Words: Jesper Storgaard Jensen
Images: E. Marinella and Jesper Storgaard Jensen
One of Italy’s most elegant promenades, Riviera di Chiaia, runs along the bay of Naples. This is definitely the sunny side of the south Italian capital, and the city’s recent problems seem worlds away. And it seems to be the perfect place to tell a success history about Naples and about one of the city’s most popular companies, E. Marinella, Italy’s most famous manufacturer of neckties, which has its headquarters here.
The entrance to E. Marinella is not exactly flashy, and the shop where the company sells its famous neckties only measures some 20 square metres. However, you should be fooled neither by appearances nor by measurements, because in this case you are dealing with a company which has managed, through intelligent marketing and a persistent investment in quality, to export its elegance and style throughout the world.
London in Naples
Back then, in the years just before the First World War, British style and elegance dictated men’s fashions. It was therefore no coincidence that Marinella chose to go to England not only for inspiration, but also to select the finest textile producers for future supplies. All raw materials were thus imported from England – as they still are today – and the small shop was decorated keeping an eye on British style to such an extent that the local press at the opening called it ‘a corner of London in Naples’.
First Shirts, then Neckties
In the early years, Marinella focused mainly on shirts, while ties were merely a by-product. The Second World War, however, brought production problems and the lack of raw materials from England forced the company to change its product strategy. It was time to focus on the tie.
In 1985, the Italian president Francesco Cossiga become a kind of ‘self-appointed ambassador’ for Marinella’s ties, with his habit of giving a box with five Marinella ties to state leaders who came to Rome. This cunning marketing concept was expanded in 1994, when Italy hosted the G7 economic summit. On that occasion, all the participating heads of state received a box with six
customized and tailor fit Marinella ties. A gesture, as it later turned out, that helped spread the renown of the style and quality of Marinella ties. And it is probably true to say that today it would be difficult to find a self-respecting statesman who does not have one or more Marinella ties hanging in his closet.
Presently, in the Marinella show room you’ll find framed acknowledgments from various members of the Kennedy family, Bill Clinton, Helmut Kohl, Aznar, Berlusconi, Chirac, and many others, all of whom are proud bearers of Marinella ties. But a number of famous athletes have also found their way to Piazza Vittorio in Naples: former French soccer phenomenon, Michel Platini for example, and former basketball star Magic Johnson.
Small Details, Great Elegance
Today Marinella is a worldwide success with branches in Tokyo, Paris, Milan, Monte Carlo, New York and Athens. And part of that success is probably thanks to Eugenio Marinella’s slogan – ‘it is the sum of small details that make an elegant man’. These details have been constantly exploited by Marinella over time, and today the company also produces ‘accessories’ such as shoes, bags, scarves for women, watches, men’s fragrances and motorcycle helmets.
But how do you actually choose a tie? We asked Maurizio Marinella, third generation of the Marinella family. ‘Choosing a tie is an irrational act. The only rule that exists, is to follow your instinct. However, one should remember that a tie underlines its owner’s character. It will highlight his personality’, he explains.
The rumours about Marinella’s success have long since spread, and potential buyers - typically multinational corporations – often come forward with flattering offers. ‘We have had potential buyers from Australia, Japan and China, and recently we had a serious enquiry from a Russian company which actually offered an astronomical sum. We receive about one serious offer a month. But it is simply not possible for me to sell the shop. This is where I have my life, and I also believe that it would be like selling a piece of Naples’ history’, Maurizio Marinella concludes.
Riviera di Chiaia 287 / A