Prato is one of the largest industrial districts in Italy and one of the most important textile manufacturing centres in the world, producing fashion and furnishing textiles, yarns, fabrics for special uses, knitwear, garments, as well as industrial textile machinery.
The textile vocation of the city dates back to the twelfth century. However, it only became a veritable industry around the second half of the nineteenth century and underwent an expansion explosion after World War II, with the opening up of new markets. In the early Eighties, Prato was indicated as the industrial district model. During the same period, changes in market demands meant that the district was obliged to question its production organisation and its range of products. Companies were forced to differentiate their offering from carded wool fabrics, which ceased to be the district’s exclusive product, by introducing new fibres and processes.
The active businesses are predominantly small in scale and highly specialised. For example, “textile mills” deal with stylistic research, design and sales, while “subcontractors” provide materials and carry out specific processing phases (spinning, weaving, finishing, dyeing etc.). The recent globalisation of the fashion industry has seen production relocation, emerging markets, new production centres and innovative technologies. It has also led to numerous changes such as the increase in newly established companies supplying downstream stages of the supply chain, such as knitwear and garment construction.
Today, Prato is one of the leading textile areas in Europe with approximately 7,200 textile and garment manufacturing companies, boasting over 30,000 employees. The Museum is strongly rooted in the context of production, working to inform the public about manufacturing innovations and transformations, with continuous efforts in archiving new fabrics and materials which merge within the Contemporary Section.