As famous for its striking yellow Art Deco packaging as its ‘colonias’, Acqua di Parma has developed over the years into a lifestyle brand that embodies the romance and artistry of Italian culture. Now under the leadership of new CEO & President, Laura Burdese the LVMH-owned brand is moving in new directions. Following the launch of Colonia Pura, the brand’s latest fragrance, LUX’s Digital Editor Millie Walton speaks to Burdese about the beauty of the Italian lifestyle, working with artisans and the future of luxury.
LUX: All of Acqua di Parma’s products are handmade. How do you maintain a high-level of craftsmanship in the fast paced, technologically driven world?
Laura Burdese: I must admit that matching hand-crafted processes with an always faster time to market, while delivering outstanding products, is not easy at all, but this is our mission. We have some very clear convictions as a brand. We love things made slowly and by hand, so they develop a soul and we cherish the imperfect as the only true form of perfection. We admire the handcrafted, the slightly irregular, the almost perfect. As you may notice, labels on our products are not perfectly applied sometimes, this is because they are applied by hand. So are our iconic rounded hatboxes.
With this in mind, the high-level of craftsmanship resides in the ability to work closely with our artisans since the very inception of a product, controlling each phase of the process and not only the final outcome. I believe this is a very productive and stimulating way to manage the creative process, which let the essence of our products shine through.
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LUX: How does the city of Parma – the birthplace of the brand – continue to inform the company?
Laura Burdese: If you just have a walk in this beautiful Italian city, you can easily recognise that our iconic shade of sunny yellow resonates with the yellow façades of Parma’s historical buildings.
Elegance, beauty, harmony, mastery of craftsmanship: this is what you perceive in Parma and what the brand first experienced in this city, making its own from the very beginning in 1916. More than that, today Parma is a vibrant, lively Italian city, still a source of inspiration for us because here you can truly “smell” the warmth of the most authentic Italian way of life. And I believe that it’s the same spirit you can smell in all our fragrances.
LUX: How do you see the luxury market developing over the next ten years?
Laura Burdese: It’s a very difficult question. Things are changing so fast nowadays that it’s already difficult to foresee what could happen in 1 or 2 years’ time, nothing is written in stone and 10 years is an eternity. However, I do believe that the luxury market will continue to grow, even if probably at a slower pace, therefore strategy will become paramount. Emerging battlegrounds will be e-business and data management, with the necessity to drive-up investments into luxury, bespoke and taylor made experiences and “lifestyle branding“.
LUX: Acqua di Parma supports many art forms and is culture partner of venues such as the Peggy Guggenheim Foundation in Venice. How do visual arts influence the brand?
Laura Burdese: Acqua di Parma has always supported the best of artistic creativity in all its expressions with publications, partnerships and events. As you properly mention, one particularly prestigious activity is our collaboration with Guggenheim Intrapresæ, a group of companies dedicated to sustaining the Peggy Guggenheim Collection.
We understand the importance of our cultural heritage and we keep considering it as a major source of inspiration in all our creations. In this respect, the values that Acqua di Parma espouses are perfectly reflected in Italian visual arts: the same adventurous spirit and the courage to set aside what is good in order to achieve the best. But also the ability to create styles that resonate with people, that communicate something new, something truthful, allowing the essence of things to shine through.
LUX: Your leather and home collections also promote hand-crafted products. Is it difficult to find traditional artisans nowadays?
Laura Burdese: Honestly, it’s pretty difficult. Making a creative process, such as the artisanal one, also effective and efficient is not simple, but this is how we work. This ambitious objective is possible only if you, as a brand, co-operate closely with your craftsman, motivating them, stimulating them and making them proud to work for you. And I believe this is what give our products such a shining soul.
LUX: Do you have a favourite fragrance?
Laura Burdese: While I wear different Colonias, depending on the season, I prefer to wear Blu Mediterraneo Fico di Amalfi in summer. Usually I gravitate towards scents that are unisex or more masculine. Lately, I’m in love with Colonia Pura, our new fragrance, a light, modern interpretation of the iconic Acqua di Parma Colonia. True to Colonia, Pura opens with the brand’s signature citrus top notes of crisp bergamot, orange and petit grain. A heart of narcissus, jasmine and coriander, and base of cedar wood and patchouli give Colonia Pura a youthful energy.
LUX: What’s next for Acqua di Parma?
Laura Burdese: We have always represented the most refined elements of the Italian way of life, but in an understated, discreet way. We are now leading the brand to the next level and keep developing this beautiful Italian story into a global success. Our new fragrance, Colonia Pura, opens a new chapter in the history of Acqua di Parma. Undeniably, Colonia Pura advertising campaign makes a turning point in the way we’ve always communicated. For the first time in our history, we presented an advertising campaign which features a man and his family.
We chose Will Chalker because we believe he embodies the spirit of the brand and conveys a strong yet modern and open masculinity. We were quite fortunate that Will’s family is in the campaign – his wife and young son add a lovely spirit of authenticity and warmth. The campaign images depict Will as a sincere and affectionate father and husband, values that are important in the Italian culture and resonate with the Acqua di Parma client.
As for the next launches, I cannot really reveal our new creations at the moment, but I can assure you they will express the Acqua di Parma personal signature and perfectly embody our brand equity. They will be scents of Italy and scents of life. The ultimate in sophistication: light and simple. Stay tuned.
LUX: How do you relax?
Laura Burdese: I do relax spending time with my kids and my husband. I know it might sound weird, but honestly I have a hectic life and quality time with them is just a gift. We do a lot of sport together, watch movies, talk, share experiences. It’s just about little things that make me feel complete and relaxed!
LUX: What’s the secret to Acqua di Parma’s success?
Laura Burdese: Acqua di Parma is so successful because it is much more than “just” a fragrance brand, it’s a way of life in its most sophisticated form. Our secret has always been moving forward into the future while keeping our DNA intact. We are very proud of our heritage, history and values but we never forget to keep an eye to the future and new generations. Our most important skill and what distinguishes us is the ability to bring style – specifically Italian style – into life.