MUSEOWEB dell'economia varesina

Mamba maglificio di Magnaghi Paolo

Historical Profile

The entrepreneurial training and the establishment of the business

The history of the Mamba Magnaghi knitwear factory begins in Busto Arsizio in 1947, when Angleo Magnaghi established a sole proprietorship company on Via Rovetta.

Angelo came from a family that, according Varese tradition, had hard work and enterprise in its blood.

While Angelo 's grandparents emigrated to America in search of their fortune, his brother Giovanni and brother-in-law Mario Tovaglieri started the Tovaglieri and Magnaghi knitwear factory in Busto Arsizio.

It was here that young Angelo began his apprenticeship in the early thirties. In 1934 he seized the opportunity to start his own business and moved to Turin with his wife Maria Crespi. Despite the low capital, the company was able to get off to a good start and soon employed nearly a dozen workers.

In Turin, the family grew with the births of Eliana and Ermanno, but Angelo liquidated the business in 1939 to open a knitwear factory on Via Molino in Busto Arsizio.

While the outbreak of war and the call to arms forced him to liquidate the knitwear factory, he was able to gain a substantial sum and, at the end of the hostilities, was able to purchase a tube machine which is still in operation today.


The Fifties and Sixties

Angelo resumed his business activities on Via Rovetta in Busto Arsizio. These were years of intensive development, thanks to both of his parents' complete dedication to the company.

Maria Crespi, who prior to the war had worked at the Milani and Nipoti weaving factory, flanked her husband while at the same time taking care of the company and the household, which was located in the same building.

Angelo took care of customer and supplier relations, while his wife handled the personnel and the business administration.

Even young Ermanno, upon returning from elementary school, helped his parents with some of the simpler tasks. From there, he gradually gained valuable experience working on all of the machines, and eventually acquired the overall production knowledge characteristic of a craftsman.

The knitting machinery was German and English, as the textile machinery sector had not yet developed in this area. The threads, on the other hand, came from various spinning mills throughout the provinces of Bergamo and Brescia. Mixtures of wool and synthetic fibres were most common, and were of lower quality than pure wool and cotton.

Over these first twenty years, the small Magnaghi enterprise built a niche for itself and managed to survive amongst a number of major competitors: the company focused on the differentiation of the colour of the products and on producing special articles, whose limited consumption did not allow for mass production.

The products were even marketed differently than today: the producer had an exclusive relationship with the wholesaler and sales were performed by weight, rather than by the number of articles involved.

By the sixties, the development of the industry and the improved standards of living led the company to abandon the use of blended threads and to use cotton exclusively.

Greater attention was also paid to the presentation of the products: sales began to be carried out by the dozen, rather than by weight.

In 1963, the company moved to its present location on Via Boito, a building constructed by Angelo Magnaghi in which the family also resided.


The Seventies and Eighties

In 1973, Ermanno, who in the meantime had been married to Cristina Cabella, joined his father's enterprise, which was transformed into the de facto company "Mamba - di Magnaghi Angelo e Magnaghi Ermanno".

His wife also became involved in the company's administration, as well as employee relations.

The economic situation was positive and encouraged investments in technology: the new machinery was quickly paid off. The company had a total of 8 employees.

Although the introduction of VAT legislation in the 1970s rendered the administrative management of the company more complex, requiring a broader level of formality, the company was able to cope. In 1978, Angelo left the business and Ermanno became the sole owner of the company, which reverted to the legal form of a sole proprietorship. By the end of the 1980s, Ermanno's children, Manuela and Paolo, were also working at the company. For Manuela, this meant leaving medical school. The computer skills that Paolo had acquired in school, however, proved to be useful in a number of administrative aspects.

For both of the children, insertion within the company was different from that of the previous generations: especially for Paolo, whose strength was not in technical and professional skills, but rather in building solid relationships with customers.


The 1990s

The nineties were the company's years of crisis. The de-industrialization of the area, combined with the relocation of the companies, transformed the territory's socio-economic structure. The medium to large spinning mills gradually disappeared: the producers obtained their raw materials from developing countries and later began outsourcing.

The crisis caused many companies to close, resulting in an increase in unemployment and a drop in the population's purchasing power. In the long run, the outsourcing of the textile sector has backfired against the decisions made by the manufacturers themselves.

In the short term, paradoxically, the crisis of the larger companies did not lead to negative results for the smaller companies which, for some time, even expanded their market share. It has only affected the smaller companies in recent years, resulting in an alteration of the manner in which the work is organized: today, small businesses are increasingly outsourcing certain activities to contractors, who are able to sustain themselves by specializing in extremely limited segments of production.

The company purchases the thread and uses it to produce the knitwear for manufacturing undergarments and t-shirts. The fabric is sent to the dyeworks and printworks to be dyed and bleached; upon returning, it is cut and then sent back out for packaging.

Finally, the product is subjected to quality checks and is then ironed, packaged and sold. In other words, the craftsmanship has changed by mixing traditional production aspects with the new functions of coordination and quality control.

By outsourcing a portion of their production process, manufacturers are able to have more control over the pricing of their products, while lightening their business structures as much as possible. For this reason, today, the total number of employees has dropped to 3. At the same time, the continuity of the relationship with the contractor has become essential for the company, which now has greater interest in fuelling its activities and helping it overcome difficult times by offering facilitated contractual terms.

This new situation has also changed the traditional relationship between the company and its customers: in addition to traditional wholesalers, the company now also sells to retailers, giving the business more room to breathe.

Ermanno ceded the business to Paolo in 2003, thereby forcing the company to be newly registered at the Chamber of Commerce and to acquire a new business register number.