Individualism in Italian
BY SANDY STRASSER
(Published in The Produktkulturmagazin issue 4 2016)
Functional, practical and easy to carry - that is what the Italian label Piquadro stands for. Marco Palmieri is the boss of this bags and briefcases brand. Former engineering student and IT entrepreneur, he discovered his love of leather at an early age and eventually came to the decision of making a career of it. Starting as an unknown supplier of leather goods for Italian labels such as Gucci and Valentino, his company is now listed on the Milan Stock Exchange with stores in New York City, Milan and Hong Kong. He explains to us how technology, IT and online business can be allied to something as traditional a trade as leatherwork.
Mr Palmieri, what does the brand name Piquadro stand for?
Piquadro means P squared where the two Ps stand for Palmieri and Pelletterie (the Italian word for leather goods) and comes from my great passion for mathematics.
What is its philosophy?
The spirit of each product is encapsulated in the basic concept behind the design of each one of them: ‘Tech inside’. Our products, in fact, are bags and briefcases specifically conceived to carry all technological devices safely and elegantly. This concept is now being reworked to the updated Bagmotic idea, a sort of bag automation which represents an evolution of the ‘Tech inside’ concept and our first foray in the IoT, the Internet of Things. The new bags, backpacks and luggage that Piquadro has just started to distribute are supplied with a geolocation device and will be soon equipped with an integrated power bank pack that recharges a smartphone simply by contact. More functions are being developed to allow you to light up the tail light of your backpack, weigh and lock/unlock your luggage with a simple touch of your smartphone. At the center of our Bagmotic concept is the Connequ app that is available for both smartphones and smartwatches and that offers the opportunity to interact with luggage and bags.
As a former IT entrepreneur you were probably more deeply involved with the latest technology than with fashion and design. Where did the idea for a bag label come from?
When I launched Piquadro I was a young entrepreneur and I travelled frequently, carrying my laptop all the time. The concept that even the trendiest and most elegant leather bags should be conceived to carry notebooks, tablets and smartphones seems obvious today because the use of those devices is very much widespread and many luxury and premium brands have updated their bags with more or less padded internal compartments. But only twenty years ago all elegant briefcases were made to carry documents, not technology. At that time the most ‘technological’ briefcases were cheap and not very attractive. There was definitely a need for new products that were both technical and elegant. And I, as a businessman, frequent traveller and very fond of hi-tech, felt that very need. Hence my intuition of creating Piquadro as a tech-design brand of leather items.
Which target audience do you seek to address with your products?
Our hero has always been a young and independent-minded businessman, possibly a startupper who doesn’t need all black and classic because he got it already for work. We design for somebody who is free to express his personality and chooses to do that with the accessories he wears.
What expectations do your customers have as regards to quality and design?
Their expectations have always been high because they are not allured by a brand image and rightfully demand value for money. In terms of quality, they are very conscious of the materials and manufacturing and in terms of design, they expect the lines to always be cutting-edge and conceived to make products more business friendly.
As regards to luggage, what do they like from you?
Pockets. That‘s the Piquadro key word. Our luggage is conceived for the expert traveller who packs only the essential and wants to have it at hand when he needs it. So space must be optimised and smartly organised.
To what extent have the needs of business travellers changed in recent years? What are they looking for these days in their search for adequate luggage?
Business travellers have always been in search for the maximum comfort. Now, quality and lightness are taken for granted by them because there are quite a few very good luggage brands around. So what they need nowadays is security and every little feature that can make a business trip as less stressful as possible. Hence our idea of making our bags smart and capable to communicate.
How do you manage a need for intelligent features, not losing out on typical Italian elegance?
Our designers have always had very well in mind that, while technology is a value that truly makes the difference between Piquadro and the competing brands, it must never be displayed ostentatiously, rather, it must be elegantly concealed and come to light only with daily use.
What should classic fashion companies think on the subject of wearable IT?
We are convinced that technology is always good when it is applied with the objective of making life easier. The important thing is that it doesn’t get to the opposite effect of making all more stressful!
Why is your head office in Silla di Gaggio, between Florence and Bologna?
The reason why our headquarter is located in Silla di Gaggio Montano is very simple. That is where I live and where I started my business. Today the company is much bigger than when I started and we have offices in Milan too, but the heart of the company still remains where it was born because being close to Tuscany makes it easier to work with the tanneries located there, the best in the world by the way. At the same time, the region where Piquadro is located is very much alive in other sectors that are a source of inspiration for us. Companies like Ducati, Ferrari, Lamborghini are all very close, just to mention a few examples.
And why this futuristic building?
The building that hosts Piquadro’s headquarters was specifically conceived to reflect our guideline concepts of design, comfort and technology. The building is in fact a beautiful structure that was also on display at the Biennale of Venice as one of the best examples of industrial architecture in Italy. At the same time, it is also a very functional and technological place that houses the offices and a completely automated warehouse of 6,000 square metres in which orders from all over the world are received and handled with delivery of items within 24/48 hours.
Since 2007 your company is listed on the Milan Stock Exchange. What did you do to get there? Which demanding stages on the way there can you remember particularly well?
The listing at the Milan Stock Exchange was the natural point of arrival of a process that we started some years before when we opened the company to venture capital funds.
Your vita clearly suggests you are always looking for new adventures. What are your next plans?
What I really want now is to launch a product that truly renovates luggage. I am working on that and I hope to be able to tell you more very soon.
At the age of 22, Marco Palmieri, an engineering student, founds Piquadro, a small company that produces leather goods for third parties. After 10 years producing for the most prestigious Italian luxury leather companies, Piquadro launches its own brand. Design, functionality and technology are the values distinguishing the new brand of professional and travel leather products from the rest of the market. Today the company is listed on the Milan Stock Exchange.
Picture credits © Piquadro