E. MARINELLA: The Neapolitan Art of the Knot

I may have been 5 or maybe 6 when I was taken to the  E. Marinella tie shop  in Naples for the first time by my mum. Our mission was simple: to buy a tie for my father as a Christmas gift without getting caught. And back then it was like espionage for me: I had to keep a secret from my dad, as he knew that we were in Naples only for “a walk.”

The historical E. Marinella store in Naples, opened in 1914.
E. Marinella Clientele

At that age, I did not pay attention the long queue of people standing outside, with a number in their hand, patiently waiting to be called to enter a 20 sq. meters-wide shop. I did not even notice the sort of clientele that was actually in the queue: all business people, not only Italians but from all over the world, all in their finest suits and coats.

Inside the Neapolitan store.
The Shop Interior

But what I still remember now is the interior of the shop: in such a tiny space I think there were more than 10 thousand different ties. Long, short, colour block, striped, with small cashmere prints. Within a few minutes the shop assistant showed us more than 30 ties that suited our simple request (“We would like a long tie to match with a blue suit.”). And that was the moment I realised why there was such a big fuss around a simple “Marinella” tie.

The most appreciated patterns are those showing the smallest details.
The most appreciated patterns are those showing the smallest details.
Fine English Fabric

I was lucky to hear directly from the current owner and head of the brand, Maurizio Marinella, every tie is made out of a single square of fine English fabric, folded seven times to give the accessory the necessary shape and structure. And the Marinella family, who still owns and leads the company after three generations, personally visit English fabric makers once a year to check out the latest designs and make their orders.

"The tie colour must stand out against the suit and the shirt, without clashing."
“The tie colour must stand out against the suit and the shirt, without clashing.”
Tailoring and Craftsmanship

Since its opening in 1914, the store has become a symbol of Neapolitan tailoring and craftsmanship around the world: international leaders, celebrities and public personalities have been seen wearing Marinella ties at the most important events. The shop in Naples has now been expanded to meet the growing demand. More flagship stores in Milan, Montecarlo, Tokyo and London have been opened over the years.

One of the latest adverts run by the company on a global scale.
One of the latest adverts run by the company on a global scale.
Neapolitan Way of Life

Whenever any of my friends come to Naples to visit me, I cannot help but sharing a few words about this store every time I take them around. Call it pride, call it childhood memory, but for me Marinella is more than a tie shop. It is an example of how the finest lifestyle is so naturally embodied in our Neapolitan way of life and of how this fascinates people all over the world and across time.

The moment a tie is finished and the E. Marinella brand tag is sewn by hand.
The moment a tie is finished and the E. Marinella brand tag is sewn by hand.

All I can hope for is that the store will continue there for a long time, growing but staying true to its tradition. And maybe one day I will bring my child there for a gift too, and I will have the chance to explain why such an ornamental accessory can tell such a great story.

The E. Marinella shop in Milan.
The E. Marinella shop in Milan.

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VIBE: What Happens when a Millennial Exports Italian Luxury

Meeting Beatrice de Grandi of VIBE

One of the perks of studying Business in Milan is the different types of people you get to know. And it gets more and more interesting if you actually cultivate your interests through associations, museum exhibitions and cultural events. Few months ago, for example, I got to know Beatrice de Grandi of VIBE through one of the meetings of the Bocconi Students for Fashion Association.

Beatrice de Grandi, Founder of VIBE

Beatrice de Grandi is the founder of VIBE, an e-commerce website specialising in selling Made-in-Italy luxury accessories internationally. Nothing special, you may say. But then, let me add one little detail: she launched her business while at university and, mostly importantly, when she was just 20. Have I sparked you interest now?

As a young woman who relentlessly worked towards the realisation of her business idea no matter how many hurdles she had to overcome, Beatrice taught us that even luxury can be rethought to be closer to younger generations, to be agile in this fast changing and technologically endowed world.

One of the bags on sale on VIBE

As I have been trying to show with these little compositions of mine, luxury is not just about expensive prices and affluent consumers. It is a way to enjoy beauty, design, craftsmanship, uniqueness, creativity, giving full credit to the makers of the experience or object we are benefiting on.

VIBE makes artisans and handmade accessory enthusiasts feel closer, even if they may be geographically very far away. And Beatrice adds her marketing skills to this recipe, finding the right compromise between the artisans creativity and customer needs. So next time you read another article about how the fashion and luxury businesses are doomed to failure because of their inability to innovate, maybe remember that fashion and luxury are not a dictatorship of few big brands. Supporting niche players and artisans, like VIBE does, is the way to keep making the most beautiful and innovative creations to the enjoyment of others.

Some of VIBE’s best sellers at a promotion event
Some of VIBE’s best sellers at a promotion event

 

The VIBE e-commerce site

INSIDE LA RINASCENTE: A Chat Over Dinner with CEO Alberto Baldan

You may think that I am exaggerating, and to some extent it is true. I did not dine privately with la Rinascente CEO Mr. Baldan, but this is how the evening felt to me. When I saw the event promoting a tasty aperitivo with the CEO of the most famous department store in Italy, I thought of one of those networking events where the guest awkwardly speaks for 5 minutes and then has to rush away. But I couldn’t have been more wrong. Organised by Hub Giovani, a group of inspired young students and professionals who get together to discuss about work, culture, innovation and much more, the aperitivo with Baldan was so enjoyable and relaxed that you almost forgot to whom you were talking.

Alberto Baldan, la Rinascente CEO with a wooden model of the store. Image Amplified www.imageamplified.com
Alberto Baldan, la Rinascente CEO with a wooden model of the store

Meeting Mr Baldan

As soon as he arrived, Baldan started mingling with the audience, being very welcoming and kindly replying to all the sorts of curiosity anyone could think of. When he started addressing everyone, the real “talk” of the evening, he narrated the story and later develpoments of “La Rinascente” with such pride that you may think he actually funded it.

La Rinascente, view from piazza Duomo. Image Amplified www.imageamplified.com
La Rinascente, view from Piazza Duomo

The History of la Rinascente

Interesting to know (and maybe not everyone actually knows it) is that la Rinascente was funded by those Bocconi brothers who, after having established and run a very successful department store in the heart of Milan, decided to go and fund Italy’s first Business School to pass on their knowledge. And Baldan actually confessed that this part of the department store heritage, together with its name (actually proposed by one of the major Italian writers and artists of the twentieth century, Gabriele D’Annunzio) is what makes him so honoured to work in such a well known establishment.

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BRUNELLO CUCINELLI: A Beautiful Italian Excellence

In a very sunny and warm afternoon in Milan, Brunello Cucinelli spent few good hours inspiring young students and luxury enthusiasts telling his story, his ideals, and of course giving some advice. The event had been titled “La bellezza salverà il mondo” (“Beauty will save the world”) and nobody more than Cucinelli could be a better ambassador for what he believes is the only way of doing business.

“La Bellezza Salverà il Mondo”

What is so special about his business model? The pursuit of uniquely high quality in all garments he designs and produces, the respect for the human being and his employees above all, the support for the local community and the love for everything that is beautiful (let it be a theater to be restored or even the new factory to build) are the pillars of his vision.

Brunello Cucinelli: a beautiful italian excellence. Image Amplified www.imageamplified.com
Brunello Cucinelli

Profits are Not Everything

Mister Brunelli Cucinelli does not run his luxury business in a silo: he experienced first hand the depletion of the surrounding natural resources and how bad brutal work conditions may affect a person. And this is the reason why he feels responsible to be the change, if you allow me, to lead the change with other fashion brands in the name of “sustainability”. During the conference he could not stress enough that profits are not everything. He stands by this belief so much that before someone becomes shareholder of his company, he invites them to the factory in a small town in central Italy because they are not simply investing money in a business, but in a philosophy.

Brunello Cucinelli: a beautiful italian excellence. Image Amplified www.imageamplified.com
Brunello Cucinelli advertising campaign

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