Nicola Martinelli - The Tailor of Guareschi

The origins of the Attesa Maternity story have a glorious past. Nicola Martinelli, the father of the present owner, Vittorio, founded the most famous tailor’s shop in Milan in the 1950s. He artfully dressed the most illustrious cultural and political figures in Italy, above all, Giovannino Guareschi. Of unquestionable ability, Nicola Martinelli won the Diploma of Merit of the Forbici D’Oro (Golden Scissors), one of the industry’s major awards. In 1960 he returned to his native land, the province of Verona, an area close to Lake Garda where Martinelli companies are still operational today with the ambition to create haute couture via mass production. With this idea in mind, Vittorio Martinelli has created Attesa Maternity, a range of clothing whose distinguishing feature is their attention to detail and stylish cut.

Imagine a man who is thirsty for knowledge and who, because of his rural background and the outbreak of war, finds himself forced to emigrate so as to follow his dreams;

Imagine a young Italian artist, a writer, a man able to grasp the irony hidden in the narrow confines of life;

Trace the outline of their great personalities with the common thread of art and imagine them meeting in Milan in the 1950s... Now you know the origins of the Company Nicola Martinelli.
Born in 1925, Nicola Martinelli grew up in a close-knit family of humble origins. With great insight and intellectual vigour, as a child he satisfied his desire to read by helping his mother to breed silkworms.
We cannot be sure whether his passion for materials and fabrics arose from here, but certainly the memory of those precious worms and their incessant ruminating during the night was the driver behind those famous scissors which, many years later in Milan, belonged to the designer of Italy's most famous tailor shop.

He arrived in Milan on 4th May 1949, the day of the Superga air disaster, a source of suffering that intensified the duller and more subtle sense of alienation from home and the fear that rose up in the face of a new and daunting challenge. Accompanying him were his brother Renato and sister Endria. The Martinelli tailoring business started in Via Lomellina.

In a short time, thanks to the skilful ‘word-of-mouth’ of an enterprising and kind-hearted female cousin, Nicola came into contact with a world-class customer base of writers and journalists, people to whom it would have been difficult to have access 

outside of literary circles.

The meeting with Giovannino Guareschi, who at the time was the managing director of Candide - the satirical newspaper popular in post-war Italian society - was a huge thrill. He was not a man known for his elegance; indeed, quite the contrary, he loved to dress very simply, for work. It was their common rural origins and strong yearning for their native land that united these two souls from the very first encounter. They spoke about this for a very long time. ‘The great writer and the young tailor found a point of agreement on which to build a relationship’.

Guareschi commissioned Martinelli to make him a coat: moleskin outside and fur inside. They slowly got to know and appreciate each other. And then came the international success of Don Camillo
‘Dear Nicola, I owe it to you if I made a great impression in Paris...’ Guareschi said to him on his return from the official presentation of the first film, passing him the article from the French newspaper that focussed on the elegance of the writer. This was a form of publicity that soon made Nicola Martinelli one of the most famous tailors in Milan.

Then in the early 50s, he won the prize called the Forbici D’Oro (Golden Scissors). From a shortlist of 20 candidates selected from over 500 competitors from all over Italy, Nicola Martinelli twice received a certificate of merit, contributing to increasing his reputation even faster.

But the stress and frenetic lifestyle in Milan adversely affected his health, to the extent that he was forced to return to his native town in 1960. The great tailor Nicola Martinelli, the stylist of Milanese intellectuals and politicians returned to Sandrà with a new challenge: to apply the refined techniques of tailoring to industrial products, to produce good quality clothes for large retailers. Large-scale production therefore, but classy, with that unique touch of style typical of boutique clothing.

From this point onwards, Martinelli Companies became part of the productive fabric of this area of Verona. At his side during these years of success were his wife Angela, and many animals, dogs and cats. ‘Animals are milestones in our existence, with their discreet and loving nature they mark the passing of our days on this earth’.

Even today, walking the streets near Lake Garda where the Martinelli Companies continue to work with the same ambition and creativity that were features of their founder, it is nice to think of that shy, quiet man, with his deep, generous eyes veiled with melancholy, remembering his tireless efforts: his apprenticeship with the impeccable Carlo Negri, his work as a tailor in exchange for a chicken leg, the first wedding dress made out of military shirts, his destiny as a deserter, the end of the war.

‘Nicola Martinelli is part of that handful of ‘silent professionals’ who have contributed in an extraordinary way to keeping our country alive, making it better’.
(Freely adapted from Il Sarto di Guareschi, by Roberto Allegri, published by Ancora, 2007).