MILAN — Jewelry next year is expected to grow 23 percent, according to the latest Altagamma Consensus, which also estimates that branded jewelry that has a strong presence in Asia is expected to perform better. Accordingly, Buccellati appears to be eyeing 2021 from a good vantage point.
“Our artisans have been working steadily to respond to the customer demand we’ve been receiving from Asia,” said Gianluca Brozzetti, chief executive officer of the storied jewelry brand, which celebrated its 100th anniversary last year. “The Chinese are not traveling and they are spending locally. We’ve seen triple-digit increases,” noted the executive in a joint interview with creative director Andrea Buccellati.
Brozzetti does not see jewelry as a safe asset — rather, it is part of life’s experiences. “People are bombarded with so much offer in fashion and fast fashion, but they tend to turn to leather goods and jewelry — these are categories that continue to grow,” he observed.
“And thankfully, fast jewelry does not exist,” he deadpanned.
Brozzetti credited Compagnie Financière Richemont for its financial muscle, its leading role in the jewelry category and for standing by the company’s strategies, while preserving its character and craftsmanship, with a long-term vision, following the acquisition of the brand in 2019. He said the luxury group is allowing Buccellati to work in continuity, which Andrea Buccellati and the executive himself exemplify. Brozzetti joined Buccellati in 2014 and worked through two previous owners — Clessidra and China’s Gangtai Group Corp. Ltd., which acquired the brand from the private equity fund in 2017 and sold it to Richemont two years later.
“Richemont had studied the brand for years [before the acquisition]. Starting with Clessidra, we had doubled our business and our network, with a strategy [the luxury group] liked, so they did not want to change that or the direction, aiming at strengthening it more and more, adding synergies,” Brozzetti said.
Before the sale to Richemont, sources said Buccellati’s founding family and its management were concerned and frustrated about the lack of investment in the brand under Gangtai Group. Things have changed now and the company opened new headquarters in Milan this fall. “It’s a project that we had in mind for years, and with Richemont we succeeded in completing it,” Brozzetti said.
The atelier, showroom and offices, covering 21,600 square feet, are located in a palazzo designed by architect Piero Portaluppi, who also conceived Milan’s Villa Necchi Campiglio. The building in a Liberty style dates back to 1919, the same year Buccellati was founded. It was restored and now boasts a LEED Gold certification and superior technology, Brozzetti said proudly. Ninety employees, of which 30 are artisans, work in this new space. Buccellati continues to operate ateliers in Valbrona, outside Como; in Zola Predosa outside Bologna, where its silverware is created, and in Chiasso, for its watches.
Andrea Buccellati said the company has been evolving its watches, for example by adding lacquered details on its timepieces with exquisite tulle decorations to achieve younger and more wearable designs.
At the same time, it has seen increased demand for its silver objects. “Staying at home, obliged by the lockdowns and restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, has stimulated a desire for silverware — which has long been one of our strengths,” he said. Silver shells, or special gift sets for Christmas, are also best-selling items.
While maintaining some craftsmanship that dates back to the Renaissance, Buccellati continues to innovate, underscored the creative director. “We work on our one-of-a-kind jewels, where we can express our creativity and craft, we evolve our iconic designs but each year we also have a themed collection of between 20 and 30 pieces,” he said. In 2021, the latter will be inspired by Impressionist art and colors, he revealed.
While he admitted that “everything slowed down” this year, impacted by the pandemic, Buccellati did not have problems in securing supplies and continued to work with a network of artisans who have been loyal to the brand for generations.
Richemont’s funds are allowing Buccellati to increase production and to expand its store network. Six units are expected to open next year — a London flagship and five stores in China, including one in Hong Kong.
There are 50 monobrand stores, of which 23 are boutiques and others are shops-in-shop and corners, and 150 multibrands that carry Buccellati. “We want our distribution to remain selective, and not open stores for the sake of it,” he said.
In addition, Buccellati has taken control of distribution in Japan and it will open its first monobrand store in Tokyo next April.
The U.S. is historically Buccellati’s number-one market, and Asia has emerged as its second. Business is balanced, though, said Brozzetti, as one-third of sales comes from the U.S., one third from Asia Pacific and one third from Europe, Eastern Europe and the Middle East.
Last summer, “proving Richemont’s commitment,” the group reunited the family and bought the last branch of the extensive web of Mario Buccellati heirs that remained outside the brand: the Federico Buccellati store in Rome’s luxury street Via Condotti, which is reopening at the end of the month.
Brozzetti is aware of the importance of selling online and said that Buccellati is redesigning its web site, which is expected to be ready in mid-2021 and to be more interactive. “We are focusing on an omnichannel business in each area, Europe and the Middle East, the U.S. and Asia,” he said, noting that Buccellati was one of the first jewelry brands to sell on Net-a-porter starting in 2017.
“We see customers buying across all our price ranges and from around the world,” remarked Brozzetti.
Buccellati is also available on Feng Mao, the joint venture established between Richemont and Alibaba last year. It also works with the likes of Neiman Marcus and Harrods in both physical and online stores.