Aurelio Mutinelli, Selleria Pariani’s President, tells us the story of his company: a long-standing Milanese institution that created the world’s first modern saddle.
When was the Selleria Pariani founded?
In the early 20th century, Adolfo Pariani was the owner of a shop specialising in English apparel and accessories, situated a few steps from Milan’s Duomo. As he was working with skilled craftsmen, he decided to start making his own saddles and accessories, instead of 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 to create a suitable saddle, 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 well received and awarded a Gold Medal at the 1906 Milan International World 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 ounting 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 and successful model, named Argo.
How did you inherit the business?
I entered the firm in 1950. Alberto Pariani, Adolfo’s son, married my aunt Caterina Maria Marchesini and, having no children, hoped another family member would continue his business. With great pleasure, I accepted and moved to Milan from Valpolicella.
That was quite a new world for me, 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 and 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 to my uncle and me.
Who is running the company now?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. After all, the most valuable and long-lasting objects are made by men, not by machines.
Most saddleries produce standard items, with little care for details. We have never done serial productions; even today we make only about 600 saddles a year, and we consider time our 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 the difference in our trade.
What makes your saddles unique even today?
Since the beginning, Pariani has supplied the best horsemen worldwide, 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 saddles... Even Guccio Gucci used to ride our saddles, despite being a saddle producer himself.
Who are your clients?
Which of them impressed you most?
I will never forget when, in the autumn of 1984, I saw a picture on the front page of the magazine “Domenica del Corriere” featuring Ronald Reagan with one of our saddles tucked under his arm. We asked the magazine to send us a copy, but they refused. So, we contacted the press office of the White House, without much hope of a reply. Two weeks later, the photograph reached our office in a big yellow envelope, bearing “The White House” official stamp.