Valencia is determined to revive the symbols which historically made it one of the most renowned European cities in the silk industry.
During the 15th Century many artisan workshops and businesses related to the production of high quality silk were established in the city of Valencia. These workshops came together around the district which today is officially known as El Pilar due to the location of the former Dominican monastery of Our Lady of the Pillar, which lends its name to the church standing in its place today – although traditionally the district is also known as Velluters (“vellut” means “silk” in Valencian and so “Velluters” can be translated as the trade of silk craftsmen). This area of Valencia, located in the Ciutat Vella or historic centre of the city, was initially found outside the original Arab wall, but from 1356 it would form part of the city’s urban fabric following the construction of a new wall by order of King Peter the Ceremonious.
The influence of Valencia’s silk trade from the 15th century until the middle of the 19th century, when the industry began to decline, has left behind buildings of the calibre of the Silk Exchange – an example of Gothic civil architecture and listed as a World Heritage site – and the College of High Silk Art, which has been restored to its former glory thanks to the comprehensive refurbishment sponsored by the Hortensia Herrero Foundation.
Regarding this restoration, it should be noted that UNESCO, benefiting from the significance of the Silk Exchange’s first twenty years as a World Heritage site, held the second International Meeting of the UNESCO Silk Road Programme in Valencia, following on from its executive committee meeting in the city during last year’s Fallas celebrations. The nomination of the capital Turia as City of Silk 2016, part of a strategy aimed at equating Valencia with other cities associated with this new Silk Road such as Xian in China, Istanbul in Turkey, Samarkand in Uzbekistan and Venice in Italy, is testament to these close relations between Valencia and UNESCO.
The latest step to reignite this rich history has been the showcasing of the Silk Road identity, undertaken by the studio Martínez Branding with veteran Valencian designer Juan Martínez, creator of the poster campaigns for the Cevisama Exhibition among other works, at its head. This Road will encompass buildings and monuments such as the aforementioned College of High Silk Art and Silk Exchange, as well as others of undoubted importance including the Central Market and the Garín Factory in the municipality of Moncada. The new identity conceived by Martínez originates from a floral design, taken from a piece of 18th Century embroidered silk material. During the research process of this project, Martínez benefited from the support of dressmaker and clothing expert María Victoria Liceras. The typography he used is based on historic printing dating back to the 16th Century, which is now on display in the Silk Exchange.