Winding the clock back, Francesco Maglia is one of the oldest
manufacturers of umbrellas in the world, and one of the few
surviving. Founded in 1854 by Francesco Maglia, he would travel
from city to city making umbrellas for businessmen and prominent
figures of the time. At the age of 20, Maglia decided to start his
own company in Milan, seeing a gap in the market for this product
as the city’s population grew. Now over 160-years later, Francesco
Maglia continues to craft the same umbrella that forged its iconic
status of today. Likened by royalty and the everyday businessman
alike, for years business was thriving thanks to its ingenuity,
quality, style and design. Today, 28-year old Francesco Maglia not
only carries the name of his founding ancestors, but the baton for
the next generation of Francesco Maglia customer: millennials.
Bringing back that idea of owning a quality item for life - a
romantic notion at that - a return to culture and curiosity is,
perhaps, what is needed to elevate this brand to the next
“I am looking to position this brand to a fresh, younger
customer and generation who would appreciate what our umbrellas
stand for: history and quality,” says Maglia. “It’s not a cultural
problem. It’s a matter of necessity. People don’t need umbrellas.
But I’m giving people the opportunity to design something truly
unique for themself. At the start you may not understand it but
year on year when you’re carrying the same product with you, it’ll
become an integral part of your life.”
When posing the question of why one should purchase a Francesco
Maglia umbrella, the answer lies unequivocally in its craft and
history; a fact that Maglia himself is immensely proud of. It also
happens to be a stylish accessory for the sartorial-minded
individual, beyond its capabilities as a weather shield.
“You buy a Francesco Maglia umbrella because you are making a
choice. You decide to be different from others and in turn, you
invest in a great product with a fantastic history behind it, which
is what people are looking for in products today,” says Maglia. “We
change things every day, so it’s important to have something that
will be with you forever. It’s somewhat a legacy and people want to
trust in a legacy; they need to.”
The magic of these umbrellas lies within its craft, with one
umbrella alone going through 70 rigorous steps of hand work. The
three key production areas involve: mechanical work, fabric
cutting, and stitching and sewing, with many variables in between.
For example, in order to shape the wood into a handle of one
umbrella, there is a lot of skill and time needed, sometimes taking
up to six months until the shape is perfect. The umbrellas are
assembled on wooden shafts made from all types of natural wood
imported from all over the world; maple is used from Canada;
hickory from America; malacca from Indonesia; bamboo from Japan;
ashwood from Tuscany; and the list goes on. From there, woodworking
such as bending, grinding, polishing and smoking processes are all
performed manually by skilled artisans. What this achieves is a
very unique point of difference; every shaft is a one of a kind
piece. As for the materials of the umbrella itself, manufacturers
have run scarce due to a lack of demand in recent years, with only
three manufacturers of fine handmade umbrellas left in the world -
two purchasing parts from Francesco Maglia directly.
A Jacquard blend of cotton, silk and wool is used for the hood
of the umbrella - as opposed to silk in the glory days of umbrella
making - with a coat of Teflon applied for waterproofing. Fabrics
are hand cut into trapezoids and subsequently sewn together - much
like a tailor would cut fabric for a bespoke suit. One of the last
processes involves attaching the fabric to the spokes, which is
also done by hand. With a true artisan touch, extra fabric is sewn
by hand to ensure holes do not form from use. What results is the
perfect umbrella made for a lifetime of use. For made-to-measure
purposes, the options are endless, with choice falling back onto
the customer when it comes to height, the type of wood, the pattern
of the fabric, the design and more.
“When you purchase one of our [Francesco Maglia] umbrellas, you
are investing in a product for life. Some of our skilled artisans
have been with the company for over 40-years, who oversee every
step of production. Only the best materials are used, which is why
you’ll never see a Francesco Maglia umbrella littered on the city
street after a rainy day,” says Maglia.
“Quality will always be the main point of this brand. Always. We
will never come to a compromise in terms of quality. We are
Francesco Maglia thanks to our quality choices.”
Moving into its next phase, an overarching challenge for the
brand is to continue the traditions of its glorified past and that
lies with the skills of its artisans - it can take up to five years
for one worker to learn the crafts of making an umbrella alone.
“Our biggest challenge as a business is to continue to find and
work with skilled workers and manufacturers who know how to make
our product. We constantly invest in new and good suppliers and
travel far and wide to find true artisans,” says Maglia.
“Today, it is becoming increasingly more difficult to find
people who are good workers, especially with their hands.
Apprenticeships don’t exist anymore, so you have to be good at
sharing the ideas and knowledge of the product and brand with your
Maglia leaves us with a short anecdote that shows his love and
infatuation with this brand he has grown and matured with since a
little boy. Speaking fondly of a recent customer experience, Maglia
reflects on the impact it left on him to hear a grandson travel to
Milan to have his grandfather’s Francesco Maglia umbrella repaired
after 50-years of use.
Perhaps some things are made to last after all...