Craft / April 2017

The Next Generation of Marol Shirts

The new owner of artisanal Italian shirtmaker Marol explains his plans to bring the atelier the renown it deserves.

Marol's denim safari shirt is made from soft Carlo Riva twill. Photo by Jamie Ferguson.

Marol is the greatest Italian shirtmaker you’ve never heard of. OK, so maybe YOU have heard of them — you’re a Rake reader, chances are you’re pretty clued up on the sartorially obscure, smarter than the average menswear bear. Most casual observers, however, will not be au fait with this Bologna-based shirtmaking house, established in 1959 by Rosanna Saguatti and her husband, Luciano, and helmed by the couple’s daughter, Manuela Vignudelli, since the founders’ passing several years ago.

Like her parents before her, Ms. Vignudelli has run Marol (its name an amalgamation of MA-nuela, RO-sanna and L-uciano) as a high-quality, small-scale atelier, employing a primarily female team of 30, crafting top-tier shirting sold wholesale to choice retailers internationally. The company is set to take the leap to fully-fledged luxury brand status however, with a recent injection of funds and an ambitious strategic rethink by new co-owner, Bo Yang.

A Canadian former investment banker and successful commodities trader, self-described “bespoke enthusiast” Yang says, “I won’t sugarcoat it, Marol, right now, it’s what I call ‘a manufacturer with a logo’. It’s not a ‘brand’ by any means, and they haven’t managed the company as such, so they’re not to blame, but in order to survive in today’s market, they have to function as a brand, a luxury brand — which is where I intend on taking the company. We have to adopt a luxury strategy.” Transforming Marol into a recognised luxury shirtmaking brand name, Yang says, is merely a matter of asserting the atelier’s existing bona fides. “We have the correct recipe, all the correct ingredients,” he notes. “To make the brand flourish, we have to establish our authority and credibility as arguably the best shirtmaker in the world.”

Yang was introduced to Marol by Hugo Jacomet, the editor-in-chief of men’s style website, Parisian Gentleman. “I got to know Hugo at a book signing he did in Toronto, and he said, ‘You have to look at Marol, they make great things,’” Yang explains. “At the time I was toying with the idea of making a couple of investments in this field, purely because of my passion for menswear. I don’t see it as a cash cow — I’m still a commodities trader, I have my own trading house to run, and that pays the bills. But when I got involved with Marol, saw the level of their craftsmanship, in comparison to the amount of attention they receive, it was so disproportionate that I felt compelled to do what I could, to help do the company justice.”

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Christian Barker

Christian Barker is The Rake's Asia editor-at-large, a frequent contributor to this site, and an enthusiastic consumer of fine whiskies, sashimi and classic disco music - ideally in unison.