Guido Bertelli, Director of Sales and Export for Tessitura Toscana Telerie, (known worldwide as “TTT”), chats with Misto Lino about his family’s iconic linens company. We caught up with Guido via FaceTime from their headquarters just outside Florence, where the family creates home linens with an artistic joy that seems to leap off the fabric. Guido provides a peek into their world where innovation and technological advancements thrive together with time-honored tradition, artisan hearts, and the perennially Italian obsession with design and details.
ML: Guido…first and foremost, congratulations on the birth of your son!
GB: Yes, thank you! He was born on January 2nd; his name is Giulio. Of course he is teaching us new things every day!
ML: Your company is based in beautiful Tuscany, near Florence. What is the name of your town, and do most of your employees live there?
GB: We are in Sesto Fiorentino, very close to Florence. Sesto means “sixth,” and the town’s name comes from the ancient Romans who named it so because it is six Roman miles away from the center of Florence. (Note: Sextus ab urbe lapis, translates to “on the Sixth Mile from the town stone.”) It is also where the Ginori porcelain factory was founded in 1735. Many small businesses are here in Sesto. Our employees all live close by, which makes it very convenient for them to go home for lunch if they choose and spend time with family.
The panoramic gardens of Villa Il Casale, dating back to the 14th century.
Pieve di San Martino: a church in Sesto Fiorentino originally built in 868,
rebuilt in the early 13th century.
ML: Your website tells of the history of your company, and how two families came together and started the business with a handshake in 1947. Which of those families are you related to, and how do the families work together today?
GB: Vinicio Tarli was my grandfather—my mother’s father, so I am now third generation in the business. The activities of the company are separated between the two families, and it is a wonderful partnership. The family of my grandfather’s partner, Fano Puliti, handles all of the administration and accounting, while our family takes care of product development, sales, and customer relationships.
TTT founders, Fano Puliti and Vinicio Tarli
ML: Your father, Carlo, has been the Creative Director for years, though we understand he is “trying” to retire. Where does he get his inspiration for the designs on your tablecloths and other pieces?
GB: Most ideas come from our trips and travelling all over the world. This is the greatest inspiration. Every six months we renew the collection. And sometimes we discontinue designs to make way for new ones and to keep things fresh. New design development might take more than one year from the first drawing to production.
ML: Was it expected that you would join the family business? What do you enjoy most about it?
GB: It was expected and I was very happy to do it! In Italy it is quite common for family businesses to continue with each generation. I am honored to follow my grandfather and father, and I feel lucky. I studied economics in school. When I started working here, I did everything from very basics tasks, and now have been heading sales and export for seven years. What I most enjoy is travelling and developing new items.
Guido amid the California Redwoods
ML: Does your mother, Francesca, also work for TTT?
GB: Yes, she is incredibly talented, especially with hemming, stitching, and the bedding finishes. My mother is truly the best hem technician and stylist. She still comes to work every day, for at least half a day, solving various issues and providing ideas.
ML: What is a typical day for you?
GB: I rise at 7:30 and take about one hour for the morning to have breakfast and spend time with family. I live five minutes away, so I’m in the office by 8:30. My day depends on the period or season; for instance, we may be participating in trade shows elsewhere in Europe. We take 90 minutes for lunch, then afternoons are typically for working on new developments, special projects and private label collections. (Note: TTT has provided private label bedding collections for Restoration Hardware for over 15 years). Our office closes at 5:30pm; however, family members and managers often stay until maybe 7:30pm. We also need to be available in the evenings to speak to our U.S. customers due to the time difference.
La famigia! From left: Patrizia, Carlo, Michele, Francesca, Guido, Giulia, Andrea
ML: Your designs are so unique; from elegant and timeless to very whimsical. Is there a message you are trying to convey with the artistic element?
GB: At the very least, we are conveying the Italian way of life, transmitting emotions. Our designs all begin as original artwork and are transformed by digital print. It’s very clear to us that people purchase our products in an emotional way. For instance, our bestselling tablecloth shape is the square. This is obviously not the most common table size people have in their homes. But they buy this shape because they can put it anywhere. They’ve fallen in love with design and they don’t mind that it’s not a perfect fit for the table.
ML: What is your largest geographical market? Is it Italy?
GB: About 30%-40% is made for Italy and Europe. For the rest, about 60% of it is for the U.S. We are not as well-known to other European countries because so much of our production is private label. For over 35 years we have been supplying private label items to the U.S.
ML: Where does production actually take place?
GB: In Italy there are few completely vertical mills. Here in Sesto we do the cutting, sewing, development, and warehousing. Most of the linens are then woven in Northern Italy, and all are finished according to our company’s standards of quality. We have worked with our partners in the north for 50 years.
Speaking of the North: Guido and his wife, Rachele, hiking in the Dolomites
ML: Can you talk about the importance of TTT being environmentally-friendly?
GB: It’s incredibly important to us; it’s not always easy to do but we are committed to sustainability. We have solar panels on the roof, and in our mill, most of our energy is from solar power. We sell the energy we don’t use and reintroduce it to the energy net. This is a good thing because we are able to save money for prints but also save energy at a low cost for our town. Yes, we are turning to organic, biodegradable plastic for our packaging. For our stonewashed items, we provide packaging made by the same fabric as the item itself. And of course, we follow the very strict OEKO-TEX guidelines.
Linen duvet and the bag it comes in...all made from the same fabric!
ML: Your English is beautiful. Did you mostly learn it in school?
GB: I mostly learned it by travelling. It was actually learned out of necessity for the business. I also love to watch movies in English.
ML: What can we expect from TTT in the near future?
GB: We will definitely have new products and especially enjoy developing items for usefulness. One thing we are trying to focus on is to gain the interest of the younger generations. In the world of textiles and home linens, an appreciation for such things often doesn’t happen until a bit later in life. So we are trying to get closer to them with good price points and designs.
ML: If you weren’t working for your family company, what career do you think you might have had?
GB: Hmmm, maybe a forest ranger? I love nature and being outside, hiking and skiing. I really love the mountains the most!
Guido the forest ranger :) in Essex, Montana
To see a beautiful array of linens from TTT, come by either of our stores or shop online!