ParianiSaddlers since 1903
We have invited Aurelio Mutinelli, Selleria Pariani’s President, to tell us about his own and his company’s story, a long-standing Milanese firm, which created the first modern saddle worldwide.
When did the story of Selleria Pariani begin?
In the early 20th century, Adolfo Pariani was the owner of a shop in Milan, a few steps from the Duomo, specialising in English apparel and articles. As he was working with skilled craftsmen, he decided to start making his own saddles and accessories, to stop importing them from then UK. In those years, Federico Caprilli, a cavalry officer from Pinerolo, was developing a new horse-mounting system which, unlike the British one in use at the time, allowed the horse to move more freely and naturally. Adolfo Pariani offered to cooperate with him and create a saddle fitting the new system, and lieutenant Caprilli agreed.
This is how, in 1905, the “Pinerolo saddling system”, named after the town in Piedmont where the famous Scuola di Cavalleria was based, came to life. And this is how the story of Selleria Pariani began.
What led to its overwhelming success?
The product was immediately greatly appreciated and awarded a gold medal for “lavori pregiati” (high value works) at the 1906 Milan International fair, as well as being granted a number of certificates from the Royal House of Savoy, a silver medal from the 9th Milan triennial exhibition and many other credits.
Meanwhile, the system devised by Federico Caprilli (who died an untimely death in 1907) was spreading and gaining a foothold all over the world. His disciples, who had adopted the more comfortable and efficient Sistema Naturale di Equitazione (Natural Mounting System), started winning the most important competitions worldwide, also becoming famous among foreign horse-riders. Only Pariani’s saddles complied with the system, thus becoming well-known and much sought-after. In 1912, the saddles were being exported all over Europe and in 1915 they started to become popular throughout the USA, also thanks to a cooperation with E. Y. Argo, the head of the US Cavalry, for whom the Pariani firm designed a dedicated, successful model, named Argo.
How did you inherit the firm?
I entered the firm in 1950. Alberto Pariani, Adolfo’s son, married my aunt Caterina Maria Marchesini and, having no children, hoped some family member would continue his business. With great pleasure, I accepted and moved to Milan from Valpolicella.
That was quite a new world, and definitely odd. I remained in the office all day to learn the administrative system and follow the craftsmen’s work: I used to watch them and, above all, I listened to their stories about peculiar people, strange places, horse adventures. We were not in a hurry then, we learned slowly. Time had a different value. Alberto’s decision to train a substitute proved to be timely, as he died six years later, bequeathing the firm management to me and my uncle.
Who is running the company now?
Today, the company is in the hands of my two children Caterina and Carlo. They started working with me in the 1980s and, in 2012, they took over the management. Both of them are well-known and well-respected, in Italy and abroad, and they represent the company’s future.
They are supported by a team of highly-skilled craftsmen, whose passion and know-how is the company’s real pulsing heart. For, after all, valuable, long-lasting material things are made by men, not by machines.
What makes your saddles unique even today?
Most saddleries produce standard items, leaving little time for care of details. We have never done serial productions; even today we are producing only about 600 saddles a year, and we consider time as a precious ally.
Since the beginning, the Pariani saddlery has pursued the very best quality, both in materials and finishing. In the end, quality pays off, but it is passion that makes a difference in our trade.
Who are your clients?
Since the beginning, Pariani has supplied the best horsemen worldwide, by offering a dedicated bespoke service, and cooperating with them in creating new models, which often turn out to be quite successful.
Beside professionals, our clients include great entrepreneurs, heads of state, and nobility from around the world. Personalities like Gabriele D’Annunzio, Giovanni Agnelli, Vittorio Feltri, the fashion designer Valentino, John Kennedy, the last Persian Shah Reza Pahlavi, Queen Elizabeth, Andrea Bocelli, have mounted Pariani… Even Guccio Gucci used to ride our saddles, despite being initially a saddle producer himself.
Which of them impressed you most?
I will never forget when, in the autumn of 1984, I saw a picture in the front page of “Domenica del Corriere” featuring Ronald Reagan with one of our saddles tucked under his arm. We asked Milan’s magazine to send us a copy, but they refused. So, we contacted the press office of the White House, without much hope, actually. Two weeks later, the photograph reached our office in a big yellow envelope, bearing the official stamp “The White House”.
Which was your greatest satisfaction?
This is the story of a family-run artisan business, that – in its small way – contributed to the success of Made in Italy across the world. In 1970, we received the gold Medal of merit from Milan’s Chamber of Commerce for “67 years’ praiseworthy activity”.
But what I am really proud of is that no employee of ours has ever been dismissed by my company. Nearly all of our workers started as young apprentices, learned the trade and exited when they reached retirement age. I believe this story is worth telling nowadays.