We were on the 22nd July 1947 when Lanificios Império brand is created under the name of “Lanificios Império de Esteves, Santos & Botelho, Lda”. The factory would become the most important within the region, taking advantage of the proximity to the raw material, the sheep’s wool, and the local tradition that brought generations of knowledge in its treatment. Thus it remained for years, providing days of prosperity for the village of Manteigas and its population.
During the 2008 crisis, the wool factory, like many other sectors, was directly affected, which would force it into its insolvency years later, in November 2011. A direct threat to the population because it was the main source of subsistence, income and employment. Those were hard days for Manteigas, where the future was beginning to fade under a pretext that was quite difficult to be understood. A situation that led to a high rate of local unemployment, its impoverishment and demoralisation.
That was the scenario we found when we discovered Serra da Estrela, and the factory discovered us: fragments of a past that already seemed distant, without prospects for the future. A sleeping village with no strength to respond to the needs that the contemporary days demanded. A culture that dissipated in the stories of the past to become a distant memory, and that would end up dying together with those who helped to weave it. Who helped the region to thrive.
That was when we started to intervene in order to recover all that heritage, the knowledge, the machines, the people and the culture. We acquired the machines from the 19th century and the first half of 20th century, which would be useless if we let it pass the scrap or museum imagery, to give them a breath of life and wool. We went to the facilities that belonged to the old Sotave (another bankrupt local factory) and gave a lead to a project that made this old looms be loud again, to wake up the mountain to what has always given it greater height.
In 2012 we were already the Burel Factory brand, and Lanificios Império an exclusive sub-brand of clothing fabrics, such as flannels, meltons, tartans, bouclés, tweeds and many others…we are still being surprised with samples remaining in the back of the drawers. Today we continue with them destined for fashion and accessories, with some already being part of collections of designers who saw in them the quality guaranteed by the hands of an entire region, their authenticity in design. Today part of this estate is present at important fabric fairs such as the Premiere Vision in Paris to continue the woolly narrative. And today means tomorrow.
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