trip to Tissus Reine would be an experience. Have fun and safe travels.

  10. Mary says:

    This sounds wonderful and it will be on my list of places to visit X

  11. Sherry Lance says:

    Wow!! Just wow. I personally would love to see this shop. My family is from Europe (Spain, to be exact) and yes there was a little of that jealousy between the women. The other side of the family (Scots) used to measure each other’s waists to see who had the smallest measurement. I have to say I was a little jealous because of the way I am built I would never be able to have a waist size like them. Last I heard 17 inches was the smallest and there were no corsets involved.

  12. Emmy Ziegler says:

    Wonderful visit. People need to get over labeling things, such as “sexist”. I’m a woman, and I do believe that a lot of the times, women ARE jealous of each other’s looks, their weight, hair, whatever…

  13. Pamela Watt says:

    I guess it’s a different culture, but how sexist to say that women can’t recommend fabric because they’d be too jealous of the other woman looking good. Oh well.

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      Hi Pamela, what the founder meant and this is in 1929 (different world) that women are jealous of each other by nature, and therefore not always able to give an honest recommendation. How many times have gone shopping with a girlfriend and bought the wrong thing? A true friend will make you come out of your comfort zone and also give you an honest opinion. How close can you be to a shop keeper you just met?

What do you think?