Interview with Mr. Cornelio Maggia, owner of the famous Italian sports fashion brand Maggia
(Interview led by Emanuele Fietta)
John Newcombe wearing a jumper from the Maggia Newcombe Line
(Photo presented with exclusive permission by Tennis Magazin, taken from November issue 1981)
When was Maglificio Maggia (M.M.) founded?
The company was founded in 1780. My family has records of activity in textile sector since 1745.
How and when did the idea of producing tennis apparel come up?
It was about the middle of the seventies; following the success reached by Fila, M.M. created its own logo, the famous “M”, being supported by John Newcombe’s public image.
Did the company employ its own designers who took care of tennis lines? What was their philosophy and how did they approach this sport?
MM has been working with the help of external designers; the 2 principles they have been following are doing something much different from competitors, and doing something easy and effective, that could be produced at high rhythm. We reached the daily production of 12.000 garments! 250 people had been working in the factory in Occhieppo Superiore, and 50 more in a tailoring factory in Chivasso (close to Turin). The innovative element was eliminating the buttons from tennis shirts; the simplification, which worked perfectly, consisted in lowering the number of colours: 3 for the Newcombe line, 4 for the Gerulaitis line.
Can you talk about players’ personal logos?
Many people don’t know that they were owned by players, John and Vitas, so we had to pay for royalties to be allowed to use them on our tennis apparel.
And did John and Vitas come to see your factory? What kind of people were they?
John never came to our factory in Occhieppo Superiore; he was an extremely nice and funny man though. I have very good memory of him; he invited us more than once to see his matches in Wimbledon, and of course we attended them! Gerulaitis came to visit our factory in Occhieppo, then we met him more than once in London to sign contracts (we had a 3 year agreement with him). He was surely a friendly man. I remember that at the time McCormack agency followed all the deals with these professional players, especially the legal and economic aspects.
Now a little “rough” question: Did the two players ask for a lot of money?
Well, they cost a lot to us! John asked for a percentage on our sales, Vitas signed a more traditional yearly contract with a set fee.
And do you think that it was a good idea to spend this money? I mean, was it worth doing it?
Sure! Our factory never had as much work as at that time ; as I said before, the company had 300 people and production was really high. Players were satisfied with the quality of our products and they didn’t do any effort to wear what they had to wear because of their contracts.
What happened after partnership with Newcombe and Gerulaitis?
In few words, globalization and the more frequent habit of delocating productions in countries where wages are lower, typical feature of big brands, that everybody knows, made us hard to compete. I want to point out that Maggia never produced anything out of Italy, in any step of the production. When competition became harder, we tried to produce in Turkey and even in China, but the problem was that we didn’t have big enough bulks to justify costs for people who should have lived in those countries to manage and control the production over there.
But MM still exists...
Yes, we are still alive, though we don’t produce tennis apparel anymore. Nowadays we still have 25 workers who take care of knitwear production. My son is running the business now, but am still coming to the office every day…
What about making the MM brand restart?
Uhm, I don’t know. As I said, we would have to buy machinery again, in order to produce the final garments, then we should try to start a factory abroad, then find some testimonials, and spend money for advertising to refresh tennis fans’ memory ; and all this, not considering all the workers that would be involved in such a project, especially out from Italy. We should start from zero! I think it would be too complicated.
Well Mr. Maggia, thank you very much for your precious time!
I thank you for your interest.
Maggia clothes photo gallery by E. Fietta: