After long gestation, The Rake magazine has finally launched its coffee-table book, Hand of the Artisan: The Soul of Italian Luxury.
It is a tour through 17 different Italian manufacturers, heavily illustrated with handsome, technical and usually black and white photography by Jason Michael Lang. The text, by Jonathan Lobban, is sparse by comparison but does well at explaining the tradition of each brand and what distinguishes it today.
The differences are fewer than one might think, given that the brands vary from tailor Brioni to jeweller Bulgari, carmaker Lamborghini to furniture-maker Poltrona Frau. All the companies have a commitment to quality and local craft in common, but more interestingly most share the Italian tendency to communalise the workforce, providing accommodation, catering and other amenities such as day care.
Brioni established the model for the factory-sized sartorial workshop, when it moved from Via Barberini in Rome out to the small town of Penne in 1959. The plan for craft on a mass scale led inevitably to corporate support networks, and soon every factory built on that model had subsidised, high-quality canteens where management ate with staff. Everyone from Kiton to Pal Zileri, and in the modern age Brunello Cuccinelli, followed suit.
This is not an investigative work. There is little analysis; most of the text is straightforward history. But there are lovely little stories to be told, such as the little-known Agnona, whose proprietor Francesco Ilorini Mo travelled the world to track down cashmere and vicuna long before it was fashionable to do so.
I find it interesting, too, how the close-up photography brings out similarities between all the different crafts – each is, in the end, about delicacy, artistry and a fine, consistent eye for detail. About the hand of the artisan.
On sale from The Rake site for $149.95.