The Beauty of Made in Italy in 2020 Is a Story to Be Told Around the World

Elena Marzorati
·7 minuto per la lettura
Photo credit: Andrea Ferrari
Photo credit: Andrea Ferrari

From ELLE Decor

Nothing simple, fast or “instagramable”. Recognition is a cornerstone of Baxter — the brand who’s made leather its signature style — but at a certain point, objects have to speak with or without their logo, just as they do in the new “Baxter Worldwide 2020” collection.

With designs partially completed in-house, the remaining products were entrusted to creatives with whom the brand has collaborated for years: Draga & Aurel, Paola Navone, Federico Peri, Pietro Russo, and Studiopepe, focusing on comfort and soft, reassuring forms. To find out more, we sat down with the company’s CEO, Paolo Bestetti, to talk new projects, the lockdown, trends, and the prevailing philosophy behind Baxter.

Photo credit: Andrea Ferrari
Photo credit: Andrea Ferrari

Elevating the language of leather to a higher quality: can you talk a bit about this concept that’s so important to Baxter’s modus operandi?

It’s not only by explaining a product that you sell it. Every piece has to emanate the idea of beauty and it’s only by making the qualities of our brand emerge — like the use of natural leathers — that we’re able to make Baxter’s clients feel like they belong to a club. The process of educating our sales team helps to create this idea of a “club”, informing the client and making sure they’re able to appreciate the quality of the product. In the current market, everything has to be fast, easy, and envied. We’ve detached a bit from those rules and decided to create a product for the pleasure of creating it, focusing on a niche of people that can understand and appreciate our products. It’s through understanding the quality of a product that we are able to create this idea of a “club”.

Photo credit: Andrea Ferrari
Photo credit: Andrea Ferrari

What have been some of the biggest turning points for the company over the last five years and in particular during this most recent period?

The greatest turning point for our company came back in 2002, when we began collaborating with Paola Navone, passing from a more classic home to a design home. This switch allowed us to tap into a new market that was unknown to us up until then. In the past five years, we’ve concentrated a lot on distribution, or rather understanding how the study of leathers, materials, pairings and style could be perceived by the final client — a task that required a lot from us in the past and that continues to require a lot today. The essential concept isn’t just that of creating a quality product, but to equip the customer to perceive this kind of quality. The hardest challenge is being able to not only make a product, but to design.

What have been the most stimulating challenges in terms of products and projects?

Definitely working on the Wordwide 2020 project. While under lockdown we had to revisit our approach with clients: how to market, what to market, and what customers wanted in that period. This has definitely been the most interesting project because in that moment, all certainties and rules went out the window. Baxter Worldwide 2020 was born from the impossibility of bringing the Baxter community to Milan and in particular to the question “if they can’t come to us, why not go to them?” The main challenge was to communicate the new collection from a distance, while still expressing the essence of Baxter, which isn’t just design, but also a sensorial emotion. So we tried to combine technology with emotion and the physicality of the product while imagining them in the new Baxter home. This was the first step linked to the digital aspect. The second step concerned the physical aspect and human contact. Baxter has always embraced studies of color and materials and it’s this that becomes difficult to convey from a distance. So we physically moved our research to the clients and what we found most interesting was their reaction when previewing our top secret new products through a mix of digital and sensorial clues, touching the new leathers and materials with their own hands.

Photo credit: Andrea Ferrari
Photo credit: Andrea Ferrari

Why won’t Made in Italy ever disappear and what is your personal understanding of this perhaps overused expression?

The concept of Made in Italy is a very important one, especially abroad, but we can’t take credit for something that isn’t ours. Made in Italy was created by a previous generation — a generation capable of creating extraordinary objects that were then distributed throughout the world. It’s thanks to the geniuses of fashion and design that this idea of Made in Italy has become, over time, its own brand. Our job today is to continue cultivating this idea, disconnecting from purely commercial ideas and remembering that all around the world, there’s a market that wants this type of product, which isn’t just a product but the beauty created within a product. While producing and delocalizing is easy today, transporting the Italian culture and capacity for design is something that remains strong with Made in Italy. The final goal is to create not only quality, but excellence, because we’re facing the entire world. Italy is a small country and this idea of cultivating excellence untethered by commercial rules is fundamental.

Another word that’s often referenced in this period is sustainability — what does that mean for Baxter?

Baxter has always taken into account the environmental impact of every aspect of production and has made sustainability one of its guiding principles. This becomes clear when you look at our voluntary adhesion, beginning in 2005, to the UNI EN ISO 14001 environmental certification and by our corporate headquarters conceived and realized according to sustainable standards.

We can’t just call ourselves sustainable. True sustainability is a process within the company that lasts and persists in time. The company should be conscious and take steps in this direction, reducing the impact of the productive process.

The possibility of working with leathers, in reality, conceals the ability to recycle a product that would otherwise be lost. For as difficult as it may seem to understand, all tanning companies have this possibility to recycle. On the other hand, these companies also have an impact to consider, owed to the tanning process, whose purification systems have seen improvements in recent years, allowing us to greatly reduce the environmental impact.

Photo credit: Andrea Ferrari
Photo credit: Andrea Ferrari

How have you organized corporate communication, both in lockdown and in preparation for this winter, which doesn’t seem like it will be an easy season?

It was a very interesting challenge. The big change came during lockdown. During this period we decided not to stop and we really started to communicate with our community.

In a moment of isolation, the community needed stimulation to create new projects. We were convinced that the situation would have brought more attention to the furniture industry and that people would want to reconsider and redesign the way they live.

So, amidst all the difficulties, we established a more intimate contact and we found more time to speak with people directly, which was a great surprise. We also presented the new collection differently, without events, because we don’t believe it’s possible at the moment, nor ethically correct, to gather in groups.

We decided to propose private events with our designers, just like we do with our clients and partners, creating a closer relationship and explaining the new collection.

What people are asking for is to be inspired for new projects.

How do you envision the future of the industry and what adjustments should be adopted by institutions to favor SMEs and companies?

In this moment of uncertainty, companies need to be more flexible. We can’t expect to play by the same rules of the past, because there might be accelerations, just like there could be major hold-ups. On one hand, we’ll need an incentive to cultivate expertise from within companies, because we’ve never done enough for research and education. On the other hand, we’ll need a system that gives us the chance to be competitive. There’s an enormous tax burden that isn't compensated, unlike in other markets, with a system that favors companies to work abroad. So, either the tax burden is lowered or companies should receive tools to address the challenge with other companies around the world, because the true issue is the Italian system in the world. We are witnessing an important gap where producing and doing business implies a tax burden and benefits that have a ratio of 1 to 100 with Italy. This is by far the most dangerous aspect. Doing business in Italy today means dealing with strong competition in countries that really aren’t far away. This is the real danger — it should still be possible to produce in Italy. We can’t afford to push the market towards other outlets.

www.baxter.it