Italian footwear and accessories firm
Founded: in 1936 by designer Bruno Magli and siblings Marino and Maria; Company History: Moved out of basement and into factory, 1947; opened first retail store, 1967; U.S. operations formed by Rolf Grueterich, mid-1970s; began franchising retail locations, 1980s; gained notoriety and increased sales during the O.J. Simpson trial, 1996; Magli by Monica launched, designed by Bruno's granddaughter, Monica, 2000; controlling share purchased by investment firm Opera, 2001. Company Address: Via Larga 33, 40138 Bologna, Italy. Company Website: www.brunomagli.it .
On BRUNO MAGLI:
Schiro, Anne-Marie, "New Paths for Bruno Magli," in the New York Times, 11 August 1992.
Newman, Jill, "Bruno Magli Goes for It All," in WWD, 21 August 1992.
Ilari, Alessandra, "A Bruno Magli Comeback in the Cards?" in Footwear News, 1 August 1994.
Zargoni, Luisa, "Decorating Rita," in Footwear News, 7 August 1995.
Corwin, Miles, "Brush With Infamy Makes Products Shine," in the Los Angeles Times, 8 April 1997.
Schneider-Levy, Barbara, "Burgeoning Bruno," in Footwear News, 2 August 1999.
DeMartini, Marilyn, "Modern Appeal," in Footwear News, 8 May 2000.
Lenetz, Dana, "Opera Out to Build Bruno Magli into Powerhouse," in Footwear News, 3 September 2001.
Italian manufacturer Bruno Magli is known for its high-end, well-crafted, classically styled shoes. Launched as a women's footwear manufacturer in 1936, the company expanded into men's shoes and later into accessories and select apparel. By the 21st century it was an $83-million manufacturer and retailer of shoes, leather and fabric accessories, and leather clothing.
Designer Bruno Magli, son of a cobbler, founded the company along with his sister, Maria, who sewed the uppers, and brother, Marino, who was responsible for the soles. The firm grew quickly and, over the next six decades or so became a huge industrial concern in Italy, always remaining (until 2001) under family control. In 1947, the firm moved out of the family basement into its first factory, expanding into men's shoes during the same decade.
In 1967 the company opened its first retail store (it moved into franchising as a means of expanding its retail operations in the 1980s) and two years later, in 1969, moved to a larger, more modern factory, which it continues to occupy today. Despite the use of the latest in modern technology, much of the craftsmanship in Bruno Magli footwear continues to be done by hand; 30 people touch each shoe during the course of its manufacture.
In the early 1990s the company began to take a new direction in its women's business both in Italy and abroad, branching out from its classic styles such as slingbacks and pumps (which remained an important part of the line) into zebra stripes and polka dot sandals and boots. At the same time, the firm expanded into apparel and accessories in denim, leather, and animal prints. Many of these changes were credited to Rolf Grueterich, who had handled the men's shoe business in the U.S. for 14 years and had recently taken over the women's side in America as well. As women's footwear was trending toward the contemporary during this period, the men's styles were taking a turn back to the classic.
Company sales in U.S. skyrocketed in 1996, thanks to the Bruno Magli brand's role in the O.J. Simpson murder trial, in which its shoes took center stage as evidence. The increased brand recognition, albeit with a certain amount of infamy, caused U.S. sales to rise by 50 percent in early 1997, after a rise of 35 percent in 1996, both attributed to the Simpson connection. Although the company welcomed the added sales, it discontinued the Lorenzo model, of which Simpson reportedly owned a pair and referred to them during the trial as "uglyass shoes," despite the fact he was seen wearing them in many photos.
Starting in the mid-1990s and continuing through the early 2000s, Bruno Magli began to update its image, under the direction of Rita Magli. Stores and shoe designs were updated for a consistent global look. Previously, designs had been tailored to each country, and retail outlets placed more focus on the product and less on store décor. Since 2000, Bruno Magli concentrated on its worldwide image, with new store designs, advertising, styles, materials and colors. Bruno Magli U.S. president Peter Grueterich (Rolf's son) told Footwear News (8 May 2000) the company was "making a transition from classic to modern."
The goal was to create an entire collection for men and women that was fashion forward yet maintained the quality always associated with the company. One facet of the firm's new direction was to hire Bruno Magli's granddaughter, Monica, to design a label called Magli by Monica, which was targeted to a more youthful market than for which it had historically aimed. Bruno Magli also added high-end custom footwear for men and its first men's sportswear line. The apparel mirrored its three men's footwear tiers, Platinum, Modern, and Sport.
In 2001, the Luxembourg-based investment fund Opera, half owned by Bulgari, acquired a controlling interest in Bruno Magli, representing the first time the founding family lost majority ownership. The firm planned to use the cash to expand its international presence; as part of the deal, Bruno Magli and Opera also acquired Bruno Magli's U.S. operations which managed many franchising and licensing agreements. At the time of the acquisition, Bruno Magli had 60 stores around the world, five of which were wholly-owned, and generated the vast majority of its sales from outside Italy.
Bruno Magli manufactures more than a million pairs of shoes and 60,000 handbags (always coordinated with the footwear) per year. From the beginning, the firm's shoes were purchased by many celebrities; current customers range from Hillary Clinton to Queen Elizabeth II of England. The company retains its dedication to quality—its designs are sometimes likened to architecture—and boasts several products on display at New York's Museum of Modern Art.