Francesco Maglia Ombrelli
Singing in the rain – with style!
Francesco Maglia Ombrelli – Singing in the rain with style!
»People are coming from Japan, Korea or the US just to visit us in person and get their bespoke umbrellas – for me it’s an honour.«
When did you make the decision to take over the company?
First of all, I studied law and around then I saw that the company had great opportunities. The company was run by my dad and my uncle. They were very successful in this business for over 30 years and therefore had no reason to question the strategies of the past. But as you know, that is exactly the moment when you start losing.
So I decided to go to London and work in an umbrella shop to familiarise myself with the clientele and the psychology of their motivations. After some months in the store, I came back to Milano. Later in 2020 we went live with our first ever web shop. Since then, we are reaching people all over the world, selling our umbrellas even to New Zealand, the Philippines, to South America and just recently even to a customer in a small town in Alaska.
How many people are working at Francesco Maglia Ombrelli?
My team consists of six very specialised craftsmen and me as the managing director, who knows about every detail and every step of the process.
How long did it take for you personally to learn everything?
For me, it was faster because I grew up inside the company and I was very curious. Even if sometimes no one told me how to do something, I have seen everything so many times that I at least knew how to improvise. And if you come from a family that is doing this craft for ages, it’s in the genes.
How do you educate your team?
Continuous training is a crucial thing in our workshop. We spend around five to eight years to form an employee. They start with very simple steps until they finally also work the wood. That is the most complex part because you have the be able to understand the material and develop a very special sort of sensibility.
Why is that?
The shape and structure of the woods indicates where you need to do the right cut, for example, but every wood is different. We have gorse woods from Sicily, walnut wood from Northern Spain, ash wood from Tuscany or wood from the Black Forest from Germany.
Every single wood has a different density and different type of structure. If you work on maple wood from Canada, for example, it’s easier to cut because it’s far softer than most of the other woods. And chestnut wood, for example, becomes very smooth when it is washed in cold water containing very small stones that peel off the first skin layer of the wood.
Is it hard to get good wood these days?
Yes, it is. It’s hard to find people who are willing and able to harvest the woods we need because it’s quite a tough job. One need a special knowledge about the exact moment within a year, when you need to cut the wood and one need to know how you process it accordingly. That’s a skill which is about sensitivity and an experience you can’t buy. But less and less people want to work with their hands and senses.
So today most of the people are just looking at a very limited range of jobs. Everyone wants to be a manager and forgets that there are a variety of very exciting tasks and challenges in the skilled crafts sector.
When you know how to work with your hands, you have a job for the rest of your life. In three years’, time, our oldest employee will finish her job after 43 years. This will be the next challenge for me to find someone who wants to work with the same kind of spirit and exceptional skills.
Let’s talk about your bespoke umbrellas …
Apart of our sample collection with more than 400 styles, our customers can define their very own fabric within our bespoke services. We also try to offer a wide range of colours and styles, because rainy days are grey, and we want to help brighten things up.
This is rounded off by a wide range of unique woods and handles, of course. It’s like designing a bespoke shirt. A very personal experience of buying and designing uniqueness. Whether it is your family logo, an image or something else. Everything can be turned into a fabric or be engraved in the wood or on the plates. This is true luxury for me.
Who produces the fabrics?
We produce 90 percent of our fabric by ourselves because we want to be exclusive. It’s a cousin of mine near Lake Como who works for us. He has looms for ties and with the help of one of the most modern fabric treatment companies we make these fabrics waterproof.
So, even if we are working in an old profession, it’s a mix of old skills and the most modern inventions and machines. In addition to that we don’t use plastic, we only use brass. Brass is such an ideal material because everything is made to measure for us and it’s extremely durable.
Please tell us a little bit about your special edition for the Orient Express. How did that happen?
They select us and a brand from Venezia as the only brands out of France to work with because our history profile was fitting very well their approach. This collection is amazing because everything is designed from the scratch but with a very strong brand identity. So, it’s the perfect context to transform an idea. It’s about the love for the smallest details. We created everything just for them. Even the plating of the metal is according to the original plating of the brass of the train.
Orient-Express was the first business partner asking their partners to do co-branding because they know the importance of having support from the original brands and their value. By the way: even the most important French vendor that buys umbrellas from us is telling its customers that they are made in Italy because it is a matter of trust in the uniqueness of the Italian craftsmanship qualities.
What are the biggest challenges for you in the future?
We have to keep up the pace of change as everything is changing. It’s not 1980 anymore and people are spending their money in a different way. My generation and the millennials will shop and consume differently, so we are just in the middle of writing a new chapter of our company’s history. We are not selling umbrellas anymore. We are selling an authentic Italian luxury experience. People are coming from Japan, Korea or the US just to visit us in person and get their bespoke umbrellas.
It’s a clientele that is open-minded and appreciates highly skilled craftsmanship, no matter the culture they come from. It is amazing to meet so many like-minded people from so many different corners of the earth. For me it’s an honour. Receiving all these mails from happy customers is such a reward. Sometimes this pays better than money (laughs).