Gene Kelly aside, the man who probably has the most fun in the rain is Francesco Maglia. After all, if not him, who else? The Maglia family have been partners with the rain since 1854, when the first Francesco Maglia began producing umbrellas by hand in Pavia. At the time it was the only way to do it. It was a different world. Italy had not yet been united, the Crown of England ruled colonies on every continent and the nights were long and dark without Edison’s incandescent lighting.
We followed Francesco around his workshop in the company and at home, where he showed his collection of postcards, objects and posters dedicated to a single theme: the umbrella. Prints and pictures cover all the walls of the house except for the bedroom. “It’s the only condition of my wife”, he tells us with a smile.
Click on the photo below for the photo story of the Maglia umbrellas.
Francesco, who has just turned seventy, is the fifth Maglia to carry on the name of company founder. He is tall, well-dressed and has a long white beard. He carries himself with a spontaneous elegance that is quite rare in today’s world. He wins you over immediately with his vitality. His stories, anecdotes and jokes would crack a smile from the stiffest of upper lips. Certainly 50 years service in the Alpini, the famous Italian army mountain brigade, help to foster a sense of camaraderie and to discover the most beautiful and loyal parts of life.
In 1876 the Maglia family business transferred to Milan, originally in Corso Genova and then in Via Ripamonti. Francesco takes care of the orders and the business side of things, while his brother Giorgio runs the production together with his wife Laura.
A Maglia umbrella requires seventy production steps. Forget about plastic and flimsy shafts that turn inside out with the first gust of wind. These umbrellas are made to last. The attention to detail is extremely important. The shafts are made from real wood, the materials used are cut and stitched by hand, and the stretchers are put in place one by one to assure its robustness.
In order to show off his little masterpieces to his devoted customers Francesco loads up his Fiat Ulisse with his samples twice a year and travels halfway around Europe. Over the course of time these customers have become close friends. “For over forty-eight years I have driven Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Netherlands, and France” –he tells us- “They are all friends. In Vienna, Weimar, Dresden and Bremen I am a guest in their homes. I’ve even been a groomsman for some of their weddings”. Kilometre after kilometre by car, like when he was the rally co-driver for Ferdinando Tecilla at the end of the 1960’s. “In 1968 we placed first overall in the Rally of Sardinia”, he remembers with pride. In a Fulvia Coupé Rally group 1- “practically a production model”- they were able to beat the highly rated official HF cars.
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