In 1908, Ludovico Martelli began distributing foreign perfumery products in Italy the success of which gave Ludovico access to a widespread network of manufacturers and distributors across all regions of Italy. As the business grew, Ludovico was able to create his own products. Ludovico’s son, Piero Martelli, took control of the company in the 1930s and the Martellis’ first original brand, Frabelia Beauty Creams, was launched. However, the natural shift from fragrance to grooming came quickly when Piero invented a cream to prepare the skin for shaving. It was named Proraso — or “pro shave” — and thus began an Italian self-care empire. Its success was partly helped by the Marshall Plan, with American dollars funding reconstruction throughout Western Europe. As a result, Italy enjoyed an economic boom throughout the '50s and '60s. Proraso benefited from a rise in the standard of living for the average Italian household as the population craved luxury and innovation. The pre-shave was originally sold exclusively to Italian barbers, however, it was later embraced by an ever-growing number of home shavers.
By 1948, Proraso was an officially registered brand; in the 1950s, Proraso launched its next products, shaving soap in a tube, then foam and soap in a bowl. These would go on to become the concept of a complete line for wet shaving, which is still the mission of the brand today.
In 1968, at the age of 24, the grandson of the founder, also named Ludovico Martelli, succeeded his father Piero in guiding the company. In the following years, he both grew and consolidated the products. The purchasing habits of Italians changed during the shift to large scale distribution. The products of massive, multinational companies such as L'Oreal, Unilever and Procter & Gamble made their way onto the shelves, but due to the loyalty of Proraso’s customers, the brand was able to successfully compete with the new powerhouses of retail. Such brands as Proraso are known as heritage brands sought out by shaving aficionados who understand quality.
In 1990, Proraso moved it’s headquarters to Fiesole, a suburb outside Florence, to meet the growing demand. Ludovico expanded production of the company, as well as distributing third-party brands, the most well known being Marvis toothpaste. Proraso is the second leading brand in the pre-shave market and the first in classic shaving products; the "Refreshing Shave Foam" is the best-selling in Italy. The company continues to be run as a family business.