PARMA, Italy — It takes a village to develop a business.
Named Davines Village, the firm’s new plant unveiled on Wednesday in Parma — in the Italian region of Emilia-Romagna — has been designed according to the company’s Sustainable Beauty motto and with the goal to harmoniously combine ethics and esthetic, nature and performance, positively impacting employees and the environment.
“This is an idea tracing back to 15 years ago, but it wasn’t very clear at the beginning, it developed over time,” said Bollati, underscoring the importance of the project as “Davines today is not just a company [that] makes products but a firm with values inspiring its production, so to have a place physically embodying these [values] is essential to inspire people and outline an even more coherent future.”
Realized in two and half years with a total investment of 42 million euros, the project was developed by architectural studio Matteo Thun & Partners, while designer Monica Signani conceived the interior concept, which have been realized by Molteni&C|Dada Contract Division.
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“The idea was to create a home for all of us. We spend more than one-third of our lives at work, so it’s important to spend this amount of time in a beautiful environment. Feeling at home was the main goal,” said Bollati, adding that “[Signani] is the same person who also curated the interior design of my own house” to prove his point. The appointment of Italian architect Matteo Thun was the result of Bollati seeing his portfolio of sustainable projects, including the Vigilius Mountain Resort the executive visited and appreciated years ago.
Occupying a 118,403-square-foot surface, the architectural complex celebrates the company’s Italian roots reinterpreting traditional local rural buildings with a contemporary twist, combining wood elements with wide glass walls and tech implementations.
The venue includes the offices, the research and development laboratories, the production chain, the warehouse and spaces for academic training. At the core of the structure, a greenhouse-inspired transparent venue features coworking areas and the company restaurant, which has been developed in partnership with Vicook, the catering branch of Italian three-Michelin-starred restaurant Da Vittorio.
“We wanted to favor more interaction among colleagues, and this kind of architecture goes in that direction, because it’s transparent yet it preserve some acoustic and visual privacy. We didn’t want to join the aggressive, open space-trend but we opted for an intermediate solution,” Bollati said.
Tech implementations channeled in the four laboratories, in upgrading production machinery and improving logistic solutions accounted for an important part of the investment made to realize the whole Village.
In addition to the architectural complex, which occupies 20 percent out of the total 828,821-square-foot area, the Davines Village features wide, green spaces conceived by the del Buono Gazerwitz landscape studio.
These areas include two courtyards — one of which designated as a functional, relaxing space for employees — and a botanical garden showcasing some of the plants used in the company’s natural formulations and vegetables and fruits to be cooked in the firm’s restaurant. A greenhouse featuring tropical plant species is also added to complete the open-air laboratory.
In keeping with the sustainable approach adopted by the company, Bollati also conceived the Kilometro Verde project, or Green Kilometer in English. As the group’s headquarters overlook the Autostrada del Sole motorway, Davines will plant 300 trees along the highway to tackle pollution. The idea has been extended to the nearby, Parma-based companies, including Barilla, which will join the initiative and do their part fencing a total of 11 kilometers of highway with trees.
“As we have become a B Corp. company, with a focus widened to positively impact the environment and society around us, we decided to share this project with our neighbors,” Bollati said. “We would like this to be the first of a series of initiatives making the city of Parma greener and more sustainable.”
As reported in 2016, the company received the B Corp. certification by the nonprofit organization B Lab for having met rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency and for its commitment in using its business power to solve social issues. Davines Group received the B Corp.-status totaling a 99-point-score in B Lab’s Business Impact Assessment questionnaire, but it’s working to improve and reach a 110-point-score at the upcoming test in 2019.
Asked about other future plans, Bollati revealed that “the Village really inspired us. We have been dreaming about this for years, and it seemed to be an arrival point but now that is completed we’re already thinking about what’s the next step.” The executive said that in the future he would like to extend the academy section, install a movie theater and an art museum in the venue, as well as making the restaurant and the botanical garden accessible to public on special occasions. “We have too many ideas, but we’re still evaluating their feasibility,” he said.
The Davines Village enrolls 320 employees, while some of the production staff will be relocated soon from the former plant, which Bollati intends to keep it as “a backup, to be revamped and modernized” since the company continues to grow.
Over the last eight years, Davines Group’s sales increased double-digit every year, with an average rate of 14 percent. In 2017, sales were up 12.7 percent to more than 126 million euros compared the previous year. In particular, sales for the Davines brand and the Comfort Zone label increased 11 percent and 18 percent, respectively.
In the first half of 2018, sales were up 20.4 percent compared to the same period last year. The company’s chief executive officer Paolo Braguzzi predicts to end the year keeping the positive trend and registering over 10 percent increase in sales in 2018.
“In general, numbers are the result of a work done respecting our values. Today these values are acknowledged as more and more important by our clients and our clients’ clients,” said Braguzzi, noting that the company’s commitment to sustainability started long before this became a hot topic for consumers, with the group’s pledge spanning from using ethically sourced natural ingredients for all products to making packaging recyclable and reusable.
“We haven’t changed, we continued to do the things we believed in and now there’s an increasing recognition,” Braguzzi said. In particular, export accounts for 75 percent of the group’s total sales, with the U.S. representing the top destination of the firm’s products, followed by France, Canada, the U.K., the Netherlands and Mexico.
“We have been focusing a lot on some markets, and this selection of where to channel our efforts has worked out well,” said Braguzzi, defining the U.S. as essential “considering it’s the biggest market in the world” and crediting the strong distribution network as one of the drivers of the company’s growth in the country.
In addition to the Davines Village and the former plant, the Group is also present in more than 90 countries and has branches in London, Paris, New York, Mexico City, Hong Kong and Deventer, in Netherlands.
Another key element driving Davines growth is its increasing investment in R&D, which last year accounted for 3.1 percent of total sales. In 2017, the Group’s research laboratory, which enrolls 35 employees, developed 100 new formulations.
“Our brands still have a lot of potential and margin to grow, we don’t have any interest in adding new product categories or distribution channels,” said Braguzzi, mentioning Comfort Zone’s Skin Regimen longevity line to become a label on its own, doubling the company’s skin-care offer.
“Today, everybody is going in the direction of natural products, and that’s the right way. Nature is so full of resources, it can offer new solutions,” he said. “We have selected ten species of plants yet to be used in beauty, that we consider to have great potential to offer incredible ingredients.”