For the Italian company GioBagnara, luxury is more than skin-deep. In search of perfection, they cultivate a contemporary style in which leather, their material of choice, is reinvented every day. Each collection is born of expertise which has remained true to the demanding criteria of fine craftsmanship, on which the brand pride themselves. An inventive niche, their speciality in the luxury leather market has made them world leaders in their craft, and all of their designs are 100% made in Italy, in their Genoa workshop. Giorgio Bagnara is the founder and namesake, and along with his wife Vanessa, who harmonises the collections, they ensure that each and every product is always of the very highest quality. Giorgio talks to The LuxPad about how he believes open-mindedness and passion are the keys to success…
What first inspired you to create your brand GioBagnara?
In 1939 my grandfather started a hardware store business. It was a typical emporium where one could find everything they needed, which was unusual to have in Italy. My father introduced quality goods made of glass and porcelain into the hardware store in the ‘70s. Growing up in this environment, I found myself using tools that were at my disposal and creating toys with scrap wood. My passion for creating started there and probably, I guess now, the concept of the emporium as a place where you can find different categories of products in a single place is the base of our brand.
What made you decide to focus on working with leathers for your designs?
In the early 1990s my parents opened a store that primarily sold luxury home accessories while incorporating a large variety of materials. At that time I understood that leather was a very unusual material for home accessories, and that with some tricks this wonderful material was usable for every application. So I started with a very eclectic collection that was touching all the sides of the interior decoration, and with strong colors and particular printings, using leathers from the fashion industry and not from the typical furnishing market.
What are the most rewarding and challenging aspects of working with your wife Vanessa?
As partners, the most rewarding and challenging aspect is the ability to cross boundaries and expand our work, thanks to our differences. Vanessa is always supporting me, she is the heart of the feminine taste in the GioBagnara products. By specialising in the collection of jewellery and being an expert of color palettes, she was able to reach our goal of dual gender market. She is the one who introduced GioBagnara’s products to the fashion world.
GioBagnara has become a global presence in leather home accessories, world renowned for its values of quality and design, what do you think is the secret to this success?
We believe that open-mindedness, passion, and constant research are what carry GioBagnara forward as it continues a never-ending evolution. Since the production and the administration of the company are set in the same building, we have a direct control of the manufacturing process. Thus, it is easier to create bespoke and unique items. In the beginning of the business, we offered only colored leathers, which was not normal for people to see. I believe branching off from the typical color palette and incorporating unique leather types are the secret of success to the business. At GioBagnara, we combine craft skills and values with cutting-edge technology and design. By paying attention to detail, we are able to create products that are truly special, unique, and timeless.
GioBagnara are often described as experts in quality and handcraftsmanship with leather – what do you think is the key to being an expert?
Leather is a “natural” and extremely challenging material. To be an an expert, one must know the limits of the material while also keeping in mind the end use of the product. After the designer knows the purpose of the product, one can then plan the construction process of the piece and how the leather will be fitted.
Many of the highly-skilled workers you have working in your factory have been there for many years, what do you think is the driving force behind this loyalty?
In my business, talented craftsman are the centre of every production process. I’ve never thought to count the number of times that each piece is held in someone’s hands during the process of its creation. Human factor is essential component in my company; for instance repetition of the practice is the only way a worker can acquire the proper skill to make the edges smooth and apply the perfect quantity of color. I believe in the quality and beauty of craftsmanship; I don’t think you can have quality without human approach. To the best of my abilities, I have made the workshop a pleasant environment to be in. Instead of establishing a headquarters in a factory in an anonymous area, I have set the company on a refurbished old dock in the central area of the city. It is close to the sea and to the main attractions of the historical harbour.
Can you tell us a little bit about the manufacturing process at the GioBagnara factory in Italy – how long can it take from initial design to finished piece?
This depends on the complexity of the item. The time of research and development of a new product can last from anywhere between one week and several years. With the GioBagnara catalogue, I’ve tried to reach a lot of different sides of modern “lifestyle,” including dog accessories, games, furniture, lamps, bathroom accessories and more, creating a true “encyclopedia” of leather goods. With no subcontractors, we have the responsibility of being involved in the whole process of creation. Because of this, we can supervise every aspect and be sure the finalised product’s quality is as good as the expectations from our customers.
What is the best advice anyone has ever given you?
The sky is the limit. This is a constant reminder to myself. Since we have a high-end range of customers, I try always to find solutions in terms of quality and function that must fulfil their desires. In Italy, we have a long tradition of quality and craftsmanship, so our customers are expecting the finest leather goods.
What has been the biggest challenge you have faced in your career and how did you overcome it?
There hasn’t been a day where we haven’t faced a challenge. Our products are in high demand and typically want to be accessed in little time. We try to deliver our products within our customers’ timeline, but to have quality products, there is a limit on how much the process can be rushed. Our biggest challenge was probably the acquisition of the Rudi Rabitti brand which has now changed to Rabitti 1969, to highlight the history of the company. I was searching for the right products that could create items complementary to GioBagnara’s product. Rabitti had a long tradition of using saddle full grain leather and it appeared to be the missing link in our company offerings. It is also very important to me to preserve the craftsmanship of a company that was the first in Italy to create designed objects entirely made of leather. A lot of his models, which were produced in the 1970s, are still in production today and remain beautiful due to the poetic of “less is more.” They are refined to minimalistic designs because the leather is often the sole structure of the objects. The acquisition was a long process that took almost two years, but now I am starting to see the positive results of all my efforts.