Claudio Luti is not responsible for everything that made a visit to Milan this year so pleasant and lively. Was it he who ordered the marvelous weather? Or infuse the designers with good ideas? And yet there is much at the fair that reveals the mark he has made. Claudio Luti was Managing Director of Versace when, in 1988, he bought Kartell, founded in 1949, from his father-in-law and has since successfully steered it through the difficult waters of global economic turbulence.
It’s hardly surprising that he’s hosting us all for coffee on the morning of the very first day of the fair in the “Red Lounge”, a place only open to a select group of “friends of the house”. It was great that here not only press colleagues were at hand but also friends who are designers and architects, and we could all chat in a leisurely, relaxed setting. And for the owners of a “Red Card” the invention of the “Red Line” proved to be a real blessing, and one for which we really have Claudio Luti to thank. It’s really pleasant not having to force your way through the customary throng at the turnpikes for the Salone.
And it’s not just on the “service” front that it becomes clear that Claudio Luti seeks to advance the Milan trade fair. What might easily be overlooked, even as regards the branding, has been altered to render it more precise, as now the lower-case ‘i’ reminiscent of Apple has been elided, having hitherto graced the Salone. Instead of ‘iSalone del Mobile’ the fair is now known only as “Salone del Mobile.Milano”.
In conversation Claudi Luti reveals that he is not overly concerned by the fact that economic conditions are not yet back at their best. “The Salone,” he says, “is a success and the best exhibitors are the ones showing their innovations here, and there’s a long waiting list.” Even if the Italian furniture industry had to contend sales sagging even further in 2013, with the total still somewhere like 25 percent below the figure for 2009, Luti believes the Salone offers all makers many opportunities to get back on the path to success. What was true of previous years is also true for 2014: Exports are becoming ever more important for all the exhibitors, irrespective of whether they come from Italy or elsewhere. As regards the visitors, and they flock to Milan from over 160 countries Luti says, they all have a chance to boost their share of the exports. Although he makes certain to add that in particular the Italian companies can still learn a great deal. Because even if Italian products are always to be found in shop windows the world over, countries such as France or Germany often succeed in booking far greater business successes. His very personal recommendation for Italian corporations is therefore to must continue to devote just as much attention to enhancing distribution, meaning both sales and logistics, as they do to augmenting product quality. Kartell, his own firm, he comments is likewise permanently busy improving quality management. And as regards distribution, he has established many of his own flagship stores around the world. Of course, not every corporation can afford to do that. But Kartell, which posts annual sales of just short of EUR 100 million, would not be where it now is without opting for such steps.
When I asked him what trends he has discerned or expects to see at the Salone he answers with a smile that it’s only 10 a.m. and the first day of the fair, so how should he already have managed to view everything. On top of which, he is only interested in trends to a limited extent as the only thing that really interests him is product quality. All that remains to be added is that Italians simply often know best what goes to make up a product’s quality and how to create it. Even if they don’t reveal the secret to us – and only show us their products. Grazie per il caffè!