Ties “Handmade” in Milan – Petronius 1926

The Milanese manufacturer Petronius 1926 was founded in Milan by Luigi Wollisch in the year that is part of the brand name. It is named after the Roman writer and politician Titus Petronius Niger, who served the Emperor Nero as Arbiter Elegantiarum, i.e. arbiter in matters of taste. The manufactory produces ties, bow ties, foulards, pocket squares and cummerbunds by hand. The first location was in Via Rugabella. In the 1950s, the company moved to the Palazzo Borromeo d’Adda in Via Manzoni. There, in the historic center of the metropolis, she stayed for four decades.

Today, the manufactory can be found at a new location, but still in a lively residential area of Milan. From the outside, the house reveals nothing of the fact that the basement houses a tie tailor’s shop and her extensive fabric warehouse. We were in Milan for a week in the summer of 2023, and we arranged our visit to Petronius by phone at short notice. We had announced our arrival in advance, but we only set the exact time from Milan. All it took was a phone call from Alessandro Siniscalchi, who knows the owners, siblings Gigliola and Simona Wollisch, well. Gigliola Wollisch’s cheerful voice sounded from the phone. An hour later, we were standing in front of the door of a large old Milanese building, looking for the name of the factory on the doorbell. Just as we were about to ring the bell, Gigliola and Simona came around the corner. They had just come from lunch and took us straight inside.

The company headquarters consists of a showroom and offices in the basement of the large old building as well as the workshop and fabric warehouse in the basement. However, one should not imagine the rooms in the basement to be small, poorly lit and with low ceilings. They are surprisingly spacious, high and bright. The showroom is furnished with lots of wood and has the character of a salon or living room. Gigliola Wollisch showed us the latest collections, which now also include swim shorts. Leafing through the sample books was exciting, on every page I was surprised again and again by the creativity, the freshness and the sure taste. In addition to fabrics, we were also shown samples of ties in various styles, bows, foulards and pocket squares. Everything is very stylish, elegant and highly understated.

I have known the Wollisch family for about 25 years. My first visit was to the factory in Via Manzoni. It was my friend Francesco Maglia, the umbrella maker whose successor in the family business we reported on, who arranged it. At that time, his brother Luigi was still alive, representing the third generation of the family with his sisters. He wasn’t there this time. His early death was a great loss for the family and the company. But the sisters carried on and today, after and despite the pandemic, Petronius 1926 is still one of the best Cravatiers in Italy, if not the world. In my opinion, this is mainly due to the materials that are processed there. The ties are cut and sewn by hand at Petronius 1926. This should only be mentioned for the sake of completeness.

Cutting and sewing are carried out with great care. But what distinguishes Petronius 1926 above all is the sure taste that the family has demonstrated time and again in the composition of its collections from the 1920s to the present day. This is not a claim that has to be believed, it is visible and tangible in the extensive collection of vintage fabrics stored in the Milanese manufactory. This collection should not be thought of as an archive or museum, but rather as rolls of fabric that are stored in boxes on shelves that reach up to the ceiling of the high workshop rooms, ready to hand. To help you find your way through this mass of fabric rolls, they are organized thematically by keyword.

During the tour, Gigliola Wollisch repeatedly pulls rolls of silk from one of the shelves and unrolls the material on one of the cutting tables. Prints, jacquards. Made of silk, wool, cashmere. In all weaves, various patterns, colors and motifs. Cutting and sewing takes place between the shelves. Petronius 1926’s customers come from all over the world. Men’s outfitters, tailors and shirtmakers, luxury department stores in the USA and Asia – all top addresses, often customers of the Milanese manufacturer for decades. Many of them travel from far and wide to personally put together their collection of vintage fabrics. Others use the latest patterns and have ties sewn from them for their stores or labels. There is plenty of inspiration.

Whether the style of a summer in the 1950s or the fall of the late 1960s. Whether Madder, Grenadine, Knit, Shantung, Gumtwill – Petronius 1926 offers a world of possibilities. The tie is dead? Gigliola Wollisch waves it off with a laugh. Not in Petronius 1926.