Maglia’s Umbrella Workshop

Nice umbrellas are wonderful things. I’ve been on the market for a truly good one and I keep coming back to Francesco Maglia, a Milanese craftsman of high-end umbrellas. Maglia makes both bespoke and “ready-to-use” models. Bespoke orders have the advantage of allowing you to customize anything and everything - the wood, canopy’s material and pattern, exotic leather detailing at the handle, etc. I wrote about them a while ago here.

Ready-to-use models, however, are just as nice, and much more affordable for someone like me (ranging anywhere from $200 to $400). Like their bespoke counterparts, they also feature a solid, single wood construction. Most umbrellas at this point, including ones from many high-end makers, have a shaft constructed separately from the handle. Maglias are built from one piece of wood, with the handle being formed at the end by slowly hand-bending the stick. This is done with a lot of steam, skill, and time, and the result is a shaft that contains no breaks or cuts anywhere. It’s how Maglia’s company has been making umbrellas for 150 years. 

For me, the value here is mostly in this stick. There’s the unique, artisanal feature of it being made from a single piece of wood, but I find Maglia also uses much more handsome materials than other makers. You can have an umbrella made from chestnut, malacca, hazelnut, ash, cherrywood, maple, and hickory, and the wood is left partially unhewn, so it looks much more natural. You can more easily see the grain, streaks of color, and even textures in the bark. Nothing feels striped. 

The canopies are also more handsome than many other makers’. Here is the one case where I think the classical model - the black umbrella - is less desirable. It’s much better, I think, to go with a non-black solid, pinstripe, or even tartan. On a dreary, rainy day, I find these to be infinitely more enjoyable. They remind me of the beautiful colors in Les Parapluies de Cherbourg (The Umbrellas of Cherbourg), a French musical about a girl whose family runs a colorful umbrellas boutique, and how she falls in love with a young auto mechanic. You can see some of the colorful umbrellas in this opening scene.  

Below is a wonderful video of Maglia’s workshop. This is to umbrella making what bespoke suits are to tailoring. The craftsmanship here is self-evident, and the manufacturing process has an incredible, almost magical, Old World quality. Throw it on full screen and get swept away to another time.

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