MILAN — Safeguarding the Richard Ginori brand, further raising its luxury content and improving the company’s manufacturing capabilities, as well as building an exclusive tableware collection for Gucci, were among the top priorities expressed by Gucci chairman and chief executive officer Patrizio di Marco on Tuesday.
Di Marco was talking during a press conference held at Gucci’s offices here, a day after a Florence court approved the company’s offer to take control of Italy’s historic luxury tableware and ceramics firm Richard Ginori 1735 SpA, which had been declared bankrupt in January.
Ginori was founded in 1735 and specializes in handcrafted and decorated porcelain tableware. Gucci, which is the only company that has offered to help preserve the brand, has offered 13 million euros, or $17 million at current exchange, and pledged to keep 230 employees out of a total of 308. The closing is scheduled on May 22.
“This is a very important operation for our Made in Italy, and I’m proud as an Italian that it has happened at this specific moment,” said di Marco. The executive said the deal is in line with Gucci’s other projects in the area, supporting small and medium-size companies and helping them gain access to credit, for example. Ginori is based in Tuscany’s Sesto Fiorentino, not far from Gucci’s own headquarters, and di Marco said that the plan is to maintain it there and improve the plant’s technology.
“Richard Ginori is a symbol of Made in Italy. It is a giant damaged by a chain of wrong choices and strategies, and a well of expertise that needs to be saved,” said di Marco. “Imagine that, at the end of the Twenties, Giò Ponti was its artistic director.”
After an initial restructuring phase, which will allow the company to regain its financial stability, the goal is to develop the company in order to restore its international profile.
Gucci is still taking stock of assets and declined to provide details of the investment needed, but di Marco said the priority is to improve efficiency of the main Sesto Fiorentino facility and update its industrial systems and equipment in order to make it fully operational.
While di Marco stressed that the Richard Ginori label will continue to be pivotal, the two Florentine brands will work together on a Gucci-branded art de la table line, drawing from the artistic and archival legacies of both companies.
“It was already in our plans to gradually enter tableware, which is not an easy market, it’s a competitive arena, but it’s also wide and offers opportunities around the world,” he said. “Richard Ginori has been called the Ferrari of ceramics, and we know that stores carrying the brand have been raided [for product] ever since the news of the bankruptcy.”
Asked about Richard Ginori’s existing licenses, including one for Missoni Home, di Marco said, “We shall see. There is nothing discreditable in licenses, but it is fundamental for the company and the brand to return to what they were, and then we can see if we can extend this expertise to other brands.”
Asked about the potential acquisition of other brands, di Marco defined this as “an important transaction. We have our hands full.”
A ceramics museum is part of the Richard Ginori assets and di Marco said Gucci will aim at preserving it. “We have some experience now with our own museum in Florence,” he said proudly. Gucci collaborated with Richard Ginori in the late Seventies, and a number of the pieces they created together at the time are on display at Gucci’s museum in Florence.