Seeking to provide customers with unique fabrics, Loro Piana is developing a fiber that originates from the lotus flower.

This story first appeared in the December 17, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

“This is a natural and antique fiber that has never been used this way before in the West,” said co-chief executive officer Sergio Loro Piana, who registered the Loro Piana Lotus Flower trademark internationally. “It’s a sacred flower: Buddha is often portrayed sitting on a bed of lotuses and the fiber is traditionally linked to his clothes.”

The brand has signed agreements with the Inthi population, natives of Burma’s Lake Inle who traditionally work the fiber, to continue to do so exclusively for the Italian company.

“This artisanal technique, entirely made by hand, is in risk of extinction,” said Loro Piana, who has traveled to the region. “This project will allow to support the people there, who will be able to continue to live and work locally and keep this tradition alive and improve their quality of life in harmony with nature.”

Loro Piana said the fiber is “extraordinary” and, given its exclusivity, he defined it “the summer vicuña” because of its lightness.

The aquatic flowers grow spontaneously and are gathered from May to December. The yarn must be woven within 24 hours or it deteriorates. The artisans in Burma usually produce 120 grams of yarn a day, or 50 meters of fabric a month. Two meters of yarn are made from four stems. Loro Piana, who showcased his own ecru summer jacket made with this fiber, said the fabric is reminiscent of linen or silk, is soft, yet resilient and elastic, transpiring and wrinkle-free.

The company plans to offer a made-to-order service and one such jacket is expected to retail at 3,500 to 4,000 euros, or $4,855 to $5,548 at current exchange. “This is still a very limited production, as the fabric is even less available than vicuña or baby cashmere,” Loro Piana said.

The pieces will be packaged in special Burmese, artisanal and lacquered boxes.

The company has a history of being involved in countries such as Australia, New Zealand, China and Mongolia in order to stimulate and control production of the finest cashmere and wool. Two years ago the company moved from breeding the animals it shears to acquiring the land they feed on, purchasing 2,000 hectares in Peru to preserve the vicuña.

Loro Piana, which has more than 130 stores worldwide, manufactures men’s, women’s, home furnishings and accessories collections in its own facilities, based outside Vercelli in northern Italy.