Bernardaud and Santoni come into PH lifestyle
Foreign and local news continuously report economic growth in the Philippines, citing the nation as one of the fastest emerging markets in Asia.
Truth be told, not only statistics can prove this phenomenon, but also the constant stream of international brands setting up in the metropolis—a clear sign indeed that the Philippines is deemed a profitable place for business on the global front.
This summer, two European brands of fine art and luxury—one from France, the other from Italy—held grand launches in Makati City to announce their arrival, consequently acknowledging the local market’s value.
BERNARDAUD: The heritage of porcelain
Limoges in France was the first European town to discover kaolin in its soil in the late 17th century. Believed to be abundant only in Asia, particularly in China, kaolin is white clay, which is the main ingredient, needed to create porcelain.
This important discovery led to the beginning of the porcelain industry in France, which through time spread all over Europe.
Today, the heritage and fine art of porcelain thrives in the Limousin region, thanks to the few remaining family-owned and -managed businesses.
One of these is the Bernardaud name, which the Philippines welcomed with the brand’s 150th anniversary collection. The launch was headed by no less than fifth generation chairman and chief executive officer, Michel Bernardaud.
Before the unveiling of the breathtaking collection, the top executive first shared his company’s rich history and core philosophy through an intimate press gathering at The Peninsula Manila in Makati City.
“Limoges is one of the oldest porcelain cities in Europe, and where the whole porcelain industry in the region began,” Michel affirmed. “We are one of the very few, if not the last, family businesses in Limoges.”
It was a century after kaolin was discovered in Limoges that Leonard Bernardaud, the founder, opened his family’s first porcelain factory in 1863. Timing was perfect as consumer use of porcelain continued to increase, plus a railroad opened to allow distribution of ceramic products to neighboring places.
Two more centuries later, Bernardaud is now a renowned, luxurious porcelain brand not only in France but all over the world.
“We have always tried to make only the best [porcelain products]. We have always aimed for the top,” Michel said.
To be on top of the game involves a lot of work, specifically the design and creation processes that go in each porcelain piece.
Everything begins with a design. Michel shared, “Our design process happens every month during our creative meet.” There, the team and designers discuss what direction a new collection should take.
It is always Michel, chairman since 1994, who makes the final decision. “I don’t design but I decide what will be a part or not [of a new collection],” he said.
This, according to him, is needed to ensure that the family business “will not be associated with something that is not good.”
Then comes the production. In Bernardaud’s website (www.bernardaud.fr), 16 steps and materials are listed in “The Making of Porcelain.” On top of the list is the combination of three minerals—50 percent kaolin, 25 percent quartz and 25 percent feldspar—to create porcelain paste. After these are the different kinds of porcelain pastes and molds.
Then, various other processes ensue like casting, calibrating, isostatic pressing, drying, handle sticking, fettling, first firing, glazing and second firing.
Once a porcelain piece is produced, selection follows to check quality. Michel noted that this step is very important for the company. He said, “Twenty percent of our production staff is there for quality control at various steps of the production. They watch if the glazing is fine, see if there are no black dots, and ensure porcelains are perfect,” he explained.
To complete a porcelain ware, decoration, incrustation and gold polishing are done. And finally, one last quality control takes place before shipment of products.
As added trivia, Bernardaud in an interview with The Manila Times said, “One porcelain piece goes over to 40 hands and takes four to five days to finish.”
The 150th collaborative collection
After the brand introduction, Michel then presented Bernardaud’s 150th anniversary collection called “L’art de la Table.” Released for the momentous celebration last year, it features the works of renowned visual artists, photographers and filmmakers on dining plates.
“We spent years planning how we would celebrate our 150th anniversary. But one day, we just thought, why not go back to basics and just create?” Michel said of the collection.
“So we partnered with many artists. We also wanted to have people that came from
America, Europe, Middle East and Asia, as well as a mix of young and established artists. We had at least 12 projects [with artists]last year but there are more additions now.”
Some of the featured names include American Julian Schnabel, Italian Marco Brambilla, Greek Fassianos, Chinese Michael Lin, Lebanese Nabil Nah, as well as a couple of French artists like Jean-Michel Alberola, Sophie Calle and Sarkis.
But one of the most anticipated designs showcased during the Philippine launch was that of selected drawings by Russian-French modernist Marc Chagall. The series, faithfully reproduced on Bernardaud porcelain, were collected from the artist’s lesser-known works, making each piece as valuable as they are beautiful and practical.
Michel added that the range of works collection presented a “good balance of traditional and contemporary designs.”
“We always try to be contemporary but we don’t forget that there are still people who like traditional porcelain, so we keep the balance,” Michel added.
This special edition 150th collection, along with other Bernardaud products is exclusively available at Rustan’s Makati and Shangri-la.
Beyond the dining room
Besides tableware, the Bernardaud product line includes interior design (decorative objects, furniture, and light fixtures) and personal adornment (jewelry).
“Now our aim is not just to supply the dining room, but every part of the home, we also try to cover. You can also wear porcelain as we have jewelry for women and cufflinks for men,” enthused Michel.
Indeed, the brand has gone beyond homes. Michel proudly said, “I am now the fifth generation owner and I am proud to say that Bernardaud is being distributed to the world.”
Thibault Pointe, vice president of sales and marketing for Asia Pacific and India, affirmed this and said, “Everywhere there is Bernardaud. I do travel a lot in Asia so I know.”
Asked to assess the significance of the Philippine market, Pointe replied, “It has a fast growing market, as a lot of other countries in Asia.”
But for Michel, it’s a similarity in culture that makes the Philippines a good place for business more than economic statistics.
“Yes, the Philippine market will be important for our family because your cultural approach in tables and attitude towards entertaining is very similar to that of Europe’s,” he concluded.
SANTONI: The craft of shoemaking
Italy is the land of the Renaissance, a cultural movement that produced priceless artworks, music, philosophies, scientific discoveries, literature and more. Through history, this passion has shaped the way Italians think, especially in creating some of the world’s finest things.
One particular shoe company called Santoni showcases this Italian tradition despite being a relatively young player in the market. Moreover, it is already considered one of the best “Made in Italy” footwear labels worldwide.
Santoni is founded by Andrea Santoni, who has been a shoemaker for most of his life. In 1975, this master artisan decided to finally open his own “haut de gamme” laboratory that tailored shoes for discerning clients.
In the beginning, Andrea had only five men working with him. Today, his eponymous shoe company has grown to employ almost 500 personnel and artisans.
Having passed on the brand’s legacy to his son, Guiseppe, the label has continued to expand and is now recognized overseas. It currently boasts of a turnover of 55 million Euros.
Even more good news is that Filipinos can now own a pair of Santoni’s exclusive and top-of-the-line shoes without having to go all the way to Europe as the company opened its first boutique in Manila located at the new wing of Shangri-La Plaza, Mandaluyong City.
To show the importance of the Philippine expansion, two important individuals from Santoni flew in to grace the grand opening. They were Andrea Casavecchia, area manager for Santoni Asia, and Santoni master artisan Francesco de Santis.
“The Santoni brand born in 1975, is a very traditional, family-owned company,” Casavecchia told The Manila Times in an interview. “Santoni for me represents the No. 1 shoemaker in the world.”
The quality and beauty of each Santoni pair comes from the many artisans that spend time, effort and dedication to create them.
In an interview with The Manila Times, Casavecchia expressed the importance of these people who truly make business possible for Santoni. He said, “Once you breathe the company every day, you don’t feel exhausted but [feel]the same love and passion that our artisans share with us.”
He added, “These are people who work on the shoes at night with the light of the candle [so to speak]. If you do something you love, you dedicate your time to it.”
More importantly for the Santoni official is that these artisans feel appreciated in return. “[At Santoni] you can actually talk to the owner of the company,” he said. “If our artisans have problems, they can talk to the owners. This is our heritage, the roots that make the company stronger.”
Asked how many artisans there are now in the company, Casavecchia said there are more than a hundred. This figure is divided into artisans, master artisans and bespoke specialists.
“Mr. Francesco is a bespoke specialist who makes one from beginning to end. While artisans are directed by master artisans—master stitchers, master painters, etc. And in this case, all [artisans]come from art schools,” he explained.
There are many other Italian companies that offer “handmade” shoes. However, questions on how manually shoes are done will always arise. But not in Santoni as it promises 100-percent handcrafted footwear.
Casavecchia explained how Santoni shoes are created. He began, “It starts from the design—sometimes taken from the strangest things in the world. Our classical designer, when you enter in his room, you find everything you can imagine. But not related to shoes like buildings, gardens, flowers. Creative minds reproduce in paper what they see.”
He continued, “From there, the design is transferred to a computer to give the different pieces of the shoes.” It is in this way that Santoni also uses technology together with its traditional ways.
Then, the actual construction of shoes happens by cutting the leather, then stitching it together to create the upper. The sole comes next depending on the type of shoes. The sole and upper will be sewn together, and once formed the finish product will be painted.
“It takes two weeks to finish a pair all by hand,” Casavecchia noted.
While all Santoni shoes are special and luxurious, there are a few that are even more exceptional through the “Fatto a Mano su Misura” service.
“Fatto a mano means by hand; su misura means made-to-measure,” defined Casavecchia.
“The artisan by hand takes feet measurements in order to create tailored shoes.”
He further shared, “This is real made-to-measure service. Don’t be confused by others who offer already prepared molds then present to customers. There are very few companies who make made-to-measure both for men and women like Santoni does.”
Asked how much a bespoke Santoni may cost, Casavecchia replied, “We don’t talk about the price. For a rare object, people will spend the money. And it’s the most luxurious service in the world of shoemaking business.”
Trust in the PH
After sharing the heritage of Santoni, Casavecchia then discussed their modern-day partnership with the Lucerne Group, the label’s local exclusive distributor.
According to Casavecchia, he along with other Santoni officials met with the Yaos of Lucerne in Geneva, Switzerland. He recalled, “It was a very passionate meeting where we immediately understood the potentiality of the market. Our partner here in the Philippines is the country’s top watch distributor. The passion they have for watches, we share for shoes.”
For his part Emerson Yao, Lucerne managing director, said, “We are delighted to bring to Manila the first Santoni boutique here at the Shangri-La Plaza mall’s East Wing. It is a brand we believe in—with its creativity, elegance and excellent craftsmanship.”
Finally, Casavecchia expressed the label’s trust and confidence in Philippines now that they are officially here.
“I see the potential here in the Philippines. You are people of taste, you are globe trotters. I can bet on the Philippine market; and especially, the wife of your ex leader [Imelda Marcos] had more than 2,000 pairs of shoes,” he quipped.