Francesco Maglia, also known as Chino, is the fifth generation of the iconic hand-crafted umbrella company, Francesco Maglia, founded in 1854 and renowned as “King of umbrellas”. Francesco, now retired, is positively full of energy and a love for life, and is as stylish as ever.
Can you give us a short history of the umbrella as an object?
Jonas Hanway, in the late 1700s, was the first to create an umbrella for rain in London. Prior to this, it was referred to as a “parasol” and primarily served as a fashion accessory. The umbrella originated in China around 2000 B.C. and was initially used as an accessory for emperors. Assyrians. Babylonians, and Ancient Greeks also used them to shade from the sun. The umbrella gained popularity as a fashion item when it arrived in France. However, it was in England that its function evolved into its modern usage.
The earliest umbrellas were constructed using whale bones as ribs due to their flexibility. Subsequently, the British began utilising metal ribs and wooden shafts, sometimes using one tree trunk . Only later, the British used metal ribs and wood shafts - sometimes using one tree trunk as the wood shaft.
When you travel, how do you travel?
I have always travelled by car. Throughout my life, I estimate that I have travelled around 1 million kilometres by car. I used to drive to London and back to Milan in two days. I don’t like to travel by air, and London is such a great city to visit. During my stays in London, I would frequent the Imperial Hotel, where the porter at the entrance always greeted me with a warm smile. One of my favourite parts of the journey was the ferry crossing. If I travelled in the morning, I would enjoy scrambled eggs; in the afternoon, fish and chips accompanied by a fine pint of beer. The ferry journey lasted around an hour and half, and it was always an incredible experience.
The value of objects has changed a lot over the years. What are your thoughts on sustainability?
Historically, sustainability was part of our practices, as we prioritised quality over quantity and avoided overconsumption. Personally, I don’t like the word, as it is a new word created by brands to justify their overproduction. It is an irony as brands need to over-produce to maintain higher turnovers - it is the opposite of quality and therefore of sustainability.
For me, sustainability means working with artisans and striving to achieve the utmost quality in production. The people who appreciate real quality, understand sustainability and are not looking for brands.
What was your happiest moment in life?
My life was so great and I was always happy. I joined the Army in the Sixties, as it was mandatory at the time. The day I finished my military service, I started working in my family’s factory, producing homemade umbrellas. We were five brothers and we grew up in that factory. All the employees were family - I have the best memories and the best moments of my life around umbrellas.
You are one of the most photographed men during Pitti Uomo. What do you think is the key to a Men Style?
I believe that you must combine colours properly. Before leaving the house, I always make sure that the tie, and the shoes are all in harmony with what I am wearing. When I walk, people are looking at me, either because of my height (195 cm) or my white hair, and I think I owe it to them to always look good.
How does it feel wearing an Oyuna creation?
I love cashmere; the very word itself feels like a caress. In my childhood, we had lambswool, Shetland wool, and merino; all sourced from England, but none were as soft as cashmere. Its gentle touch on the skin is unparalleled. To me, cashmere is both lightweight and warm.
What do you think is the secret to a happy life? You are such a positive person. You are about to enter your 81st year, you had a few setbacks, but you are beaming, full of energy. What is your secret?
I am a positive and happy person. I had a great life, I love travelling and meeting people. There is no jealousy or envy, I like to interact with people as you always connect with the human spirit and with a smile.
What do you think when mentioning the word “strength”?
I think about the human strength, the spirit to face adversity and to be positive. Not the muscular and physical strength, but the inside strength.
What does “beauty” mean to you?
For me, beauty is a Woman. As my mum used to say “what is beautiful is not beautiful, but what is liked” (in Italian “non e’ bello cio’ che e’ bello, ma cio’ che piace”).
What do you think when I say the word “blue”?
Of aristocracy, such as blue blood.
What does Milan mean to you?
It is my city. I love it here. Milan l’e’ un gran Milan.
When you travel, do you pack an umbrella?
Of course, I have a few of them, always.