Gabriele Salvatori and the evolution of a brand
'As it happened, I fell in love'
Following reflections on his father and the origins of Salvatori, CEO Gabriele Salvatori considers more recent history, maintaining the heritage of the company and becoming a design brand.
I became involved in my father’s company from an early age. I would spend summers at the factory and, as I had been sent to England to study English, I would go with my parents to trade shows abroad. It was a great move by my parents, throwing me in at the deep end – I could have discovered I hated that world, that it wasn’t going to be my path. As it happened, I fell in love.
I was one of the last people to be called up for military service in Italy. When that finished I had only a few more months of university left, but I felt it was a waste of time. I knew I wanted to join the company officially and so, at the age of 24, I dropped out and started managing our sales team.
While I was travelling, meeting with clients, I developed a real passion for design. I started to suggest some ideas to my father – stones and textures that I hadn’t seen anywhere else. We made some prototypes and, in 2003, launched Bamboo, our first textured surface. We didn’t sell any in the first year but after that it exploded. It’s now a best seller.
After Bamboo I became interested in recycling, and over the course of a few years developed what would come to be Lithoverde, the world’s first recycled stone texture. And, around that time, believing we should take the international market more seriously, we opened a showroom, first in Zurich, and then, because I wanted to break into the design world, in Milan.
It was in that year, 2007, we became one of the few companies – and definitely the only stone brand – to participate in Fuorisalone. Off the back of this, I approached the British architect John Pawson in collaborate on a project for the Salone del Mobile in 2010. I couldn’t believe he said yes – I was in heaven. And his design, the House of Stone, was recognised as the ‘Best Installation of the Year’.
Right after John, I managed to arrange a meeting with the designer Piero Lissoni. We had an instant connection. I appreciated his calm, sophisticated approach to design, and he appreciated my enthusiasm for what I was doing. Lissoni became the second designer collaboration and we have gone on to develop a range of products together , including a tray, a bookshelf and a line of tables that, tapering to only five millimetres at their edges, pushed our engineering expertise to the limit.
That really laid the groundwork for where we are today. From Lissoni we worked with established designers like Rodolfo Dordoni and Kengo Kuma, as well as young, talented designers I found myself: Elisa Ossino and Franz Siccardi – always those that shared our culture and values. We would never work with someone just because they have a famous name, they have to share that spirit of innovation that began with my father. More recently, for example, we collaborated with Vincent Van Duysen on a beautiful line of desk accessories – pen holders, paperweights, candle holders – using stone and, for the first time, leather.
The company is continuing to grow, but as it does, I have tried to ensure we don’t lose sight of who we are and what we stand for. That sense of legacy, of leading a family company that I have inherited, is a major drive for me, and I dream of one day handing it down to the next generation. You work knowing that you’ve done your small part to move the business on, and I hope that those who follow do the same.