?
MUSEOWEB dell'economia varesina

Calzaturificio Romano Martegani srl

The establishment of the business and its early developments


In 1889, Pietro Martegani, who was already a leather merchant, opened a small shoe upper factory in Tradate. In 1891, one of his clients, a shoe manufacturer in Legnano, was about to close and Martegani, along with a number of other partners, decided to take it over. At the beginning of the twentieth century, having become the sole shareholder, Pietro Martegani decided to move the business to Via Manzoni in Tradate, renaming it to "Calzaturificio di Tradate" (The Tradate Shoe Factory). As early as 1911, the company already had a total of about fifty employees.

During the course of the First World War, a new production facility was built, which allowed the company to reach an average daily production of about 300 pairs of shoes. After the war, Pietro's eldest son of, Ettore Martegani, joined the enterprise and the Calzaturificio di Tradate began to expand. His other sons, Nino, Amedeo and Giuseppe (known as Peppino), also eventually joined and the company soon purchased a number of new, modern machines. Thanks to the company's quality products and competitive prices, sales increased both in Italy and abroad (Austria, Germany, Yugoslavia and Syria), to the point that, in 1926, the company employed a total of 150 workers. During this period, Amedeo and Peppino withdrew from the company in order to pursue business opportunities of their own. The former opened a chain of stores in the same footwear sector along with an ex-salesman for Martegani; the latter moved to Udine and began working in the hotel sector.

Pietro Martegani died in 1929 and the company's management was taken over by his sons, Ettore and Nino.

Production expanded to include women's and children's shoes and, at the beginning of the 1930s, the Calzaturificio di Tradate opened its first shop on Via Speronari in Milan. The Second World War brought about a significant new development for the company, thanks to government contracts for supplying military boots to the armed forces.

Following the war, the discontinuance of the government contracts resulted in decreased production and sales figures. In 1948, Nino Martegani left the company, taking with him the sales network of shops bearing the "Tradate Martegani" trademark. Over the next few years, he went on to expand his business to include a number of new stores. Ettore Martegani, therefore, remained the sole proprietor and administrator of the Calzaturificio di Tradate.

From the 1950s to the beginning of the 1970s

In 1950, the company was already employing over 500 people. That same year, Ettore's son, Romano Martegani, finished high school and went to work at various major shoe factories in the United States in order to gain familiarity with the most modern machinery of the times. Upon his return, he began flanking his father at the factory, initially getting involved in the production activities, then moving on to pattern making and, finally, the company's sales department. Romano Martegani toured Italy showcasing the company's products for nearly three years, but was subsequently pressed by his father, Ettore, to begin focusing on the foreign markets. In the meantime, after attending various trade shows, Romano became convinced that the shoe manufacturing industry in the province of Varese was experiencing competition on behalf of the shoe manufacturing districts in the Italian regions of Marche and Tuscany, which were able to produce cheaper products thanks to lower labour costs. With his father's consent, he then decided to switch from the production of medium quality articles to luxury articles, using fine leathers and models that were in higher demand. This also led to a change in the brand name that was used upon the products: it was no longer "Calzaturificio di Tradate di Martegani", but rather "Martegani Tradate", which was distributed alongside his brother Nino's brand, "Tradate Martegani".

In 1957, Romano Martegani, along with his father, Ettore, and sisters, Giampiera and Luigia, founded a new company, "Calzaturificio di Tradate di R. Martegani & C. sas". Romano was the new company's majority shareholder and general partner and the head offices and factory were located at the new premises on Via Trento a Trieste in Tradate. Soon after, in 1959, the company name was changed to "Romart Calzaturificio Martegani di R. Martegani & C.". The shift to high quality production was accompanied by a decrease in the number of employees, which quickly dropped to 120 individuals. Thanks to Romano Martegani's frequent trips abroad, the company began exporting to the Far East and the United States in 1961.
From the 1970s to the 1990s

In 1964, Ettore Martegani officially left the company; in 1966, a new men's shoes production facility was opened in Tradate on via Carso.

During these years, at the request of Romano's mother, Afra della Chiesa, six stores were opened in Rome, which Afra herself managed personally. Ettore, however, wanted to keep the family together in Tradate, and soon after decide to close them.

Ettore Martegani passed away in 1973. That same year, the changing of the company's name to "CalzaturificioMartegani di R. Martegani & C." coincided with a substantial increase in capital. Exports abroad begin to increase significantly starting in the late seventies. The main market was the United States of America, which went on to represent 50% of the company's overall sales. Romano Martegani opened a shoe factory in the Philippines, along with a local partner and Nino's son, Piero Adriano, under whom the commercial activities continued up until the mid-1980s.

This decision was made based on the lower cost of unskilled labour and the existence of international trade agreements, under which merchandise exported from the Philippines to the United States was subject to extremely low customs charges. This endeavour, however, was short-lived, since the production levels in the Philippines remained far below those which were obtained at the Italian factory.

At the beginning of the 1980s, therefore, the company decided to open a subsidiary directly within the United States, "Romano Martegani USA". This allowed the company to sell directly on the American market, avoiding the customs procedures that buyers were previously forced to face when importing the merchandise from Italy, and thus significantly increasing the number of customers.

It was during these years that Calzaturificio Martegani rose amongst the ranks of the most important luxury shoe manufacturers in America, as well as the Far East, which constituted nearly 30% of the company's overall sales. Taking advantage of the numerous business trips he was required to take, Romano Martegani also began selling leather goods and clothing articles that were not manufactured by his company.

By 1984, all three of Romano Martegani's daughters - Cristina, Maria Luisa and Antonia Maria – had officially joined the company. The following year, the enterprise was transformed into a limited liability company, with a total of 120 employees.
From the 1990s to the present

In the early 1990s, it appeared that the same successes of the previous decade would be repeated, but health problems ended up forcing Romano Martegani to decrease his involvement within the company. In particular, the less frequent trips abroad, which Romano now performs together with his wife, Mary Martinetti, or delegates to his daughters, have begun to weaken the direct relationships that he had established over the years with his customers. At the request of his daughters, which did not go uncontested, Romano Martegani began a new line of shoes for young people, the Twins line, for which a representative was also sought in the United States. Competition on behalf of shoe manufacturers in the Italian regions of Marche and Tuscany, however, resulted in less than satisfactory results for this operation. Romano Martegani further reduced the company's number of employees to 30 and began to increasingly rely on a shoe factory, with whom he had been doing business since the end of the eighties, for peak production operations: Calzaturificio Cortina di Giussano, in Brianza, which had been established in 1955 by the brothers Mario and Silvio Corti, ex-employees of Calzaturificio Verbano. In the year 2000, the company underwent a time of extreme difficulty which was due to several causes.

In 2001, Romano Martegani's renewed health problems and a significant decrease in sales brought the company, which at that time still employed 25 workers, to the brink of liquidation. The daughters' decision to dedicate themselves to the company's commercial activities, with the opening of several sales points, led Romano to explore a number of new possibilities.

His previous positive experiences with Calzaturificio Cortina and the mutual respect that existed between himself and Mario's son, Gian Carlo Corti, led Romano to concede him his historical archive of product models, as well as the Martegani brand, which was particularly used for shoes with exceptional finishes that were destined for luxury markets abroad.

The collaboration between Romano and Gian Carlo continues to this day: Romano provides his experience in the commercial sector; Gian Carlo is intent on bringing the company back to Tradate soon by reopening one of the Martegani production units