"DIGIKNIT. The MF1 historical archive digitised"

Giovanni Maria Conti

I am an associate professor at the Department of Design. My field of interest is knitwear design and I am the director of the Specializing Master in Fiber Design and Textile Processes in collaboration with Città Studi Biella.

DIGIKNIT is a project to digitise the most important historical collection of Italian-made knitted garments to develop innovative digital services that can foster the creative process and give new life to manufacturing in the knitwear sector.

Giovanni Maria Conti

This research has had a positive impact on the “way of” conducting research for educational purposes in the area of knitwear design in which tradition becomes a deep well on which to draw for the creation of innovative, contemporary products, in which technology, although traditional, is updated and responds to modern industrial approaches to production.

The project, co-funded by the Lombardy Region, has seen a research partnership established between MF1, Power App and the Politecnico di Milano Department of Design.

The project’s main objective was to preserve and conserve the legacy of technical and styling knowledge contained in the MF1 archive, which consists of around 7,500 garments, through its digitisation, in order to transform it into an active resource in the development of an innovative educational and refresher service and tool for all fashion stakeholders, with a particular focus on the younger generations of designers. The final result is the development of a web-based platform not only for digitally cataloguing knitted garments but also for exploiting digital products for the styling and creative process for the new generation of knitwear designers.

The activities and outcomes of the project to date are therefore the cataloguing of the garments in the archive, the creation and completion of product data sheets, and the identification of the products subdivided according to shape, material, weave and manufacturing processes, as well as participation in the creation of the application.

The research project, entitled “DIGIKNIT: digitisation of the most important historical collection of Italian-made knitwear garments for the development of innovative digital services capable of fostering the creative process and giving new life to manufacturing in the knitwear sector”, was funded by the Lombardy Region as part of the call for project proposals entitled “SMART FASHION AND DESIGN”. One of the final stages included the organisation of an exhibition highlighting the cultural value of the MF1 company archive. The result was the exhibition project “Maglia, punto. Quarant’anni di tesori nascosti dell’archivio MF1”, which presents some of the results of the research conducted in collaboration with the Politecnico di Milano’s Department of Design, the MF1 knitwear factory and Power App in order to promote the use, knowledge and accessibility of the archive in addition to capturing all of the design, production and research aspects made available by the MF1 knitwear factory, not just to the major Italian fashion brands.

During the exhibition itinerary, during which 70 of MF1’s approximately 7,500 garments were displayed, visitors had the opportunity to interact with the digitised archive: a platform that was accessible via both web and mobile devices, containing the photographs and manufacturing details of the garments in the archive. Indeed, the process of digitisation of all the material contained within the company was important to the research as it made it more easily consultable both for professionals and young designers, consultants and journalists, as well as students interested for professional reasons or purely out of passion in the knitwear sector. Thanks to the multimedia platform it is possible to obtain information in real time about the garments contained in the archive by simply searching for the code of the garment from within the application, consulting the explanatory technical data sheets for each item, and creating a gallery of “favourite” products, allowing everybody to use what is preserved in the archive in a contemporary, innovative fashion.

Digitisation bears witness to how the creation and development of innovative digital services makes it enables users to understand the historical and cultural as well as the technical value of the products conserved by a company and to use history as a current, innovative tool for the creation of contemporary products.

This research has had a positive impact on the “way of” conducting research for educational purposes in the field of design for knitwear in which tradition becomes a deep well on which to draw for the creation of innovative, contemporary products, in which technology, although tradititional, is updated and responds to modern industrial approaches to production.

Text taken from the catalogue of the exhibition entitled “Maglia, punto. Quarant’anni di tesori nascosti dell’archivio MF1” by Giovanni Maria Conti, published by Silvana Editoriale.

The project was developed by Knitlab, a research group at the Department of Design, which concerns itself with knitwear design projects. On the knitlab.org platform information about knitwear is available, along with the technical characteristics of yarns and needles and any information connected with the world of modern knitwear. Students’ work is regularly published, and for us it is a place in which it is possible to understand how knitwear design is progressing in today’s contemporary world.

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