Questions to Claudio Luti
Apr 3, 2013
Claudio Luti, Photo © Francesco Brigida
In times shaped by globalized markets, offering high-quality even perfect products simply doesn’t make the grade. Robert Volhard posed six questions on the future of the Italian furniture sector to Claudio Luti, the new president of Cosmit and CEO of Kartell.
Robert Volhard: How is the current political and financial situation in Italy impacting on Cosmit’s work and the organization of Salone Internazionale del Mobile?
Claudio Luti: I would say that companies that work with non-Italian clients are faring much better in the face of the global crisis than those operating within Italy alone. The Italian market is not in good shape at all. As organizers of the Salone Internazionale del Mobile we have not reduced our investments but we have moved them internally. For example, we have reinforced our advertising presence and communication efforts abroad because for us the international markets are much stronger than the Italian market. It has in fact become very important to brand ourselves as a solid point of reference not only in Italy but outside of Italy on foreign markets, thus establishing strong, solid partnerships.
How is this affecting the furniture industry? What are the main problems and how do you think they can be solved? What should manufacturers do to remain successful on the global market?
Luti: In economic times such as those we are currently experiencing it is imperative to address the emerging countries in Asia and South America for example, which display enormous potential. In fact, the Saloni are also held in Russia, in Moscow. This coming October will see the 9th edition – we have become very successful there, not only for the Russian market but also for those of all the former Soviet countries. To remain successful in the global market manufacturers should always give their best, working at the maximum and using the best resources. However, this still is not enough: a perfect, high-quality product won’t suffice if you don’t have a perfect distribution strategy for your products. Years ago, high quality could be satisfactory in itself but there is much more competition nowadays that you also need to be global in your distribution strategy. Those who have effective distribution channels and find the right partners will win out in the end. The same effort put into producing innovative quality should be put into distribution too. Communication is also very important to ensure success.

The Salone Internazionale del Mobile is the most prominent fair in the sector, which is why companies want to be part of it – it’s an excellent opportunity to enhance one’s international visibility: after all, more than 300,000 visitors come each year from 160 countries. People put a great deal of effort into being there, being part of this international crowd. If you want to be up to date on what is happening and what will be happening in the furnishing sector, on new styles and trends, you have to be here. We always, even this year, have such a long waiting list that we can’t please everybody!
What about competitors from Asia? Are they a cause for concern for Italian manufacturers? Is it simply a question of production costs?
Luti: Competition from Asia is strong, from China in particular. To cope with this, it is essential to create a network, even at European level. I believe that the most competitive countries, e.g., Germany, France, Spain, should pool their energies and expertise to face their competitors.

There also should be a certain synergy between public and governmental institutions to help see off the competition. We all know that plagiarism is theft, however Chinese are also beginning to change their attitude, they are becoming aware of the problems surrounding imitation and being more careful when distinguishing between copies and originals. To win the battle against the copies we have to educate and sensitize people to respect the original and all the effort and investment that has gone into making it.
What are your strategic objectives for Cosmit during your presidency?
Luti: I do not have a specific strategy because I simply want to continue what has been done in the previous 51 years; after all, this approach has made the Salone Internazionale del Mobile what it is now: the most highly regarded and eminent international fair in the furnishing sector. So, the biggest challenge is to maintain this lead. Cosmit, as the organizer, has to continue the Salone Internazionale del Mobile’s long and beautiful history, equipping it for the future, following its natural evolution while always trying to keep up with the times. As its President, I’d like to uphold the same winning strategy – if I can call it a strategy. The Saloni strategy has to remain that of being the centre of innovation: the world over admires us Italians because our entrepreneurs are able to creative dialogs fill of such creativity. But continuing our winning streak also means adapting to the new needs of our exhibitors, meeting their expectations and helping them achieve their objectives. Without the strength of our exhibitors the Salone Internazionale del Mobile would not exist, it would be simply an empty container. This is something to keep well in mind.
Which style do you prefer personally? Which furnishings and appliances reflect your personal taste?
Luti: As can be seen in my house I like a complete mixture of things: for example, you’ll find a “Moon” a contemporary translucent bowl by Mario Bellini perched upon a 19th-century table, and a farrago of ancient mirrors, Art Déco furniture with PVC, wood, objects by Philippe Starck and different English wallpapers. I like the emotion a place or a product brings with it, that warmth of life, a house should be lived and filled with emotions.
Do you have a personal favorite or highlight at the upcoming Salone Internazionale del Mobile?
Luti: I would say the event Cosmit commissioned to Pritzker Prize winner Jean Nouvel, as an important thinker on the world of the workspace. The event will take place in the SaloneUfficio pavilions, the International Workspace Exhibition that runs concomitantly with the Salone Internazionale del Mobile at the Milan Fairgrounds in Rho. It provides a new way of looking at the office, a project that frees up the office space and a quest for new materials and new technologies that can create comfortable, effective, user-friendly and ecologically-aware environments.