Bruno Magli Shoes, Eighty Years of Style

March 2, 2018
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About Bruno Magli

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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.

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.

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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.

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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) toldFootwear News(8 May 2000) the company was “making a transition from classic to modern.”

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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

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