WP Lavori in Corso was founded in Bologna on the basis of an intuition had by Giuseppe Calori and his daughter Cristina, the current director of the Group. During a long trip across the United States, they came across various brands, totally unknown in Italy at the time, and decided to import them. This marked the start of a story of research and discovery, one which continues to this day. What drew their attention were brands and garments that were both functional and authentic, of excellent quality and high technical standards, yet made to be timeless.
The first brands to be imported were Desert Sons, with handmade moccasins inspired by traditional Native American silhouettes,
and Vanson, a brand known for its handcrafted leather garments, including biker jackets, a cult item ever since the 1960s.
The 1980s were fundamental for the history of the Group: it was then that the foundations were laid for a long collaboration with brands that would become true timeless icons, such as Vans, Woolrich, Barbour and Paraboot.
In 1983, WP became the ideal partner for Vans to approach the European market, particularly the Italian one: a partnership that would last ten years. The collaboration was strengthened thanks to a number of special projects: WP created a collection and various patterns exclusively for Vans for the European market, and convinced them to expand their shoe line by introducing models for running, basketball, aerobics and snowboarding too.
The encounter with Woolrich on a trip to the United States was the fruit of a happy chance, just like in the very best stories. While stopping off at a sardine-canning company, Giuseppe and Cristina noticed that all the employees were wearing the same parka, perfect for enduring the cold of the refrigeration cells. This was a feature that had made Woolrich the number one outdoor clothing brand in America.
1984 – 1986
In 1984, WP became the first Italian distributor of the British Barbour brand. That same year, it also began to import Paraboot.
In 1985, two distribution channels were opened: the first more related to the world of fashion, with innovative design brands such as Parachute, Anna Sui, Vivienne Tam and Stephen Sprouse; the second with more casual heritage brands such as Paraboot, Filson, Pendleton and Barbour. In 1985, the first WP Store also opened in Bologna, on Via dei Mille.
Barbour – The collaboration with Barbour dates back to 1984, during a trip to London. It was then that WP became its first and only Italian distributor, and a close partnership was formed that has been going strong for almost forty years, the success of it also being down to the fact that they are two family businesses. Over the decades, Barbour has consolidated its position, growing from a small local company to a global lifestyle brand, and expanding the collection to meet the needs of various types of customers, forever in respect of the brand’s founding principles: quality, durability and functionality. The Beaufort and Bedale jackets soon became style icons thanks to their iconic British look and incredible long-lastingness.
Paraboot – One of the first brands that WP discovered and began distributing in 1984. The WP team was looking for footwear that was both comfortable and durable; they knew they had found the right one when they found out Paraboot was an official supplier to the French army.
Filson – In 1985, WP began to import Filson: a legendary brand of durable outdoor clothing created specifically to protect Alaskan gold miners, and whose garments Hemingway himself is said to have worn on his African safaris.
Pendleton – Selected in 1984, its wool blankets are known for quality craftsmanship and beautiful weaves and designs. Originally devised with Native Americans in mind, these fabrics have the attribute of being decorated all over the surface, as American Indians believed a fabric decorated only in the center would only bring bad luck to its owner.
Stephen Sprouse – In 1985, the WP buyers met Stephen Sprouse in New York. His studio on Union Square had gold walls and clearly conveyed the Pop Art influence of Andy Warhol’s Factory. His garments were true works of art in which the boundaries between fashion and art were clearly crossed.
The first WP Store – In 1985, the first WP Store opened its doors in Bologna. Right from the start, the store presented itself as the hub of WP’s stylistic research, offering a wide assortment of authentic, traditional and contemporary brands from all over the world, carefully selected in to offer customers a unique shopping experience. It was the first such concept store to open in Italy.
1987 – 1988
In 1987, WP began importing Inverallan: a Scottish knitwear brand.
In 1988, it was the turn of Kiehls and Dr. Bronner’s body care products.
Also in 1988, WP collaborated with Vans on the design and production of a sportswear line designed for the Italian market. The collection, which features polo shirts, t- shirts and Bermuda shorts with the famous “Off the Wall” print, was designed by Enzo Fusco. Two years later, its incredible success would lead Van Doren Rubber, the American manufacturer of Vans shoes, to request the collection for the American market as well.
Inverallan – WP introduced Inverallan to Italy in 1987. Inverallan’s hand-spun pullovers are made from the original patterns of Scottish fishermen’s apparel.
1989 – 1991
In 1989, WP acquired the distribution of B.D. Baggies and obtained the Aero Leather trademark. In 1990, it began distribution of Crescent Down Works. In 1991, WP started importing Khaki Jungle and Interstellar Propeller.
B.D. Baggies – The B.D. Baggies shirt is known for its comfort and loose fit. Each shirt is sold inside a cotton bag, just like those used by American college students in the 1950s to avoid losing or swapping their garments in the wash. For this reason it is also known as “the shirt in the bag.”
The Khaki Jungle adventure began with the production of a sportswear line for extreme travelers, ready to face any kind of weather or travel conditions. WP imported the brand to Italy in 1991, just before the chino and military pants trend exploded.
The Interstellar Propeller hat came from Florida, where WP came across it in 1991. The same hat was worn by Tweedledum and Tweedledee in Alice in Wonderland.
1992 – 1996
In 1992, WP celebrated its first ten years, and to mark the occasion, the book "WP Stories. 10 Years Out of Fashion" was published.
In 1994, WP began importing the denim brand Prison Blues: a social rehabilitation project involving Oregon State Prison inmates.
In 1996, it commenced distribution of SperryTop-Sider and Spiewak, which later became a proprietary brand.
To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary, Piaggio chose WP as a partner to launch a Vespa-branded clothing collection.
In 1996, WP came across Spiewak: an American brand based in Brooklyn, NY with a 100-year history. Founded in 1904, it has provided outdoor clothing and accessories for workers such as firefighters, police, and first responders for more than a century. It continues to do so today, but its garments have also emerged as uniforms for everyday life.
1997 – 2008
In 1997, WP acquired the Italian distribution rights to the Australian footwear brand Blundstone, whose history dates back to 1840. The acquisition led it to evolve from a company specializing in work footwear to a fashion icon, now widely loved for its timeless design.
2002 marked the 20th anniversary, which was celebrated with the publication of the collectors’ book 20 Years of W.P. Work in Progress. That same year, WP acquired the Italian license for the surfwear brand Hang Ten.
In 2003, it purchased the Italian distribution rights for American Apparel and the Italian license for the Disney-branded clothing collection.
In 2008, a series of new Japanese brands were introduced to WP Stores: Nanamica, Engineered Garments, Beams and Save Khaki, followed by many others.
2009 – 2015
In 2009, WP acquired the historic Italian knitwear fashion house Avon Celli. 2012 was the 30th anniversary year: to celebrate it, the book Thirty Years of Research in Style, was published by Rizzoli and produced together with Inventory Magazine.
In 2012, WP acquired the British brand Baracuta. 2015: the year of WP Relais. WP opens the doors of a number of unique locations, where the whole interiors are designed by the family to reflect their care and taste.
The Avon Celli brand has been a leading name in luxury Italian knitwear ever since it was founded in Milan in 1922. Appreciated around the world for the quality of its products, it owes its fame to the genius of its founder, Pasquale Celli, who after World War II came up with the founding idea of using stocking looms to make the very finest knitwear. His creations soon became a status symbol, much loved by the likes of Pablo Picasso, Gary Cooper, Clark Gable, Katharine Hepburn, Frank Sinatra, Sophia Lauren, and Gianni Agnelli. A history that prompted WP to invest in the global relaunch of the brand, starting with a contemporary reworking of a great tradition.
Baracuta is the UK-based brand that has been revolutionizing casual menswear since 1937, the year the iconic G9 – better known as the Harrington Jacket – was launched. The brand’s origins are linked to Manchester, where in 1937 the brothers John and Isaac Miller founded the Baracuta Factory in a small company that produced waterproof outerwear. The brand’s cult following exploded in the 1950s after its distribution in the United States began and its apparel was adopted by movie and music stars such as James Dean, Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, and Steve McQueen. In 2012, WP acquired the label, adding it to its portfolio of international heritage brands.
The WP Relais project emerged in 2015 to turn a dream into a reality: to allow hotel guests to feel as comfortable while away as they do at home. Relais are places of great identity and tradition – the Casale in Val D’Orcia, the typical dwelling in Salento, the Dammuso in Pantelleria, apartments in places of pilgrimage such as Piazza della Signoria in Florence – maintaining all the warmth and care of the WP family. The philosophy behind Relais is to truly enter into contact with the host territory so as to offer guests a much more profound experience than that of mere tourism. The décor is unique, thanks to research and work aimed at giving objects a new lease of life. Thus, old mangers are turned into fountains, wine barrels become floors, and doors may be used as tables.
2017 – 2022
In 2020, distribution began of the Japanese knitwear brand C.T. Plage.
In 2022, on the occasion of its fortieth anniversary, WP reorganized its archive, home to some 80,000 items, opening it up to fashion professionals and enthusiasts alike.