Exclusive Talks with
The definition of 'excellent' is the ability to surpass everything else in terms of both quality and worth. It's something of great prestige & value and when experienced, it’s something quite exquisite.
Today, we're talking to two entrepreneurs who have striven for quality at any price and the key to their success has proven to be the achievement of excellence. They are Giulio Trombetta and Dario Casalini.
I'll begin by asking you, Giulio, what is means to be a company of excellence?
In my opinion, it means being socially aware – having respect for the product, respect for the environment and respect for people. Starting with the product, it stands to reason that in order to make a good cup of coffee, you need excellent coffee beans. As regards the environment, throughout the production process it's necessary to keep an eye on things: encouraging recycling - ensuring that manufacturing is not impacting negatively on the environment. We are the first company in Italy to only use compostable packaging at triple the cost of normal packaging and to only create organic waste products. Last but not least, when I speak of respect for people, I mean employers, suppliers and clients alike – always maintaining an honest and transparent approach towards everyone involved in the production process.
We've said that excellence is always connected to tradition and innovation. In this case we have reunited an entire process that respects everything from the most antique traditions to the most modern forms of research. Now I'll ask Dario what he has in that box and what innovation represents to him.
I think that innovation in fashion is perceived in terms of being something new, so provided its new it's seen as innovative, even to the point of being disposable. As Giulio has already said, innovation is different in the sense that it means improving both the product and the process, while respecting certain fundamental values, such as the environment. We only use natural fibres from short supply chains across Italy or Europe and our production processes respect the environment, while our garments are easily recyclable because they are naturally-derived. We also respect people, both those who work for us and those who wear our garments; it stands to reason that whoever chooses to wear natural fibres will also have a wholesome attitude towards their own well-being. For what concerns craftsmanship, it's a value that creates a limit and a contrast to the standardisation of the product through which everything can appear the same – you can be standing in the middle of a city and not know whether you're in Paris, London, Turin or Milan, as all products appear the same. The fact of having the ability to create and craft things locally also means being able to differentiate from elsewhere, to create local culture. For us, differentiation also promotes richness by counteracting everything being too homogeneous - in our case in garments that respect and culturally define certain places and regions.
It's great news when you can combine culture with enterprise, especially when culture can look to the future through research & innovation with green credentials, as well as to the past through traditions. This strange object that you are about to show us is testimony to your antique traditions – it's a sampler, isn't it?
That's correct. It's a sampler, which was used to take samples of coffee. We said before that a company of excellence begins with a product of excellence. Every delivery of raw coffee that comes into our company has to be sampled to ensure that its quality corresponds to that which has been purchased. As there can be a delay of 2 -3 months between ordering and delivery of the merchandise , we have to be sure that this is the case. This object is over 100 years old and is one of very few pieces of apparatus that has never changed. It is used to core through the coffee sacks without damaging them in order to take a random sample of the coffee for testing.
So for a company to have some history behind it is something precious.
Absolutely, although a company with traditions and history – ours has been around for over 230 years, for example - should never fall into the trap of getting stuck in the past and risk appearing obsolete. Therefore you should always correlate history and tradition with innovation and technology. In my view, the secret is to trust in young people, who are an essential resource within a family-run businesses like ours. Not just for passing on their knowledge, but also for passing on values from one generation to the next, which always need to be well understood and appreciated so as to ensure coherence and continuity.
Speaking of continuity I'd like to ask about the situation now and the dark times we're living through as a result of the pandemic and all its economic repercussions in Italy and around the world: so I'll ask you both how it's been possible to maintain continuity in both production and quality.
From our perspective, as a company which produces textiles and garments from start to finish, it's very difficult. Thanks to smart working and to the of the people working in our manufacturing processes – to whom we will be eternally grateful for their sense of responsibility and commitment – we have never stopped working. We have even produced a face-mask which as the moment is the only one made of pure cotton which has certification for medical use in the EU. However, this has enabled our workers to meet our deadlines and delivery dates with perfect timing. This has particularly been thanks to our very short supply chains and being able to take the raw materials and do everything else ourselves internally. All this has been greatly appreciated by our clients. To achieve this, everyone involved needs to share in basic core values and I must say everyone working for us – from the first to the last – feels the need to do that very strongly.
Values and objectives – also economic objectives for the future...
I'd say that in the correct economic situation the temptation is always to compromise on quality, but that would be the absolute worst path to follow. I think the one thing that differentiates between companies like ours and many others is the need to maintain our standards in quality. My dream to be able to make consumers aware of the fact that have absolutely no need to deceive them, on the contrary, we need consumers who are cultured in the art of coffee, a culture that isn't there and which we need to create - the greatest challenge for any company is to nurture cultural appreciation of their product. And it’s not a question of cost – when culturally enlightened consumers have less money to spend, they actually learn to relativize and prioritise what’s important to them.
So in times of crisis a company can become a cultural operator even when it’s in a sector that is suffering the most…
What Giulio just said is awesome in my opinion, because the enlightened aspect of the consumer is what distinguishes all our group. It’s the idea not continuing along the path of wanting more and more – what economists call The Law of Diminishing Returns: the more you have the less satisfied you become. The answer is for the consumer to become more informed and distinguish what’s actually really good and consequently to spend less. It’s really all down to health and well-being – two concepts which are inseparable.
Absolutely. I don’t know about in the textile industry but certainly in the food industry we say that ‘what’s good does you good, while what’s bad does you ill’. We need to be able to understand more about exactly what we’re eating and drinking – that is really fundamental.
Seeing how your companies are looking to create networks, could cultural factors be one of the import reasons behind the need to create networks?
For sure. For me Exclusive Brands is one of the most important associations to which our company belongs. Besides the fact that we are a network of friends, above all there are two important components to take into account: on one hand there’s the regional aspect – the fact that we are all from Piedmont, which has its own landscape and culture, but also an industry which needs to stand alongside the elements which define the manifestations of its local culture; on the other hand, there are industries that can absorb some of the worst and most obscure aspects of capitalism and globalisation. The fact of having short supply chains and putting quality before anything else guarantees that the final product will have value and will be appreciated. This at the same time as ensuring that the skills and traditions we have are not lost. I believe in both Giulio’s and my case we need to ensure that we pass on our skills and heritage to those who join us, or the will be gone. New ideas and innovations can be brought into the company, but skills need to be nurtured and maintained.
I also think that creating networks is fundamental. I believe an entrepreneur always has a thirst for more knowledge and what better way is there to gain it than to compare notes with other entrepreneurs? One of my maxims is that an entrepreneur is only as good as the people who surround him, so a great entrepreneur will also surround himself with people who are better than he is and who have their own specialisations. After only 4 years in EBT I have learned so much from my associates, even when their products are very different to my own. I hope they’ve learned something from me, too, from this exchange of cultural ideas. Furthermore, together we can evolve some very interesting marketing strategies. I have just concluded one with Peppino – we ate an ice-cream and drank a coffee together and it all turned out to be a great success! Two companies with a completely different characteristics but with the same basic spirit of being fixated on the need for top-quality products. I hope one day to be able to collaborate with Dario and many others in a similar way.
I thank you both very much. Many important words have emerged respect, culture, imagination, education, criticity – this is very rare and very precious. Thank you again.