Luisa Spagnoli represents a remarkable story of Italian enterprise. She was born Luisa Sargentini in Perugia in 1877, and she married Annibale Spagnoli, with whom she opened a grocery and began making her own chocolates. In 1907, she founded the company Perugina, with Giovanni Buitoni. This was initially located in the centre of Perugia, at the heart of Umbria in Italy, with just 15 employees. After Italy entered the First World War in 1915, Luisa, with her sons Mario and Aldo, had to carry on work alone. But just a few years after the end of the Great War, the company had grown to over 100 employees. In 1923, it launched a chocolate called "Bacio'" (which means "kiss") which became extraordinarily successful and is still an Italian favourite today. (It is said that the initial idea for the name was "Cazzotti," which could be translated as "Uppercut." Probably it wouldn't have worked so well...)
Not content with her chocolate company, she founded a new enterprise, Angora Spagnoli, breeding poultry and Angora rabbits. Luisa was the first person to use Angora wool for knitwear, utilizing the Angora Spagnoli trademark for the shawls and garments that the new company manufactured. It's worth mentioning that the rabbits weren't killed, and not even shorn: they were just combed in order to obtain the angora used to create the yarn. The company grew, and eventually, 8,000 rabbit breeders were busy combing their rabbits and sending the wool to Perugia.
Luisa Spagnoli was ahead of her time not just in terms of her own enterprise, but for her conviction that women should play an important role in industry and business. In addition, she was a pioneer in providing facilities for her employees, such as kindergartens that enabled them to continue to work after they had had children.
Luisa herself was unable to see the industrial development of the company. She died of cancer in 1935. Mario began industrialization in 1937. The Second World War of course caused some disruption, but nonetheless it remained the largest Angora factory in the world. In 1944, Mario took on 250 new employees. He worked on distribution and marketing, promoting the brand in Italy and abroad. Diversification into mainstream fashion was accompanied by the new brand name, Luisa Spagnoli. Later, company leadership was taken over by Mario's son Lino Spagnoli, and thereafter to Nicoletta and Mario Spagnoli in 1986. Nicoletta Spagnoli, managing director, and her brother Mario have taken the company to total sales of 117 million euro in 2006.
The brand therefore remains a monument to an exceptional personality. Another of her ideas took shape in the form of the first amusement park in Italy, "Città della Domenica" just outside Perugia.
Today, Luisa Spagnoli is moving away from its formerly traditionalist image as a brand for more mature women. The spring-summer 2012 collection is very colourful (mainly orange, blue, green), with superb campaign images featuring model Hana Soukupová.