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