Softer than cotton wool, more ethereal than the pollen that flies in the spring: this is vicuña, perhaps the most valuable and rare animal fibre there is. A stock of these precious fibres, together with merinos, cashmere, alpaca and mohair, is on display, like a kind of textile gold, in the Schneider Group warehouse near Biella, in Verrone to be precise, in the golden triangle of the world wool industry.
The Group's history began 100 years ago, with Daniele, who entered the Italian textile industry to become a Director and manage the Wool Mill in Tollegno. His son Jean, in 1918, took leave from the military at the end of the Great War and set his sights on Australia, where merino sheep breeding was widespread. Jean visited all the wool mills in Biella and selected the best quality wool for them. So, every year he leaved from Sydney or Melbourne, collected their orders and sent them after a few months to the clients. But soon, the textile customers started asking for more, they wanted wool already combed, ready for the spinning mills.
Marco, Jean's son, obtained a degree in aeronautical engineering and chose to do the same job as his father, but he brought with him a major change, that of introducing certain stages of production. He first bought a company in Rieti and then the combing plant in Verrone. Business proceeded well and Schneider expanded abroad, with plants in China and Argentina.
And so it is that between archaic pastoralism and the future forefront of fine manufacturing, Elena and Giovanni Schneider arrive.
"I associate our job with that of the good winemaker. - says Giovanni Schneider with a smile - To make a good textile product, we need a raw material of the highest quality to be selected with extreme care. Grapes for the winemaker, wool for us. Which must be skillfully blended to obtain a product that is homogenous over time and of excellent quality."
"Tradition, quality and globality are and remain our keywords,” says Giovanni Schneider. “These are our founding principles, to which we have, for some years now, added integrated sustainability at all stages of our production.
The company has always been very close to the farmers and the rural world, and the strategy is to cultivate the relationship with the farmers as much as possible. This is because today issues such as animal welfare and respect for the environment are crucial.
The combination of these values has been configured into a true management model through 'Authentico', the project that allows us to trace and guarantee the quality of the fibers that are bought and processed.
"Authentico was born with our father," recall Giovanni and Elena Schneider, "who had seen at an auction two beautiful paintings by the same author at very different price because the sellers could not certify all the changes of ownership and, therefore, the authenticity of one of them."
The next challenge is now regenerative agriculture, to convince farmers to use farming practices that reduce CO2 emissions. And if anyone can win this challenge, it is the Schneiders, who have been cultivating relationships with farmers for a hundred years and are able to interact with them: it is no coincidence that the very few farmers who produce the world's finest wool are among their suppliers.
A company with great traditions and, at the same time, very modern that, a few months ago, launched a partnership between company and creditor-investor. A new phase of growth planned by the family and supported by the entry of the "illimity Credit & Corporate Turnaround" Fund managed by illimity SGR to relaunch, with the global ambitions it deserves, its growth strategy after the pandemic setback suffered from 2020 onwards.
"The new development leverages recognised quality leadership and links it with a total commitment to sustainability," explains Laura Ros, CEO of Schneider. Since brother and sister took over the company in 2014, things had been going well until the arrival of the pandemic. "At that point we looked around," stated Giovanni and Elena, "and decided to look for a new external partner to help us unhinge some traditional dynamics, and we are happy to have found illimity SGR. Today our strategic goal is to see our company grow and prosper, perhaps even thinking big and considering collaborations with other players in the supply chain, to become part of an even stronger reality."