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A STUDY OF BRANDS / Bisazza`s high-end products a modern glass act

Post Time:Jan 13,2009Classify:Company NewsView:763

Bisazza S.p.A. has imbued glass mosaic tile production with a sense of contemporary fashion and, in the process, has turned around one of Italy´s centuries-old manufacturing fields.

In this 22nd installment in a series on the world´s high-end brands, Yomiuri Shimbun Rome Correspondent Kazuki Matsuura interviews Piero Bisazza, chief executive officer of the postwar-founded firm, asking him about his strategy for branding high-end glass mosaic walls in the competitive global marketplace.

The second-generation CEO, born in 1955 in a suburb of Vicenza, northern Italy, studied Anglo-American literature at the University of California, Los Angeles, and assumed his current post in December 1999.

The Yomiuri Shimbun: Bisazza´s glass mosaic products are popular around the world. How is your company different from other ceramic and glass product companies?

Piero Bisazza: No other glass mosaics have the same technical qualities and characteristics that our products have. This is a result of decades of improvements, and that´s why when I arrived here, I thought there was nothing for me to do - the product itself was 99 percent perfect. So, all we did was enlarge the color range and introduce some smalti - enamel products typical of the Venice region - to give us a larger and wider range of products.

As to our process, first, we make the actual single physical tiles and then assemble them on sheets of veiled paper or with decorations or blends. Basically, what makes our products different is the way we reassemble the single tiles. To stay abreast of what we believe is relevant in today´s fashion trends, we conduct market research into different patterns.

As a second-generation head of the company, you´ve shifted the firm from the industrial arena to the fashion field. How has the company changed?

I want to change the balance of power between us and the market. I´ve always thought that the strong brands dictate what is cool and what is not. You don´t go to a Prada store and ask if they have a purple skirt that season. [If you do], you´re in the wrong place. When Prada shows you a yellow skirt, it´s because Prada thinks it´s very cool, and eventually, you buy it because you also come to think it´s very cool. I want to become stronger than our customers. They buy what we propose to them, because they think our design has value. I refuse to sell something I´m not proud of. So, my job is to maintain our integrity - building the brand is mainly saying no to a lot of people.

Tell us more about your brand building strategy.

Our showrooms are based very close to or sometimes within fashion districts. The ceramic industry is still working with completely different values from us. We advertise in fashion magazines - rather than design magazines - to appeal to woman [aged] between 25 and 50.

How would you describe your management style?

I know this may sound horribly arrogant, but I don´t think running a company is a democracy; I have pretty clear ideas about where the company should go. I basically trust my instinct 100 percent - I operate based on gut feelings much more than my brain. My style of leadership is very different than that of the previous generation.

By the way, at a family-run company, the boundaries between management and ownership very often tend to get blurred. Most likely my successor will not be called Bisazza.

As far as the Japanese market is concerned, Bisazza is obviously a latecomer.

In terms of establishing a brand I always think it´s far easier to penetrate emerging markets, as compared to a country as sophisticated as Japan. It´s a double challenge, because Japan is difficult with very little of the residential sales that I´d expect. We need to establish relationships with architectural and design communities. But we need to be there. Obviously you can´t ignore Japan - luxury companies, such as Louis Vuitton and Bulgari, make up about 25-30 percent of their overall sales in Japan.

We opened Bisazza Japan in mid-2007. We´re opening a showroom in Tokyo in early February. We need to start from scratch. We need to do all the things that we do in other countries in Japan. Bisazza Japan is a long-term venture.

Family of mosaic makers crafts global luxury brand

In 1956, during Italy´s postwar industrialization, Renato Bisazza, now 83, founded a business making glass mosaic tiles in the northern city of Vicenza, about 50 kilometers west of Venice - the City of Water and a center for decorative glass production since the Middle Ages.

Renato´s son, Piero, who now runs Bisazza S.p.A., says his family concentrated its efforts on turning a regional, decades-old household workshop tradition into a modern industry.

Bisazza began to come of age as a luxury brand in the 1990s when Piero, well versed in art and architecture, became chief executive officer. Piero has drastically revamped its corporate structure by creating a design division in 2004 and an interior products division in 2006.

The company also has capitalized on the globally renowned expertise of designers such as Isao Hosoe, a Japanese native living in Italy, to provide cutting-edge mosaic patterns that lend contemporary ideas to the traditional image of tiles being used for bathrooms or lavatories.

Bisazza has now established itself as a popular luxury brand not only in Italy but the world over. In the United States, its Los Angeles store is frequented by celebrities, including Charlize Theron, who won the Academy Award for Best Actress in 2004, and Jessica Biel, who was in the 2007 movie "Next."

Bisazza´s global sales in 2007 were 134 million euro (16 billion yen), up 13.6 percent from the year before.

Next month, Bisazza plans to open a showroom in Minami-Aoyama, Minato Ward, Tokyo.

Source: Yomiuri ShimbunAuthor: shangyi

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