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BUSINESS

Italian hatmaker to the stars Borsalino declared bankrupt

Famed Italian hatmaker Borsalino, the company behind Humphrey Bogart's fedora in "Casablanca" and Harrison Ford's lucky headgear in the "Indiana Jones" movies, was declared bankrupt on Monday, a trade union said.

Italian hatmaker to the stars Borsalino declared bankrupt
A hat in a "Borsalino" flag-ship store in Florence. Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP

A court in Alessandria in northern Italy threw out a rescue plan for the legendary company and put it into administration, Elio Bricola from the UIL labour union told AFP.

He said that while “it is likely industrial activity will continue” for now, “employees are angry and worried about their future”. Michael Jackson loved Borsalino hats, trend-setting music star Pharrell Williams is a contemporary fan and David Bowie opted for one of the Italian house's black fedoras for what was to prove his final photo shoot.

The 1970 French gangster film “Borsalino” was also named after the distinctive fedora-style hats worn by heartthrob actors Alain Delon and Jean-Paul Belmondo.

READ ALSO: Gucci confirms tax evasion probe

But even the endorsement of film and music royalty could not protect the 160-year-old company from the consequences of reckless management. The Haeres Equita investment fund took control of the ailing company in 2015 in the hope of turning the situation around, despite a debt of 30 million euros ($35 million).

The hatter's former boss Marco Marenco, who was on the run from fraud and tax evasion charges, was arrested in 2015 in Switzerland. A judge initially approved Haeres Equita's proposals for repaying Borsalino's creditors, giving the green light for a new chapter in the history of a company that produced two million hats a year in the 1920s.

But the plan to save the business and its estimated 120 employees was later rejected by the court and a second such plan, presented a few weeks ago, was also thrown out.

READ ALSO: Crisis-hit Alitalia unveils new designer uniforms for staff

CULTURE

Why Friday the 13th isn’t an unlucky date in Italy

Unlucky for some, but not for Italians. Here's why today's date isn't a cause for concern in Italy - but Friday the 17th is.

Why Friday the 13th isn't an unlucky date in Italy

When Friday the 13th rolls around, many of us from English-speaking countries might reconsider any risky plans. And it’s not exactly a popular date for weddings in much of the western world.

But if you’re in Italy, you don’t need to worry about it.

There’s no shortage of strongly-held superstitions in Italian culture, particularly in the south. But the idea of Friday the 13th being an inauspicious date is not among them.

Though the ‘unlucky 13’ concept is not unknown in Italy – likely thanks to the influence of American film and TV – here the number is in fact usually seen as good luck, if anything.

The number 17, however, is viewed with suspicion and Friday the 17th instead is seen as the unlucky date to beware of.

Just as some Western airlines avoid including the 13th row on planes, you might find number 17 omitted on Italian planes, street numbering, hotel floors, and so on – so even if you’re not the superstitious type, it’s handy to be aware of.

The reason for this is thought to be because in Roman numerals the number 17 (XVII) is an anagram of the Latin word VIXI, meaning ‘I have lived’: the use of the past tense apparently suggests death, and therefore bad luck. It’s less clear what’s so inauspicious about Friday.

So don’t be surprised if, next time Friday 17th rolls around, you notice some Italian shops and offices closed per scaramanzia’.

But why then does 13 often have a positive connotation in Italy instead?

You may not be too surprised to learn that it’s because of football.

Ever heard of Totocalcio? It’s a football pools betting system in which players long tried to predict the results of 13 different matches.

There were triumphant calls of ho fatto tredici! – ‘I’ve done thirteen’ – among those who got them all right. The popular expression soon became used in other contexts to mean ‘I hit the jackpot’ or ‘that was a stroke of luck!’

From 2004, the number of games included in Totocalcio rose to 14, but you may still hear winners shout ‘ho fatto tredici’ regardless.

Other common Italian superstitions include touching iron (not wood) for good luck, not toasting with water, and never pouring wine with your left hand.

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