Francesco Maglia – King of the Umbrella
History of Francesco Maglia
The Francesco Maglia company is one of the very few umbrella makers left today who actually manufactures these small masterpieces completely by
hand. At the age of 14, Francesco started working for an umbrella maker in Montechiari and became a partner in 1854. Two years later, he moved to Pavia and subsequently to Milan, where they are still located today. Meanwhile, the company is managed by the fifth generation Francesco (also known as Chino) and Giorgio Maglia.
Francesco Maglia today
Francesco Maglia exclusively produces umbrellas for the most prestigious brands in the world. Their handmade umbrellas are made in the rather small Milanese workshop and delivered to the most famous stores and designers in the world.
Regardless of the global decline in demand for high quality umbrellas, the company decided just a few years ago to market umbrellas under their own label – Francesco Maglia – as well.
It takes 70 steps in order to make an umbralla and although this represents considerably less work than a bespoke suit, there are only three manufacturers of fine handmade umbrellas left – clearly a consequence of lack of demand. Those two competitors purchase parts from Maglia, which means that if you search for a handmade umbrella today, you will sooner or later end up with a piece from the Maglia workshop.
These unique masterpieces can be used both in rain and shine. They are made of a stick, a crown, the runner (a cylindrical slider), a handle, stretchers (spokes), fabric and thread. One of Francesco Maglia’s trademarks is the solid stick umbrella. This means the handle and the stick are made from one piece of wood. In the beginning, you have to pick one of the many kinds of wood available, ranging from walnut, hickory, beech, cedar or oak to rosewood, apple tree, elm, ash tree, red chestnut – with- and without rind, cherry wood, wild cherry wood, ebony, hazelnut tree, bamboo, and sugar cane.
In order to shape the wood properly into a handle it requires a lot of know how as well as steam and time – usually it takes about 6 months until the wood has the right shape. Despite being very stable, they are flexible at the same time.
While the cylindrical slider – to open and close the umbrella – is often made out of cast irion, the crown – a special ring that keeps the spokes together – has to be milled out of brass. Since there are no more artisans who mills such pieces, Francesco Maglia mills them in house, and provides the competition with those parts.
The fabrics for the umbrellas are exclusively woven for Francesco Maglia. Back in the day, Maglia used a special shantung silk for umbrellas. Since the worldwide demand for such material has plummeted, top notch qualities are unfortunately no longer produced. He now uses a Jacquard blend of cotton, silk and wool. In order to make the fabric waterproof, it is coated with Teflon. Once you have picked out one of the numerous fabrics available at Francesco Maglia, it is cut in trapezoids and subsequently sewn together. Finally, it is attached to the spokes. In order for the spokes not to wear holes, a little bit of extra fabric is put under the areas where the spokes touch the fabric. In fact, this takes a lot of extra time but the umbrella will last for a lifetime!
If you want, you can have your handle braided with leather or other materials – the client’s creativity is the limit. Calf leather, crocodile leather or tortoiseshell –nothing is impossible as long as you are willing to pay for it.
Before the umbrellas are carefully wrapped, they have to undergo a final inspection and testing. This way they make sure that only top notch products leave the Maglia wowrkshop.
When I visited Francesco Maglia, I picked up two umbrellas – one of them was a solid stick bamboo umbrella. This material is rather difficult to work with since it is very likely to break during the shaping. When I picked up this masterpiece, I could see that Francesco Maglia is one of the greatest umbrella makers: the handle was tied to the stick even when I got the umbrella, what is rarely seen nowadays but quite important in order to maintain the round shape of the handle – only very few craftsmen know about such special things anymore.
While bespoke umbrellas allow the client to choose every imaginable detail, Maglia also offers ready-made umbrellas which are made according to the same quality standards as their bespoke counterparts. No matter whether you want a solid stick umbrella or a collapsible one, whether you are in New York, Tokio or Moscow – Maglia umbrellas can be bought everywhere for example at Barneys New York, Gucci, Loewe, Bergdorf Goodman, Paul Stuart,or online.
In case you prefer a bespoke umbrella, you should get in touch with Francsco Maglia; he speaks English, Italian, French, Spanish and German.
Ombrelli MagliaMaglia Francesco
Via Ripamonti, 194