FRANZI is a 145 year-old Italian brand with a glorious and magnificent past in the luxury leather-goods sector. Now the mission is to revamp it worldwide.
The story of the Franzi family began more than a hundred years ago, in 1840, when Rocco Franzi decided to move to Milan and started a small business specialized in the creation of bags and suitcases, located only a few steps from the Cathedral, fully interpreting the spirit of change and deliverance of that time.
The First Industrial Revolution was underway in Europe in those years, so that along with pleasure trips, more and more people undertook business travel looking for new market and development opportunities. In this context, the leather-goods sector which Rocco Franzi had chosen for his activity was bound to provide a safe future. However, it was his son, Felice who managed to seize its full potential and to turn his father’s lucky intuition into a top-ranking business. In 1864, Felice Franzi founded the Valigeria Franzi, an unpretentious workshop close to the via Manzoni. It was here that he conceived the Franzi suitcase that would become very popular due to its new presentation and manufacturing standards. In the wake of this prompt success, he decided to open a proper manufacturing plant. Along with travelling trunks and suitcases, production included all sorts of leather goods in an effort to meet the needs of increasingly demanding and sophisticated customers. He was a very enlightened businessman so that he did not hesitate to invest in tools and machinery, advanced techniques and skilled labour. Leather-goods experts came from Austria and France, which always had a reputation of excelling in the manufacturing of leather goods. By working in the Franzi factory, they contributed to the training of highly-specialized craftsmen who would play a leading role in the development of leather goods manufacturing skills in the 20thcentury. One of them was Guccio Gucci, who learned here how to select and dye valuable skins and to turn them into refined manufactured products.
Felice Franzi opened a first shop in Milan in the via Manzoni, which was followed by shops in Rome, Genoa and Vienna. In 1905, he was one of the very first to be conferred the title of "Cavaliere deI Lavoro". In those years, the "Valigeria Franzi" received an extraordinary number of awards at some of the main international trade fairs. Thanks to the exquisite quality of its manufactured leather good, it became Official Purveyor to the Royal Household of Savoy and Greece, to Her Majesty the King of Egypt and to the Imperial Royal Household of Austria. The Savoy family went as far as to allow Franzi to make use of the Crown of the Royal Family. In 1890, Felice's son, Oreste joined the family business. He was the fine interpreter of the entrepreneurial spirit of his predecessor. He was just over twenty and had already travelled through the East, visiting China, Japan and Singapore. His joining the business coincided with gaining awareness of the necessity to supervise the whole production cycle in order to guarantee high-quality manufactured goods. Hence the need to create their own carpenter’s shop to make the trunks' wooden structure and the establishment of the "Conceria Monzese". This was the first tannery in Europe to manufacture skins treated with vegetable products.
Running through its story reveals a fascinating world of poetical chemistry: extracts of walnut, mimosa, quebracho (imported from South America) and plum, slowly seeping into the skin’s fibres making them stronger without compromising their softness. This special leather became universally known as "Franzi leather" and was going to make its appearance in its many different variations, on the Orient Express as well as on the sumptuous transatlantic ships of that time along with leather goods by Louis Vuitton, Swaine Adeney and Hermes. Oreste Franzi also improved his commercial network by opening shops in Genoa, Florence, Naples, Rome and London. In those shops customers could find the most exclusive and elegant leather goods on the market. Like his father, he was awarded the title of “Cavaliere del Lavoro". World War II caused severe damage to the Franzi Company. In 1943, air raid by the Allied Forces completely destroyed a thermic-bottle plant and the whole commercial network came to an abrupt standstill, although no shop had to close. Despite post-war reconstruction and the “Italian miracle" of the 1960s, the Franzi Company stuck to its century old story and remained a reference point for exclusive, highly-sophisticated customers: a niche in the "mare magnum" of mass consumption.
Moreover, Oreste Franzi’s nephew, who bore the name of his grandfather, began exploring the design field and manufactured a synthetic-resin suitcase, the ABS, in co-operation with the architect Cini Boeri. Thanks to its innovating material, minimalist design and futuristic functionality, their work of art is still on permanent show at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. With the progressive development of car design, big name such as Pinin Farina and Bertone used Molitan leather manufactured by the Franzi tannery to line the sumptuous interiors of Maseratis and Ferraris. The same sort of leather used to line cabin interiors on fabulous transatlantic ships such as La Raffaello or La Michelangelo. In the following years, co-operation with De Padova and avant-garde designers was intensified.
This very suggestive story of the Franzi family and the way it passed discreetly through epochal events of which it has become, almost without knowing it, a protagonist, will be the starting point for the new Franzi 1864. Its company structure completely renovated, Franzi 1864 has decided to start again with an accurate development strategy. The first step is to study product historical files. Ancient prototypes and old sketches have been retrieved thanks to the co-operation of the Franzi family as well as of passionate collectors. Collections of sketches dating from the beginning of the 20th century with Indian ink drawings and extremely detailed product descriptions are becoming unexpected sources of seduction and originality, especially as far as handbags are concerned. These are characterized by a rigorous, straight-lined design softening in the roundness of the "seam" and at the base and becoming more feminine with the little scrap created under the attentive and loving eye of someone to whom the attention to details was essential. Their stylist team is working to translate these ancient lines into new functional finished goods. To do so, they use "Franzi leather" along with other equally elegant and sophisticated materials treated with modern technologies, always in line with the spirit of experimentation which has always characterized their brand. The new Collection will start in Spring/Summer 2009. Handbags play a central role next to a few proposals of small and travel leather goods. The collection structure is very focused: it is made up of a few basic, strongly identifying models with different manufacture and details. A niche proposal with a stylish content which is never "shouted" nor aggressive. A trendy luxury with a precise lifestyle as a reference. Finest quality remains an absolute necessity for the Company Mission and is to be attained through selected Tuscan handicraft workshops and an extremely accurate quality control. In order to convey a message of coherence, the central themes identifying their products can be found in both our Corporate Image and Shop Concept, which are currently being defined in co-operation with one of the most promising interior and graphic designer. The first result has been the new graphic of their logo.