The Loro Piana dynasty is one of the most horse-driven in the fashion industry. From showjumping to high-tech riding jackets, brothers Sergio and Pier Luigi stop at nothing to achieve pure excellence.
Photography RASMUS SKOUSEN Text ANDERS CHRISTIAN MADSEN / The Horse Rider’s Journal No.5
If the reigning lifestyle and high-sportswear purveyors of the world are represented by Ralph Lauren in America, Holland & Holland in England and Hermès in France, their Italian counterpart could be no other than Loro Piana. For more than six generations, this prolific family-owned company has worked tirelessly to bring the crème in luxury yarns and style goods to the world’s most quality-conscious customers. As the patron of the Piazza di Siena in Rome – the top league show jumping competition that will celebrate its eightieth anniversary this year – Loro Piana is a generous supporter in the equestrian world. Not least on the fashion front where the company’s state-of-the-art fabric development and first class techniques have introduced a string of invaluable staples to the wardrobes of discerning riders around the globe.
An accomplished rider in his own right, Sergio Loro Piana is a devoted horseman and animal lover, whose passion for intelligent garments goes beyond the desk of his office in Quarona, Italy. Next to his brother and co-chairman Pier Luigi, he’s responsible for not only making Loro Piana one of the most coveted luxury labels in the world, but also for dressing some of Italy’s most winning riders. For the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, Loro Piana developed the Horsey; a high-tech riding jacket designed for the Italian team. A highly versatile riding garment, the Barrage was created for the 2004 Olympics in Athens using the finest in sportswear technology. Both jackets have gone on to become classics within the comprehensive Loro Piana range and are no longer just the exclusive wardrobe essentials of the equestrian elite.
The brothers are keen outdoor people. Next to his horses, Sergio, the 63-year-old epitome of an Italian gentleman, flies helicopters and sails. The splendour of his boat, Out in the Blue, is only matched by that of his dapper 60-year-old brother Pier Luigi’s 25-meter yacht known as My Song, which has competed in countless regattas around the world and whose crew has served as guinea-pigs whenever a Loro Piana sailing garment has needed testing. While Loro Piana is as much of a leisure and lifestyle label as it is sportswear, Sergio and Pier Luigi have dedicated their work to the discovery and development of fibres and garments. Above all, Lora Piana is a daywear label, similar in legacy, status and Italian soul to Trussardi 1911, Berluti and Gucci, but in a different category from the evening wear, which is often associated with its peers.
The Loro Pianas were a family of wool and fabric merchants who traded in Trivero in the late 1800s. They eventually moved to Valsesia and in 1924, the great uncle of Sergio and Pier Luigi, Pietro Loro Piana founded the company. After the war, his nephew took over and began an international export of fine fabrics. In 1975, Sergio and Pier Luigi took over the company, worth an estimated €1.7 million, from their father. It wasn’t until the 1980s that the brothers extended Loro Piana’s repertoire to include clothes, and that would become a turning point for the old house. In 2008, the company had a reported worth of €426 million.
For Loro Piana, quality takes first priority and there’s no length they won’t go to in their pursuit of excellence. The company buys the finest merinos in Australia and New Zealand, and has established the The World Record Challenge Cup, which finds the year’s finest bales. In Northern China and Mongolia, Lora Piana has contributed to the development of ‘baby cashmere’. Removed harmlessly from the Hyrcus kid’s fleece before it reaches twelve months, it can only be collected once and each kid produces no more than thirty grams. In the Peruvian Andes, Lora Piana has bought a 2,000-acre natural reserve for the preservation of the vicuña, whose sought-after golden pelts made it nearly extinct. Since Loro Piana created the reserve in 1998, the number of vicuña herds has increased from 98,000 to 150,000, and vicuña garments are classics in the label’s range.
But the brothers’ perhaps most eccentric adventure is to be found in Lake Inie in Myanmar. A few years ago, Loro Piana discovered an extremely rare fibre made from the lotus flower, which creates a fabric that feels like a combination of linen and raw silk. The painstaking production requires over 6,500 lotus stems to make a single length of fabric and everything is done by hand. The result is a unique fabric, available to the most discerning of Loro Piana customers in limited editions – for instance in a jacket, which Sergio is said to wear around his Piemontese residence in the Alps. That is, of course, when he’s not out cheering on Loro Piana’s very own Loro Piana Horse Jumping Team or their Loro Piana Polo Team, which won the British Open Gold Cup in 2008. It’s all a part of the Loro Piana lifestyle.•