Andrea Buccellati walked into the Buccellati flagship store located at Plaza 66, a renowned luxury mall in Shanghai, dressed in a black suit. He gave me a firm handshake and led me to the VIP guest room, where he offered me a coffee, also black. “Do you want anything to drink? An espresso?”
Andrea Buccellati is as Italian as his coffee preference. He’s the third generation, as well as the designer and Creative Director of the prestige jewelry brand that shares his name. Founded a century ago in Milan, near the famous La Scala Theatre, the brand’s designs stem from the Italian Renaissance period and are accomplishing using traditional goldsmithing techniques. While Buccellati has a long list of prestigious clientele, including the royal families of Italy, Spain, and Egypt, as well as the great cardinals of Rome, China is a key market.
Following Buccellati’s acquisition by Gangtai Holding, a Chinese conglomerate, in August last year, the brand has opened several new stores in Shanghai and Beijing.
In this interview, we discuss Buccellati’s China strategy, including scaling up production and how to reach China’s increasingly knowledgeable and consumers.
What sets Buccellati apart in the luxury jewelry market?
The Buccellati family has always had a great passion for this work. We never compromise on price and costs. We don’t care how much it costs; we care about creating the most beautiful products we can. We are very careful about the quality and the skills of our artisans. And it is very important for us to keep all the Renaissance traditions alive. Even today, we are very faithful to our style and design. This is what makes Buccellati different from others.
Another important point, in my opinion, is that in the last 30 years, we’ve seen jewelry brands only focus on big stones. Now, those big names try to make collections with philosophy and history. For us, it has always been like this.
Why did you agree to the Gangtai deal, and how has the Buccellati brand been affected?
We decided to join this venture with Gangtai because we think the future of the luxury business is almost 50 percent in the Asian market. So I think that to have a partner in Asia is the best way to develop the group.
Now, what has changed since Gangtai Group arrived? In terms of the quality of production, nothing has changed. We still do each piece like before. What has changed is that we do more collections now.
Let me give you an example. With the Macri collection, which we’ve done for 50 years, we previously created five, seven or eight pieces a year. Now, with the same concept, we have grown and developed our production. Today’s Macri includes different things — earrings, bracelets, necklaces, and pendants. We’ve grown in this way just to give people a bigger offer at different prices, but it is done exactly as it was before. Before we had one artisan, now we have many more artisans (still quickly expanding) to do the same product, which greatly improves our productivity.
How do Chinese consumers differ from their Western counterparts?
First of all, Buccellati has a unique, delicate style that’s already very close to Chinese concepts and culture. Our inspiration comes from many different places, including Venice, which was the door from Asia to Europe for years. If you go to Venice and you see designs there, you can recognize elements of Chinese culture.
I also see the Chinese market very quickly becoming more sophisticated. Chinese are very fast to understand the concepts behind Buccellati. This is the first time that I’ve arrived in a new market and people already know the story of Buccellati. They know some things that I don’t even know. Just to say, they are very well prepared, they study, and they want to understand the brand’s essence.
Something happened when I was in Beijing to open our store there in November. There were a couple of young guys who first asked me some questions, and then started to make their own comments about Buccellati, which were correct. I was surprised.
The Lunar New Year arrives this week. What is Buccellati’s approach to The Year of Dog special editions?
I don’t think we have to do something special for China. We have already done a lot of pieces really close to the concept that Chinese consumers can accept. It is easier to sell very delicate pieces to China and Japan than in the United States. Asian consumers like delicacy.
I designed some special pieces that reference different kinds of mythology, and concepts are very important to Asia, especially China. But I don’t do special collections with Chinese symbols because sometimes people refuse that. People come to Buccellati because they want a piece of Buccellati, which is close to their feeling and personality. They don’t want something that doesn’t represent them.
Buccellati has already done dogs, but if you tell me to do a special design with dogs, I’d say not yet. I won’t say Yes or No. Maybe it is too early. Perhaps next year we can approach this concept better. But the only thing that I want to say is that even if we approach Chinese New Year in this way in future, it will still be a Buccellati piece.