As Italy’s luxury jeweller Damiani forges stronger bonds with the Arab world, Silvia Damiani reveals more about the renowned brand’s history and values
Upscale brands are well aware of the importance of the fashion-conscious and wealthy Middle East, where luxury is always in demand, and with good reason.
The Middle East and Africa, Asia Pacific and Latin America are forecast to account for a quarter of the global luxury goods market by 2025 up from a share of 19 per cent at the end of 2013, according to a Deloitte report. And the global luxury market was estimated to be worth around $283 million in 2014.
Strong brand presence too is paramount, and from high-profile awards to music festivals and concerts to polo, racing, tennis, and yachting events across the Gulf, the finest names are turning up in increasing numbers to share their brand values and forge closer ties with the region.
But brand awareness, recognition and loyalty can also be fostered and grown away from the glitz and glamour of concerts and catwalks as high-end jewellery house Damiani demonstrated earlier this year in Bahrain.
The Italian group adopted a more business-like approach when it decided use a global conference for women to declare its intentions of strengthening its bonds with the Arab world.
Damiani’s presence at the 63rd World Congress of Femmes Chefs d’Entreprises Mondiales (FCEM), made perfect sense in the eyes of Vice President Silvia Damiani, as it showed how the group supports women entrepreneurs and noble causes while building business and cultural bridges.
Held under the theme “Our Bridges to the World” and organised by the Bahrain Business & Professional Women International Federation (BPW) in March in co-operation with the Council of Arab Business Women (CABW), the FCEM brought together more than 300 businesswomen and entrepreneurs from 50 countries.
The FCEM was held under the patronage of HRH Princess Sabeeka bint Ibrahim Al Khalifa, the wife of Bahrain’s Ruler His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, and President of the Supreme Council for Women, who was also on hand to inaugurate the prestigious event.
Prominent international figures who took part include UAE Minister of Development and International Affairs and president of Zayed University Shaikha Lubna bint Khalid Al Qasimi, Deputy Chairman of the Board Of Trustees and General Supervisor of Effat University in Jeddah Princess Lulua Al Faisal bint Abdul Aziz, Oman’s former Family and Community Development Minister Dr Sharifah Al Yahyai and former Minister and Member of the Kuwaiti parliament Dr Massouma Al Mubarak.
The conference also saw $150 million worth of investment deals generated with more than 400 meetings resulting in around 40 letters of intent, according to the United Nations Industrial Development Organization’s (Unido) Entrepreneurship Development and Investment Promotion Programme Head in Bahrain, Dr Hashim Hussein.
Being a woman and an entrepreneur herself, the forum served as the “perfect platform” to showcase and represent her family’s legacy, Silvia tells Arabian Knight in an exclusive interview.
Silvia admits this was the first time she had attended an event of this scale and stature. Pointing out the significance of the congress to Damiani, she says it articulated the importance of women in the world of business, something which the company “truly believes in”.
“We were delighted to support this important event and use it to further strengthen and develop our ties with leading women entrepreneurs and business leaders from around the world – especially those in the Middle East, which continues to constitute one of our most important regions and where we see ongoing and significant potential for partnership and growth,” she says.
At the event, Silvia was also named 2015 Entrepreneur of the Year by the FCEM in the association’s Pioneers Award category. Each year, this recognition marks the achievements of one FCEM member heading a medium or large-size company active in international business and who has been an owner for the least 10 years and still actively involved in the managing of their company’s operations.
Damiani was established in 1924, and in over 90 years of history has become a high-end jewellery and watch designer and manufacturer, renowned all over the world for its quality and craftsmanship.
A deep passion for the art that was passed on from father to son has transmitted the love of high quality jewellery to the third generation which now heads the company.
Today, Damiani has captured major markets in Italy and around the world with fully owned subsidiaries, managing 32 direct and 50 franchised points of sale in the world’s major destinations, including Dubai in the UAE, Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain and soon-to-be stores in Jeddah and Riyadh in Saudi Arabia.
Damiani’s other brands include Salvini, Alfieri St John, Bliss, Calderon and Rocca and its jewellery is worn by international stars and celebrities, actors, singers, leaders from the worlds of show business, finance, politics and as well as royalty.
Famous names linked to Diamani include Mila Jovovich, Jennifer Aniston, Isabella Rossellini, Natassja Kinski, Sophia Loren, Chiara Mastroianni, Brad Pitt, Gwyneth Paltrow and Sharon Stone, while Alessandro Del Piero, Paris Hilton, Luis and Helen Figo have represented other brands of the group.
All Damiani jewels are handmade at its manufacture in Valenza, which employs 100 people, designers, goldsmiths and setters. The master setter, Sante Rizzetto, has been working for Damiani for more than 50 years and every piece is “the most important expression of ‘Made in Italy’” high jewellery.
Damiani, says Silvia, has been able to successfully export Italian style but at the same time reinterpret it according to the traditions and cultures of the different countries in which it distributes the jewels, creating solid links between worlds that are seemingly different but united by a “love for the beautiful”.
“For nearly one hundred years, we have been using the art of jewellery design to establish and promote cross-border ties, co-operation and trade as well as cultural exchange,” says Silvia.
“Women have been a critical part of our success both in terms of the role they play as managers in our company and as our loyal customers globally,” she adds.
At the FCEM event, Silvia addressed delegates at a gala dinner, where she outlined the jeweller’s history and its socially responsible initiatives.
Damiani, whose retail partner in Bahrain is Asia Jewellers, has a long tradition of supporting great causes related to women, clean water and health initiatives around the world, says Silvia.
In 2010, it received an award for valorising female workers under a ‘Companies investing in women’ project. Launched in co-operation with of Italy’s Minister of Employment and Social Policies, the initiative analysed the data relating to staff, separated by gender, in companies with more than 100 employees.
A group of ‘virtuous’ companies was thus found which had adopted human resources management formulae including a significant number of women on the staff and in senior management. Damiani was assigned the recognition “for the ability of knowing how to valorise the presence of women through real solutions and good transferable practices”.
In 2011, Damiani promoted significant charity work for Japanese victims of the March tsunami. Its boutiques offered a selection of jewellry named ‘Damiani for Japan’. All the profits from the sale of the collections were donated to the Japanese Organization for International Cooperation in Family Planning (JOICFP), to help women who had been struck by the disaster.
The money was used for health assistance, the supply of essential items for mothers and children, financial aid and post-natal support.
Among other ongoing initiatives, Damiani supports the Clean Water project, in collaboration with film star Sharon Stone, to construct clean water wells in Africa, says Silvia, adding that Damiani has continued to build wells for years, thanks to the sales of its Maji collection designed for that purpose with the actress.
Most recently, Damiani created a new collection with Japanese soccer star Hidetoshi Nakata to raise funds for the ‘Home for All’ charity project launched by Japan’s most famous architects in 2011. The project aims to help earthquake victims in the reconstruction of their cities and improve the daily life of the community.
MIDDDLE EAST TIES
Though Damiani has been welcoming clients from the Middle East for many years, the last decade has seen the brand’s popularity grow in the region, according to Silvia, who says the experience she gained at the FCEM will prove invaluable in helping Damiani further refine its offerings to the Arab world.
“In addition to strengthening ties, the forum was a platform for us to understand and learn things from a different point of view,” she says, adding that she had gained invaluable insights on how to design jewellery for Arabia.
And for its 2015 Middle East collection, Damiani has designed hand ornaments inspired by the noble families from the 15th century, creating lightweight, elegant jewellery that covers the hand till the wrist, as well as chic earrings and multifunctional brooches created for the “sophisticated Arab women of today”.
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