Girmi is one of the Italian household appliance brands that played a central role in the country’s golden century of manufacturing and design. Founded more than a century ago, the company launched a small household appliance brand which became familiar to generations of Italians, and supported them in their daily lives with style and convenience.
Through its history, the Girmi brand has become a symbol of Italian quality and of the country’s great industrial and business tradition. Girmi household appliances have always had a modern, tasteful, efficient line, often created by master designers. In some cases, Girmi products have been pathfinders, inspiring trends and new domestic habits which have become part of everyday life.
The history of Girmi as a household appliance producer is also the history of Italian enterprise and design, and the country’s unique talent for research and innovation. A wonderful story that deserves to be told, not just to celebrate it but for a deeper understanding of who we are and our pact of trust with consumers, based on the hard work and dedication of those who went before us.
It is the start of the Roaring Twenties. The Great War has just ended and a wind of regenerative euphoria is sweeping across Europe: new fashions, and new industries to support them, are being born. Italian entrepreneurial spirit is reawakening, with innovative businesses flourishing everywhere. Subalpina, a cooperative founded by six young men to produce household and personal care articles, including some male and female grooming products for barbers and hairdressers, is founded at Omegna, in the Alto Cusio area of Piedmont. Led by Mario Caldi, over the next twenty years the cooperative grows to employ forty production workers and five office staff.
The 4th Exhibition of Decorative and Industrial Arts, held in Monza, displays the “electric home”, the prototype of what was to become the home of the future, complete with electrically powered products such as the vacuum cleaner, oven and coffee maker. Although already on the market, these items were still not part of the daily lives of most people, for reasons of cost. It may seem strange that even the wealthiest families, which could have afforded them, still preferred to pay servants to do the housework: household appliances were not yet part of the Italian lifestyle, and would not become so until the late 1940s.
Carlo Caldi, the founder’s son, takes over the reins at Subalpina and carries through the genuine revolution which will transform it into Girmi, a large Italian household appliance corporation. Alive to international trends, he is fascinated by the electric blenders used in the United States and begins to work on a first line of household cooking appliances to launch on the Italian market, with the aim of eliminating repetitive tasks from the kitchen and setting housewives free to use their imagination.
Subalpina launches Frullo, the first Italian-made electric blender on the Italian market. This is followed in quick succession by a toaster, a baby bottle warmer and a plastic electric coffee grinder called Mokaro. They are the first four household appliances placed on the market by the Omegna-based company; they still have plenty of room for technical improvement, but they are ground-breaking for the Italian lifestyle. Subalpina’s four aces are a great success with the public.
A new household appliance sets the seal on the company’s success: the Gastronomo, which puts the previous year’s blender in the shade. This appliance is so successful that about a thousand pieces a week are produced. The Gastronomo has a range of easily interchangeable accessories, including beater, mincer, grater, juicer, citrus juicer, ice crusher and even coffee frother. This ancestor of the modern food processor is very popular with housewives and transforms home lifestyles. In fact, from the Fifties the multipurpose blender becomes a minor status symbol for Italian families, who are experiencing the start of an age of new prosperity. The advertising of those years, when Girmi is already setting the pace, also portrays a new way of life, based on mental and physical wellbeing, and more emancipation for women.
Another product launched during those years is the Frulletto, a new multifunction blender destined for a special role. It will be rechristened with a name which will help to ensure its success: Girmi, from the Italian words for stirring and mixing. This product takes the market by storm, and in response Carlo Caldi decides to rename the company Girmi-La Subalpina S.p.A., which is to become just Girmi. These years see the start of collaboration with top industrial designers, including Marco Zanuso, who designs the Carosello coffee grinder, packed with stylistic and functional innovations, which is to inspire other designers. Carosello inaugurates a long tradition of high design values in Girmi’s creations, which will always provide the perfect combination of line, form and function. Apart from Zanuso himself and star designer Luca Meda, other names worthy of mention include Nico Smeenck, Michele De Lucchi and Giovanni Sacchi.
A decade which is to mark the peak of Girmi’s success opens. By now, the brand has conquered the Italian and foreign market with its well organised sales network and the state-of-the-art technology and design of its products. The new production site at Cireggio guarantees very high rates of production and the Italian household appliances market is booming. The heart of the company is the technical department, which is continually evolving innovative products. Luca Meda, a famous name in Italian design, joins the company and is instructed to restyle some products already on the market and design new ones. Meda’s magic touch gives a new lease of life to many Girmi products already popular with consumers. His coffee pots, masterpieces of improvisation and technique, are famous, as are his ice-cream makers and the 1983 Caffeconcerto coffee maker, still an Italian design icon.
Carlo Caldi sells a stake in the company to an American corporation. It is a time of economic crisis, with demand slowing, and foreign competition is becoming fierce. It is the start of a dark period, when the company continues to be owned by foreign corporations and www.rarily loses its leading position amongst Italian household appliance brands. After various difficulties and changes of ownership, including the company’s acquisition by Bialetti, in the early years of the new millennium things finally take a turn for the better...
Girmi is acquired by Rimini-based company Trevidea, which already owns leading small household appliances brand G3 Ferrari. This marks the start of a new story for the brand with ambitious goals, although still maintaining the great Italian tradition of which it was one of the key pillars. Convenience and style, the distinctive features of Girmi household appliances, are sacrosanct: the aim now is to innovate the product range and design while conserving the essence of Girmi’s identity.
Girmi reaches its centennial in better form than ever, with a rich catalogue entitled “100 years together”: a complete range of household appliances for cooking and personal care that satisfy the demands and tastes of the younger generations but still evoke the “Girmis” used by their grandmothers and mothers, products many of us knew and loved in the homes of our childhood.
Based on extracts from the book "1919-2019, Cent'anni di Girmi" [1919-2019, A Hundred Years of Girmi], by Bruno Maffeis
Girmi products’ central place in the daily lives of so many Italian families was gained partly thanks to the brand’s strong focus on communication right from its origins. Amongst the early advertising pioneers, Girmi made history with its “Carosello” TV slots and commercials and also continued its journey with major partnerships and sponsorships in the world of sport.
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