MUSEOWEB dell'economia varesina

Gaspare Tronconi Spa

Historical Profile

From the company’s establishment up until the 1920s

The library records of Bergoro and Fagnano Olona contain reports of a Tronconi family that was already engaged in the textile industry at the end of 1597. The family’s first establishment, built by Pietro Giovanni Tronconi and known as “candeggio al prato”, was situated along the banks of the River Olona.

From these origins, the family was later diversified into several branches, thus giving rise to various enterprises involved in the bleaching and dying of fabrics using plant-based substances.

The first records pertaining to the modern day Gaspar Tronconi company can be found in the Company Register at the Chamber of Commerce of Milan.

In 1911, Attilio Paolo Tronconi declared that he would succeed his father, Gaspar Felice, at the fabric dyeing and sizing business located at Fagnano Olona, in the hamlet of Bergoro. Upon the company’s registration with the Varese Chamber of Commerce in 1928, the year 1824 was declared as the business’s official date of establishment.

During the nineteenth century, the Fagnano facility was flanked by a second facility in Briosco, in the Brianza region, where the waters of the River Lambro were more suitable for dyeing the uniforms of the Austrian army. The waters of the River Olona, on the other hand, were more well-suited to dyeing the uniforms of the Piedmontese army.

With the onset of the industrial revolution, the company immediately set itself ahead of the competition in terms of technology, and became one of first in Italy to replace the use of the water wheel with steam power. Under the guidance of Attilio Paolo Tronconi, another important innovation occurred at the end of the nineteenth century with the introduction of the first artificial dyes.

In 1902, the German company Monforts, which is still one of the company’s suppliers to this day and has become a world leader in the field of dyeing and finishing machinery, sold the company its first raising machine, which was used render the fabrics softer. In 1880, Attilio Paolo married one of his distant relatives, Regina Tronconi, whose family was also involved in the textile industry.

Attilio Paolo’s son, Gaspare Tronconi, who was born in 1895, was called to arms during the First World War.

Gaspare took change of the company upon returning from the front in 1915, and significant developments were achieved under his leadership. He completed his training in chemistry and dyeing in Germany, where the best dye manufacturers were based, including Bayer, which became one of the company’s main suppliers.

During the 1920s, the business of fabric printing was initiated, thanks to the purchase of two machines manufactured in Czechoslovakia, while the Bergoro production facility began developing its velvet processing capabilities. A number of the company’s customers were greatly affected by the economic crisis of 1929, thus significantly reducing the its business. In the meantime, another important turning point was on the horizon: the arrival of electrical energy, which would go on to replace steam power; furthermore, the fabrics were no longer being sold by the bolt, but rather by the metre.

From the 1930s to the 1960s

The Gaspare Tronconi company began operating as a third party producer. That is to say that the company processed and “ennobled” the raw or semi-finished fabrics that were delivered by its customers, who in turn sold them to the garment retailers themselves. While the company’s clientele was mainly concentrated locally in Busto Arsizio, which at the time was considered the Manchester of Italy, during the 1940s it also took on a number of foreign clients. Upon the death of his father Attilio Paolo in 1938, Gaspare Tronconi, inherited the family business and registered it, as a sole proprietorship, with the Varese provincial office of corporations for the activities of “dyeing and printing cotton and rayon fabrics for third parties”. The company employed nearly 90 workers. In 1934, Gaspare married Angela Azimonti and the couple soon had two children: Regina (born in 1936) and Attilio (born in 1938). Angela died of pneumonia 40 days after the birth of their second child. Having remained a widower, Gaspare was remarried to Luisa Di Sarro in 1941 and soon had another child named Gianluca (born in 1943).

In 1952, the company purchased a third plant for printing upon cotton fabrics. During the postwar and reconstruction years, the company underwent a lengthy and continuous cycle of expansion due to an increased production capacity and the use of new dyes, which allowed it to diversify the range of products that it was capable of processing, as well as to meet the increased demand.

Attilio and Gianluca Tronconi soon became involved with their father’s business, which was transformed into a de facto company in 1965. The company produced incredibly large quantities of product: 20-40 thousand metres of fabric printed every day using five variants of cylinder machines. During this period, the company reached its historical peak in terms of its number of employees, with a total of more than 200. After having completed his apprenticeship working for a number of his father’s clients, Attilio, who was a qualified chemist, was placed in charge of the company’s technical aspects, while his brother Gianluca was placed in charge of its commercial affairs.

From the 1960s to the 1980s

The company upgraded its printing technology yet again during the 1970s, with the purchase of advanced machinery manufactured by the Dutch company Stork. With this new machinery, the traditional copper cylinder was replaced by the perforated nickel cylinder, which provided for much better definition. These technological changes were also accompanied by organizational changes: The Gaspare Tronconi company, which had become a general partnership in 1971, was transformed into a joint stock company in 1972. Attilio became the company’s CEO in 1974 and was even president of the Province of Varese’s Union of Industrialists from 1978 to 1981.

The River Olona had become one of the most polluted rivers in Lombardy and in all of Italy. In 1975, driven by a newfound environmental awareness, the Tronconi company installed a new wastewater treatment plant. Attilio Tronconi played a public role in stimulating and proposing changes in environmental policy, even as president of the Association for the Preservation and Protection of the River Olona.

This association was constituted in 1976 by various industrial companies in order to create the fundamental structures required to alleviate one of the other great and historic problems associated with the River Olona, or rather its repeated flooding, which devastated the surrounding territory.

In terms of business, the 1980s were essentially characterized by an overall automation of the production processes and the need to address the issue of Asian competition, with its lower labour costs. Due to the high cost of labour required for its production, and since it could now be imported from other countries (especially China) at lower costs, the processing of velvet was gradually phased out.

The company Ternate Coating srl, with headquarters in Ternate, was constituted in 1984 in order to consolidate a portion of the finishing processes that were carried out by Tronconi itself, and also included additional technological capabilities for the processing of plastic materials (vinyl chloride). Gaspare Tronconi Technologies srl, with headquarters in Fagnano Olona, was established three years later, mainly for the purpose of designing and marketing machinery for ennobling fabrics.

From the 1990s to the present

In 1992, the River Olona, which had been swollen by torrential rains, broke its banks and invaded the surrounding territory, resulting in a disaster the did not spare the Fagnano dyeing facility. During the night between 12 and 13 September 1995, another flood seriously damaged the dye works. Attilio Tronconi and his wife Maria Pia even had to rescued by the amphibious vehicles operated by the Carabinieri. As a result of the flood, as well as the reduced sizes of the customers' orders, the printing department and raw materials warehouse were decommissioned and the company adopted a just in time market approach. The company focused its efforts upon the activities of bleaching, dyeing and finishing cotton fabrics for casual and work clothing, as well as for home furnishings. With the help of the cotton textile centre in Busto Arsizio, a policy of integrated quality was developed over time.

During the 1990s, Attilio’s children also became involved in the company’s activities. His first born son, Michele, who was born in 1962, completed his university training by working for the company Fin Novaceta spa and for the general management of Credito Varesino (today known as Banca popolare di Bergamo).

Having served as president of Univa’s Young Entrepreneurs Group of Varese from 1995 to 1998, he subsequently took on a series of associative representation roles and promoted the aggregation of the various sectors of the textile industry. In 2008, he became President of Sistema Moda Italia.

He was joined at the company by Emilio, who mainly took charge of technical management and organizational matters, and Giuseppe (born in 1974), who had completed his apprenticeship at another family business: Cta srl, which has been founded in 1989 by Attilio and his cousin Gianluigi Azimonti.

The company Beppetex srl was founded in 2006, again in Fagnano Olona. It was to be a commercial company, directed by Giuseppe Tronconi, that would carry out “conversion” functions and would eventually go on to become the parent company’s most important client. In 2007, Beppetex ceded its industrial branch to the new company Gaspare Tronconi Industriale srl, which saw Michele appointed as its sole director and currently employs 50 workers. Thus, Gaspare Tronconi SpA assumed the role of a Parent Company.

The development of the group, which has its own network of representatives in Italy, as well as in all of the other major European countries, seems to constitute the perfect response to the challenges of globalization. There is still, however, the issue of the optimization of the extremely costly automated machinery, which is designed for large scale production (tens of thousands of metres) but currently must also satisfy the demand for more varied and limited orders (hundreds of meters). The solution to this bottleneck, which compromises the industry’s ability to be competitive in terms of high quality production, may be found in the cooperative use of the respective machinery amongst companies operating in this sector.

Attilio Tronconi’s personal commitment was finally rewarded in 2009 with the inauguration of the system of floodgates that were built along the River Olona for the safety of the surrounding territory.