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Bottega Veneta’s Marco Bizzarri Talks Luxury

Italian luxury goods house embodies a discreet version of luxury with an inherent understanding of quality and appreciation for service.

Bottega Veneta isn’t the kind of brand that encourages conspicuous consumption. Instead, the luxury goods house embodies a discreet version of luxury with an inherent understanding of quality and appreciation for service — values the division of PPR Luxury Group prides itself on. There are “no ‘It’ bags, no fashionistas, no celebrities,” said president and chief executive officer Marco Bizzarri Tuesday morning. “Instead, it’s always about discreet luxury and craftsmanship.

“The core values at Bottega Veneta have always been key,” he added. “In 1966, when the company was born, the first tag line was and still is, ‘When your own initials are enough.’ You can understand what that means when you purchase something from Bottega. You buy something for yourself. We don’t want to show off.”

Bizzarri, who joined Bottega Veneta in January 2009 from PPR sister brand Stella McCartney, heads one of the purest luxury players in fashion and a star brand at PPR, responsible for some of the fastest growth within the luxury conglomerate’s portfolio of brands. At the summit, he focused on success in evolving markets, outlining how Bottega Veneta was able to weather the financial turmoil of 2008 and 2009 and witness a “huge” rebound last year, driven in part by emerging markets. “Throughout all of this, consumer habits in mature markets and consumer behavior in emerging markets changed dramatically,” Bizzarri said, citing Coco Chanel who, in 1932, said, “During a financial crisis, the desire for authenticity is reborn, highlighting the real value of things.”

Bottega Veneta’s strategy to maintain its growth has been driven by its core mantra, and the philosophy of creative director Tomas Maier, who considers luxury “a point of view that is more about what you hide than what you show. It is a relentless pursuit of excellence and quality for its own sake and your own pleasure: not to show off.”

Unlike many of its competitors, Bottega Veneta decided during the recession not to radically slash prices, which would damage the brand image, and where others chose to cut back their communications budget, the company decided to step it up. And rather than cut back on its workforce, the company strengthened its team. The results have shown the firm made the right decisions. Last year, the company reported total revenues of $715 million, up from $563 million in 2009.

Bottega Veneta is also doing much to preserve the craftsmanship it is known for.

“The main challenge in this company is the lack of artisans, they are disappearing,” Bizzarri said.

So, in 2006, Bottega Veneta joined up with the Vicenza trade school Scuola d’Arte e Mestieri di Vicenza to set up a three-year sponsored educational program for aspiring luxury handbag makers, who will learn to cut and hand-stitch leather and other skins and patternmaking from the company’s artisans. Bizzarri said programs like this underscore the equal importance of the idea and the realization of it. “The two together make the difference,” he said.

Bottega Veneta also collaborates with other universities such as the University of Venice to promote the importance of skill and craftsmanship. It also teamed up with the government of the Veneto region to start a program to finance female artisans who worked in textiles and jewelry, but who may have lost their jobs during the financial crisis. “After seven to eight months, we have at least 100 women working for us with this methodology,” Bizzarri said. “The idea was to try to maintain a strong root and foster the passion.”

As for continued growth, Bizzarri pointed to emerging markets such as Brazil and China, where shoppers’ preferences are evolving at a rapid pace and the early trend for flashier luxury is increasingly being supplanted by quieter, more discreet alternatives. “Is the understated segment growing the most?” Bizzarri said. “For sure.” Perfect conditions for a brand like Bottega Veneta.