Ombrelli Maglia - or the Art of Making Umbrellas
Ombrelli Maglia Francesco is a small, family run company, handcrafting umbrellas of extraordinary quality since six generations; they live the art of making umbrellas with so much passion and enthusiasm that every generation the name Francesco Maglia is bestowed upon one of the new males born in the family.
In this post I’m going to tell you about my visit to their Milanese atelier.
I like to start off every visit (and following “review”) creating a sort of identikit of the company, based on a modified version of the classic 5Ws:
What: Artisanal hand-made umbrellas
When: Since 1854
Where: Based in Milan since 1876
Why (my favorite question): The company was created in order to answer a precise need of that time: protect people from weather, when the task was way more complicated than today and not doing so could result in extreme harm for the health, often death. Today the company carries on a centenary tradition, focusing since the 1980’s on craftsmanship and top of the line quality.
Based in a working neighborhood of Milan, the company’s atelier is a real, frank, no frills place, where skillful people hand-craft individually every umbrella, following ancient techniques that have been refined over the years and where each item has to pass detailed quality checks at the end of every production step.
The umbrellas' shafts are made with the best natural woods (cherry tree, hazelnut, beech tree, bamboo, ash tree, broom tree); in many cases a whole small plant is selected and bended by local artisans, with malacca, bamboo and broom being the exception (in this latter case the root of the plant is paired with a beech tree’s rod).
The fabrics for the umbrellas’ canopies are developed in the nearby city of Como - or as we call it, “The city of silk” - and they’re made on dedicated neck-wear looms, thus giving the brand and their customers almost endless opportunities in terms of personalization.
The metallic ribs, stretchers and all the joints are specially designed and produced for the company and the latter are later covered in fabric ( with a hand-made “rosetta”), in order to hide and protect all the mechanisms of the umbrella.
Customers looking for more extravaganza can also have the head of the rod cut off and substituted with special knobs or handles made of precious materials (horn and silver the most common ones, with options including vintage ivory, mother of pearl and crocodile leather).
As you can understand the product’s final feel and quality are really luxurious.
This of course comes for a price: the average retail is in the 300EUR range, you can have some styles for less and many for way more money but I was honestly astonished by the amount of passion and dedication that is put into every step of the production of a Maglia Francesco umbrella.
The brand sells its products in some of the best department stores and tailoring ateliers of the world; recently they also started accepting orders from private customers, giving them the opportunity to have umbrellas produced accordingly to their taste and demands, much as an MTM product: customers can in fact personalize handles, rods and fabric (to name a few), and can even add a plate bearing their name on the handle.
Francesco Maglia (the Sixth) is managing the commercial development of the company and has warmly welcomed me when I visited: during our chat he stressed more than once that he doesn’t want to compromise when talking about quality and that he’s sure (as the rest of the family with him) that this will be one of the main characteristics propelling the company towards a successful future.
Talking about the future, both Francesco and his uncle (the famed “Chino” Maglia) confirmed that one of the biggest challenges for the company will be finding skilled people, willing to learn the craft: as it’s the case with many other crafting arts, making umbrellas is an art that requires dedication and time to be mastered and it seems that not many young workers are seduced by it nowadays.
Personally I believe (and hope) that the sort of Renaissance of the artisanal crafts we’re living these days, matched with the globalisation of communication will push plenty of skillful and passionate artisans to learn the art of hand-crafting umbrellas.
If you haven’t checked on the hyperlink at the beginning of this article, you can check out the company’s website here.
And don’t forget to let us know what you think of these umbrellas: did you already know the company or how they produce umbrellas? Have you bought umbrellas from other brands that you would suggest to the readers?