The City of Prato with more than 190,000 inhabitants is Tuscany's second largest city and the third largest in Central Italy, after Rome and Florence. Prato is famous worldwide for its textile district, which represents about 3% of European textile production. 3.500 textile enterprises, and more than 4.000 clothing enterprises employ about 33.000 workers in what is considered an industry at the service of the big fashion brands but also the production of fast fashion, a sector in which Prato is the European leader and reference big organised distribution.
Prato is a city where many cultures live together and which, with contradictions and problems, integrates knowledge and lifestyles, forming a melting pot that has always characterized it. The strong migration flows are closely tired with the entrepreneurial vocation of Prato that in 60 years has doubled its population, from 98,000 at the end of the 50s to almost 200,000 today. Coming mostly from neighboring towns until the early '60s, then from the regions of Southern Italy, especially Puglia and Basilicata, and finally since the early 80's from more than 124 countries in the world, men and women have settled in Prato, a city that has been able to welcome them among thousand contradictions, evolving its own identity and becoming an integration place. Today, only one out of two was born in Prato, 33,000 come from other countries with a predominance of citizens of Chinese nationality, almost 19,000 residents registered at the registry office.
The presence of a large Chinese community, settled mainly in the so called “Macrolotto Zero” area but now spread in other areas of the city, is a strong characteristic element of the city, not only for the relevance of the presence, almost one citizen in ten is of Chinese nationality, but also for the peculiarity of the settlement. The biggest part of Chinese citizens work as manufacturing entrepreneurs, especially in dressmaking and ready to wear industry, but also in more traditional sectors of the textile industry; the typical business activities of other cities are widespread but mostly to their community service. Innovation is in the DNA of Prato's textile district. Prato companies have an age-old wool-processing tradition, and over time they have stratified their technical knowledge, learning to address new and different scenarios in the textile-clothing sector. It is this 'know-how', combined with its entrepreneurial spirit and attitude to change, that have made it possible for this area to keep its vocation alive for over a thousand years.
In recent decades, fashion changes, the rise of new manufacturing centres, technological transformations and international competition have led companies to step up their research and development activities. The objective is that of addressing the market of textiles and fast-moving fashion with low technical-quality content, moving towards aesthetic and technological productions with high value-added.
Highly specialized fashion and new sectors Manufacturing specialization, a characteristic feature of this district, has intensified: while companies dedicated to clothing concentrate on the use of new fibres, yarns, machining and finishing, others have decided to apply the knowledge acquired in the fashion sector to new areas, such as security and protection, sports and functional clothing, engineering, architecture, and medicine.