Cella Milano history


Milan and the origins of Cella

At the end of the 19th century, Milan was a throbbing hub of activity: fashionable cafés, theatres and electric lights outlined a dynamic and lively city, home to clean-shaven men with handlebar moustaches and women who always styled their hair to be wavy. A business dedicated to beauty opened here: Cella offered everything required to satisfy the new aesthetic needs, including soaps, scents, hair lacquer and brilliantine.
Barbershops opened everywhere, from Paris to London; shaving became an important social event, an opportunity to meet and talk about hot topics, politics and sports. Barbershops were places of rituals and social interaction.

Fragrance houses competed for formulas to make the best soap. In Italy, the Cella master soap-makers aimed to achieve a top quality product. They selected the best ingredients and slowly cooked them in a steam boiler, then seasoned the soap for a few weeks to concentrate it. This unique soap-manufacturing process is the perfect result of truly dedicated soap-makers striving for excellence.
Cella was awarded a gold medal at the universal exhibition in Milan in 1906 and the Grand Cross for industrial achievements in 1908: it had become a leading company in the Italian toiletries and perfumery world.


The Cella Shaving Soap Cream became popular among professionals barbers of the time. Its super-concentrated formula (defined as “extra extra super-pure”) made it stand out from other similar products. It guaranteed a better yield and its outstanding hydrating properties greatly softened facial hair, making it easier to cut and protecting the razor’s blade at the same time.

The weekly appointment with the barber’s was a commitment no man would ever fail to honour. Men chatted and exchanged news (sometimes confidential) or spoke about work and planned business. There was a deep trust in barbers, confidants and masters of elegance.

To ensure their customers’ loyalty, at the end of the year, barbers gave their customers a must-have of the time - a pocket-sized calendar they could browse through, in which working days and holidays were clearly marked. It was also an advertising medium for scents, soaps and cosmetic products.

Safety razors became popular after World War I. This great invention was essential for soldiers because long facial hair made gas masks ineffective. Over 3.5 million US soldiers were equipped with the new safety razor and disposable blades.

It was a turning point - the shaving ritual, born in barbershops, moved to home bathrooms, where it became a private, daily ritual. Cella was there when this was happening and rode the wave of change.

They asked their designers to create a box that stood out from the many products for sale. The result was a brightly coloured package, featuring a man with a cloud of foamy white cream on his face. The true master-stroke was to show the man in his pyjamas, officially declaring that shaving was a private ritual, a morning routine carried out in the bathroom at home, a tradition that continues to this day. This is how the image of our product was born - Mr Felice [Mr Happy], our smiling vintage icon, still features prominently on our packages.


The Kilo format, designed for barbershops (also called the kilo bar), looked like a square “brick”. Barbers used to cut slabs from it and store the rest in the original packaging to preserve its properties. This format was followed by a different one, which Cella created to allow consumers to quickly and easily collect the soap cream with a brush. The practical new format consisted in a jar with a lid, called bowl, which is still part of the slang associated with the ritual of shaving.

The Cella bowl of shaving soap cream was thus born. It used the same manufacturing protocol established in 1899, the “extra extra super-pure” super-cream.

In the 50s and 60s, radio ads, posters and newspaper ads repeated the morning motto “CELLA! EXTRA EXTRA PURISSIMA! [extra extra super-pure]” or “SHAMPOO CELLA FA LA CHIOMA BELLA! [Cella shampoo makes your hair beautiful]”



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Frequently asked question

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