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Fila – Made in Italy

FILA: the trait of success 100% Made in Italy

From Italy to Moma in New York: the history of the Tratto Pen, which since the 1970s accompanies us with its futuristic and functional design.

reading time5 minutes

Who has never used a Tratto Pen? Yet not everyone knows these pens, halfway between a fountain pen and a felt-tip pen, are also 100% Made in Italy ‘museum items’!

Produced by the historic FILA – FABBRICA ITALIANA LAPIS ED AFFINI S.p.A, founded in Florence in 1920, they are now part of the prestigious Phaidon Design Classic collection of the MOMA (Museum of Modern Art) in New York, a collection that includes only 999 cult objects that made design history from 1800 to 2000!

Over 100 years of pencils

But let us take a step back. The company was founded just over 100 years ago (1920) in Florence on the initiative of a group of industrialists, landowners, and professionals: 28 partners who wanted to produce graphite and California cedarwood pencils. Five years later, in 1925, another immortal product was launched: the famous Giotto crayons, a constant presence on the school desks for entire generations!

After the Second World War, ownership of the company passed to the Milanese Candela family, who still run it today. Current CEO Massimo Candela relates a curiosity: when his grandfather Renato wanted to go to California to check out the wood suppliers in person, he was so scared during the flight in a small twin-engine plane that he decided to give himself a month and a half to return home by ship!

A trip to Japan and the birth of Tratto Pen

FILA makes a quantum leap under the leadership of Alberto Armando Candela, born in 1939, a marketing man, visionary and travel enthusiast. During a trip to Japan in the 1970s, the manager discovered and acquired the writing patent for a synthetic nib divided into micro-slices, capable of receiving water-based ink and writing continuously and accurately without smudging.

In 1974, Candela asked the architects and designers of Design Group Italia to design a pen that should be beautiful to look at, iconic but also functional and affordable. Thus, the famous ‘Tratto Pen’, part marker, part fountain pen with a minimalist, futuristic, and functional design inspired by ‘less is more’ was created. The Tratto Pen is smooth, but the cap has an edge with seven notches to prevent it from rolling off the desk once it rests and two anti-suffocation holes on the top. It was initially produced in three colours: red, black and blue. Success is immediate – in four days, it sells four million pieces – and its launch represents a revolution in writing. vIn 1979, the Tratto Pen received the prestigious Compasso d’Oro award, the Oscar for Industrial Design.

International Expansion

Over the last 20 years, Fila has expanded internationally through a series of strategic acquisitions worldwide: from Adica Pongo to Dixon Ticonderoga Company, from Pacon Group to Lapiceria Mexicana, from Daler-Rowney Lukas to Canson. Today, FILA is present in 150 countries, has 22 production plants (two in Italy), and employs 9,500 people. This year’s turnover will be around EUR 700 million.

For his dedication to work, ethics and sense of corporate responsibility, Alberto Armando Candela was appointed Cavaliere del Lavoro (Knight of Labour) in 2016 by the President of the Republic, Sergio Mattarella. In 2020, the Ministry of Economic Development issued an ordinary stamp dedicated to FILA from the series ‘The Excellence of the Production and Economic System’.

Congratulations to those who bring Italy’s distinguishing stroke to the world!

Learn about other Italian companies that left their mark on art and culture.