MUSEOWEB dell'economia varesina

Giovanni Clerici & Figli

The establishment of the business

Gallarate has been one of the main centres for the Italian cotton industry since the late nineteenth century.
It was here that, in 1869, Giovanni Clerici began a dyeing and finishing business, which later expanded thanks to the support of a number of major local cotton manufacturers (Crespi, Ottolini, Bassetti, etc.).
He was able to count on a local workforce with crafts training, with which the company went on to build a relationship of exceptional continuity.
During the last decades of the nineteenth century, the company underwent generational rotations, whereby the owners handed over the company's management to their children, and later to Giovanni Clerici, grandson of the founder. In 1908, the business was operating as a sole proprietorship and covered a large area: the map of Gallarate in 1911 shows the factory as being one of the largest in the area.
The large area surrounding the dying facility allowed the bleached fabrics to be laid out to dry upon the grass, a practice which continued up until the 1920s.


From the 1920s to World War II

In 1922, Giovanni Clerici closed the sole proprietorship company and, along with his children, Edoardo, Mario and Federico, registered a limited partnership at the Chamber of Commerce. The company initially employed 15 workers and had a share capital of 25,000 lire.
In 1927, Giovanni Clerici granted partial ownership of the factory to his children, who used their personal funds to begin renovating the machinery.
Upon their father's death in 1935, the Clerici brothers transformed the company into a general partnership and took on full ownership of the factory. An indicator of the company's growth was the construction of an artesian well to be used as a water supply. In 1939, the company was transformed into a limited liability company, with Mario Clerici as the sole director.
The outbreak of the Second World War, and the consequent lack of supplies, led to a period of crisis.
The company was leased to the joint stock company "cotonificio succ. Alceste Pasta" in Gallarate, for which it would serve as the dying and bleaching division, while remaining under the supervision of Mario Clerici.


From the post-war period to the 1980s

In March of 1945, the company returned to its own production activities.
From 1949 to 1960, the company capital grew from 5 million to 40 million lire and, in 1955, the number of employees grew to reach a total of 74.
During these years, the work organization was based on the jigger, a dyeing machine run by a single operator: a battery of 34 jiggers ensured the completion of the daily work activities.
Upon the death of Mario Clerici in 1960, Federico's son, Govanni Clerici, and Mario Clerici's son-in-law, Carlo Montonati, became the company's administrators. The company was still family-run, but was divided into two branches that would alternate up until the present day.
There was a certain displacement between these two branches, which helped to reduce the generational distance between one owner and the next and made ??the process of alternating the company's management less traumatic.
The end of the 1960s was a decisive turning point for the textile industry: in just a few years time the industry reached its point of maximum expansion and soon began to decline.
Firstly, the need to standardize the processing of larger quantities of fabrics forced the company to replace its systems with machinery for the continuous processing of clothing interiors (linings, backings for neckties).
At the same time, the importation of textiles from Eastern Europe and Asia triggered a crisis in the Italian cotton industry, which also affected other businesses linked to the textile industry itself. The competition from developing countries was initially limited to the fabrics of poorer quality, but gradually extended to include all segments of the market.
During this phase, which continued throughout the seventies and eighties, the company reacted by focusing on the production of more profitable external fabrics and investing in the production process - for example, it introduced continuous bleaching, which would allow it to keep up with the consistently high number of orders.
Other improvements were also introduced in relation to energy savings (due to the 1973 oil crisis), environmental protection (due to the Merli law of 1976), the advent of computers, and the adoption of new dying methods resulting from laboratory research activities.


From the 1990s to the present

By the 1990s, the full extent of the European decline had become more evident due to the arrival of new and emerging markets, which expanded to include not only fabric production, but also the subsequent processing phases. Many local producers are opting to relocate their activities, either in whole or in part, and this has adversely affected the positions of companies who play an intermediate role in the production chain (activities associated with the finishing of the product).
Like other businesses in the sector, Clerici's production figures have dropped sharply since the 1990s. On the other hand, the company has managed to avoid reducing its personnel, who offer a wealth of knowledge and experience. The facilities, which have been upgraded over the years, are currently underutilized since production levels have dropped to less than half of what they were during the seventies, with processes that often involve small amounts of materials that are unsuitable for machinery designed for mass production.
In order address the crisis, companies must now make an effort to streamline the production processes, even by means of integrating their systems, and must respond to low-priced competition by focusing on the speed and precision of their services.
Today, market response time is increasingly proving to be the key factor in this competition and, from where we stand, the remoteness of the developing countries still offers us a chance to fight back against their competition.