MILAN — A formidable team is working with the Buccellati family to develop and globally expand the historical Italian jewelry brand. Following the arrival of Francesco Trapani as executive vice chairman of majority shareholder Clessidra SGR in April of last year, Gianluca Brozzetti joined Buccellati as its new chief executive officer in September. After a longstanding role as ceo of Bulgari, Trapani was most recently chairman of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton’s watches and jewelry division, while Brozzetti, previously ceo of the Roberto Cavalli group, has held senior roles at Asprey, Bulgari, Gucci Group and Louis Vuitton.
In a first interview at Buccellati’s offices in Via Montenapoleone above the brand’s boutique on the luxury shopping street, Brozzetti said the company is “well-organized” and poised for growth, “in the respect of its history, DNA and prestige. We are looking for a business dimension more appropriate and in line with its name and prestige.” The affable executive noted that Buccellati relies on a strong brand awareness, and that the company was a pioneer in its expansion outside Italy. Founder Mario Buccellati opened his first store in Milan in 1919, and as early as 1951 decided to expand and venture in the U.S., opening a boutique on 51st Street, followed by a second unit in 1952 on Fifth Avenue. The company entered Hong Kong in 1965 and Japan in 1970. “Buccellati was part of the first wave of Italian brands entering the U.S., with Gucci and Salvatore Ferragamo,” noted Brozzetti. The U.S. remains Buccellati’s main market as a single region, he said, representing 40 percent of sales and counting five stores on Madison Avenue, Beverly Hills, Bal Harbor, Fla., Aspen, Colo., and Chicago. The brand is also available at select department stores such as Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus.
Buccellati’s core business is jewelry — such as the Eternelle ring, where gold is exquisitely handcrafted like lace, decorated with engravings and precious stones, or the most recent Renaissance-inspired Opera line, targeting a younger audience — but the brand also offers silverware and watches.
Brozzetti underscored the current “cohesion” between Clessidra and the several Buccellati heirs, all sharing the goal to further develop the brand, after years of family divergences. To wit, in 2011, the Mario Buccellati and Gianmaria Buccellati companies were reunited — a first step toward the acceleration of the expansion of the brand, followed by the sale to Milan-based private equity Clessidra in an operation valued at 80 million euros, or $89 million at current exchange. Brozzetti, flanked by Maria Cristina Buccellati, worldwide communications director, touted this current union of intent and vision, leveraging “a clean, untarnished brand,” discipline and organization. The family continues to be a strong foothold as Andrea Buccellati, son of the late Gianmaria and grandson of the founder, remains president and creative director of the company, and is supported by his daughter Lucrezia on the design front. The products are made in Milan and Como.
A priority now is the renovation of the 30 Buccellati stores around the world, which also includes shops-in-shop and corners, modeled after the new blueprint of the Madison Avenue unit, unveiled in March. As reported, elements include traditional panels in damask fabric and the classic golden glass showcases, combined with contemporary design, including a dark oak wood floor set in a classic Versailles pattern, vertically striped walls in smoked molten glass alternated with strips of brushed oak and new “superminimal” display cases on which classic Buccellati golden bronze capitals are mounted. By 2017, all stores are slated to be renovated, said Brozzetti, adding that the plan is to double this retail network in three to five years. “We are still absent in a number of locations and have limited presence in the Middle East and Asia, which is a weakness but also offers growth potential at the same time,” he remarked.
Brozzetti declined to provide company revenues. He conceded this was a “moment of great growth, more than double-digit,” and that Buccellati has increased its market share. “Jewelry is an attractive category and luxury holds in the long term,” he said, remarking on a stronger momentum for jewelry compared with watches now. “Perhaps because jewelry is more intimate,” he reasoned.
The brand is also available at 120 multibrand stores. In June, a new corner opened at Galeries Lafayette in Paris.
In Paris earlier this month, Buccellati celebrated its new Opera collection and its ambassador Elisa Sednaoui, who fronts the brand’s advertising campaign, which started rolling out this month and was photographed by Peter Lindbergh in Milan. “We want to highlight the brand’s strong connection with Milan, paying tribute to it,” said Brozzetti. The name of the city now appears with the moniker, followed by the date of the brand’s foundation, on the new packaging and labeling. Sednaoui “is a timeless beauty, elegant, chic, with a nonostentatious sensuality,” remarked Brozzetti. This is what the company calls the first lifestyle campaign in 40 years. The last of this kind was lensed by Helmut Newton, observed the executive.
Asked about a possible initial public offering of Buccellati, Brozzetti said it was “premature” to discuss an exit. “We have a long-term view.” Clessidra this spring took control of the Roberto Cavalli firm and has a minority stake in Harmont & Blaine.