Five Generations of Canemakers in Turin

This sto­ry, which has gone throu­gh five gene­ra­tions, began in 1890 with great-great-gran­d­fa­ther Ber­nar­do and has con­ti­nued to the­se days, in the work­shop loca­ted in Via Sesia 23, whe­re pre­cious, uni­que umbrel­las are still manufactured.

Last descen­dent, Car­lo Sui­no, proud­ly nar­ra­tes his fami­ly sto­ry, he talks about his great-great-gran­d­fa­ther, and about his great-gran­d­fa­ther Fio­ri­no who got lost in the Uni­ted Sta­tes, his gran­d­fa­ther Car­lo, his father Fio­ri­no; he remem­bers the dif­fi­cul­ties, the gra­ti­fi­ca­tions, and most of all the hard work he has always been doing sin­ce he was a young boy in the work­shop among the smells of the fini­shes, mor­dan­ts, cel­lu­loid, fabrics and many other materials.

An umbrel­la fac­to­ry, which over the years has also been a sup­plier for some impor­tant English com­pa­nies. “Just befo­re the Second World War, my gran­d­fa­ther had a hun­dred wor­kers and the pro­duc­tion rea­ched 1000 umbrel­las dai­ly, to be sent all over Ita­ly”. After the war, the umbrel­la pro­duc­tion has con­ti­nued, along­si­de the making of big mar­ket-umbrel­las, that lit­tle by lit­tle has pre­vai­led “until when, in the Eighty’s, the umbrel­las manu­fac­tu­re was abandoned”.

“I remem­be­red when we were making umbrel­las, and we used to pro­du­ce even 50 of them at a time. When I was 12 years old, I was making the stems for umbrel­las, later, I star­ted wor­king with the sewing machi­ne, rea­li­zing the big mar­ket-umbrel­las slee­ves. I’ve always been in the work­shop: when I was 2 years old, I often fell asleep in the scraps of cloth”.

When­ce the sou­ve­nir of manu­fac­tu­re, kept in his heart: “I felt sor­ry to have aban­do­ned the crea­tion of the umbrel­la – Car­lo Sui­no says – until one day, in 1995, a custo­mer came to the shop and a spark was lit. She had asked me if I was able to fix umbrel­las and she brought me a sty­lish, qui­te valua­ble one, a gift she had recei­ved. Two days after the fixing was made with great sur­pri­se of the lady, who told me that she had brought the same bro­ken umbrel­la to the shop whe­re it had been bought and that in two mon­ths, they couldn’t mana­ge to repair it. An umbrel­la who­se pri­ce was 404.000 lire!”.

“That’s why I deci­ded to try again with a manu­fac­tu­re that for seve­ral years had been a fami­ly heri­ta­ge. I resu­med my con­tac­ts with the sup­pliers, but I mis­sed the sewing exper­ti­se, so I cal­led a for­mer wor­ker, 80 years old at that time, who lit­tle by lit­tle taught her art to me. I must thank my father and my mother, who let me try, it was a true chal­len­ge. Whi­le at the time eve­ry­bo­dy was making war to the pri­ces gna­wing at what they could, I thought that we would not have any chan­ces on import umbrel­las, sold at a lower pri­ce. I cho­se, instead, to crea­te some uni­que pie­ces, main­tai­ning the tra­di­tio­nal manu­fac­tu­ring, try­ing to refi­ne more and more my work, and, in 2004, I achie­ved a per­fec­tion, of which I could be proud, so I began to brand my umbrel­las by num­ber. Then as now, when I crea­te an umbrel­la, I, thus, pre­pa­re a file naming all the parts that com­po­ses it. At the deli­ve­ry, I tie a lit­tle num­be­red card to the hand­le and the same num­ber is writ­ten on the file”.

For some time now, thou­gh, “this busi­ness is less and less pre­sent, and the big­ge­st trou­ble, besi­des the finan­cial dif­fi­cul­ties, is the sup­pliers’ clo­su­res. Sin­ce 2006 the cri­sis has star­ted ant the pro­duc­tion has redu­ced to a third”. Makes you think that in the 50s in Tori­no the­re were at lea­st 30 umbrel­las fac­to­ries, “nowa­days I am the only one in the city and we are may­be 10 all over Italy”.

“I’m real­ly afraid we have over­co­me the tip­ping point for some sec­tors of busi­ness – he con­ti­nues – eve­ry­bo­dy tells me ‘don’t clo­se’, ‘don’t you have any sons to teach your exper­ti­se to?’ I have two sons who are still stu­dy­ing, but at this time I won’t encou­ra­ge them in doing this work becau­se you don’t even have a sala­ry”. But the­re is pas­sion: “a part of my payoff – Car­lo Sui­no admi­ts – is the smi­les of the clien­ts that I can sati­sfy throu­gh my work. I do it becau­se this is my pas­sion and I still hope to make a chan­ge, let under­stand to peo­ple the mea­ning of cer­tain manu­fac­tu­ring”. Then­ce the deci­sion to open a new web­si­te, crea­te a vir­tual win­dow, not e‑commerce “becau­se I think that e‑commerce can fit just a pecu­liar kind of craftmanship”.

“We hope the new web­si­te can be suc­ces­sful and new Sta­te and Regio­nal plans in order to sup­port arti­san­ship are laun­ched: I don’t say to give great sub­si­dies, but to make some­thing in the field of taxa­tion. They should help and plan to give visi­bi­li­ty to the­se acti­vi­ties. I belie­ve that a great basin of medium-high and very high arti­san­ship still exists in Ita­ly, but we are invi­si­ble.” His umbrel­las sold all over Ita­ly and deli­ve­red in dif­fe­rent coun­tries in the world stand for the value of the “Ombrel­li­fi­cio Tori­no” acti­vi­ty and for a sto­ry that is worth be nar­ra­ted also in future.

Ombrel­li­fi­cio Torinese
Via Sesia 23/B, 10155 Torino