Impressive is the only way to explain the final visits of our Ciao Chazen trip at Villa Antinori, Gucci, and Brunello Cucinelli. These three brands all exemplify the true craftsmanship and attention to detailed design that we associate with luxury, however, they all do so in a way that is true to their own heritage.
Antinori is one the top 10 oldest family run companies in the world as it started wine production in 1385. Aside from making some of the best wine we tasted all trip, Villa Antinori is a luxury masterpiece with the vineyards, winery and facilities all designed by 50 top architects. Even though the current Antinori CEO said that the capex investment of this facility may not be justifiable, it is clear that it will solidify the legacy of the family brand into generations and likely centuries to come.
At Gucci we learned about their remarkable turnaround since 2015 that saw 21% growth in the 4th quarter of 2016 when you have the right combination of business and creative leadership. We heard from the CFO who talked about the current Gucci turnaround starting in 2015 when the new CEO Marco Bizzarri took a risk promoting a current Gucci handbag designer Alessandro Michele to the coveted role of Creative Director ahead of many high profile designers to transition the brand back to its bold fashion-led heritage. Additionally, we were able to see the entire production process from a foot 3D printing mold to the finishing laces of a custom Gucci shoe. The complexities of the technology and craftsmanship were truly inspiring and explain why these shoes continue to fetch the prices they do.
The Brunello Cucinelli visit took place in the beautiful medieval town of Solomeo. Brunello Cucinelli started his company in this region of Umbria and has continued to return company profits into the development and restoration of this town. As a man of humble beginnings, he has built his company around a mission of “humanistic” capitalism where profits can be sought without damaging mankind. They have really put their money where their mouth is as they pay their employees 20% more than the industry average, have strict working hours to ensure work-life balance, and reinvest a significant portion of the profits back into the town with theaters and one of the best restaurants we ate at all week as a “company cafeteria”!
Though all three are all luxury retail companies, the unique heritage and story of each of these companies has led to truly distinct cultures and business models — and I can’t wait to watch as their future unfolds!