Not everyone knows that Luisa Spagnoli created the most famous chocolate in the world: Il Bacio Perugina. But what does chocolate have to do with high fashion? It would seem nothing. An yet, the young owner of a confectionery company was the pioneer of enterprises handed by women. She had a revolutionary idea and plunged headlong into fashion. How? Discovering it almost by accident.
Who was Luisa Spagnoli? Here is her incredible story
We are used to think of Luisa Spagnoli as one of the big names in Italian fashion. A chain of boutiques scattered throughout Italy and the world bears the name of a courageous and enterprising woman. In these days, the fiction, with Luisa Ranieri who performed this figure with great passion, is back on Rai 1.
Nicoletta Spagnoli, the great-granddaughter, who in 2016 attended the premiere, in private form, in Perugia in the Palazzo dei Priori hall, appreciated it.
An unexpected gift
We are in the 1920s. While Luisa is at the head of her now established confectionery company, “La Perugina“, she begins to have the symptoms of the disease that will lead to her death. She receives a pair of angora rabbits as a gift. They are long-haired, beautiful and docile pets. They have a peculiarity: they should be brushed every day. Luisa caresses and brushes as she realizes that all that hair can be carded. She breeds them in her garden and starts experimenting with a new yarn, the angora in fact. She has always had a talent for tailoring and starts producing fashionable clothes.
She is convinced that there is no real pret a porter for the modern woman: she will invent it. Angora becomes cheap cashmere, in fact over 8000 farmers will send the combed hair of 250,000 rabbits by post. An enormous supply.
An avant-garde company
The experiment works and already in those days, we are in the 30s, we can say that the company was ethical. Angora rabbits, in fact, are not killed or shorn but simply combed, in a pet friendly assembly line. But Spagnoli does not stop at the right treatment of animals. She established the time of breastfeeding for its workers, the company nursery, the swimming pool, builds houses for the employees. In the ’40s many suffer from hunger and cold and the families of the workers are distributed, as a Christmas package, knitwear and yarns for a value of 4000 thousand lire, an enormous amount for the time. An example followed by other companies with gift packages for employees.
The apprenticeship and the autonomy of future knitting workers
Luisa Spagnoli was light years ahead in every field. Considering that she had bought a grocery store and started making confetti and chocolates without knowing anything about candy. Luisa was brilliant and nothing seems impossible to genius.
Knitting, for example, was contracted to convents, where the nuns taught young apprentices to work. Once the trade was learned, Luisa Spagnoli gave them the sewing machine, so as to be self-employed. In short, she helped them grow professionally and put themselves “on their own”. Only Maria Montessori, in the medical field of child psychology, had come to have such an enlightened vision.
The “Red Kate” suit by Luisa Spagnoli
Luisa couldn’t see the industrial transformation of her company, she died in Paris in 1935 and her three children have been carrying on her projects. The brand will grow exponentially in the 1950s. Even the sons relaxed because of the designs and the quality of the manufacture.
Today it is one of the most solid and appreciated companies of Made in Italy. Do you know the iconic red suit that the Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton has worn on more than one occasion? It is a Luisa Spagnoli creation. The Duchess loves it and wears it to perfection, so much so that this particular suit, has become a must-sell in England and also required in other countries like Australia, where the brand is not present, bringing it to the world spotlight.
The historic boutique in Milan
Elegance and femininity. The Maison Umbra is now rooted in the panorama of Italian fashion. His boutiques with their Murano crystal Chandelier, patented in the 1950s, are a place where true luxury, the discreet one, is in the air.
Boutiques that obtain prestigious awards, such as the one in the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan, named “Historical shop” by the Milanese municipality. The historical shops are part of a register that contains all the commercial activities with a strong urban roots, such as to give it the value of a cultural asset. This is Italian fashion.
The sweet and extraordinary life of Luisa Spagnoli
With an annual turnover of 130 million euros, the fifth generation of the Spagnoli family now leads the company. With the new collections and prestigious testimonials such as Caterina Balivo, a symbol of Rai 1 elegance, the Italian brand is ready to expand abroad, beyond European borders. If the extraordinary story of this woman has intrigued you, we advise you to see the fiction produced by RAI. So when you come across one of her stores or you taste a limited edition Bacio Perugina, you’ll know you’re buying some Italian fashion history.