luxury pen
luxury fountain pen

Montegrappa’s online configurator allows full customisation of the brand’s iconic fountain pens

Responding to the ever increasing demand for custom-designed products, Italian luxury brand Montegrappa has recently launched an online configurator which allows customers to fully personalise their hand-crafted fountain pens. Here, the brand’s CEO Giuseppe Aquila discusses the rise of a collector culture, adapting to a new generation of luxury customers and how personalisation supports the artisanal industry
Man wearing blue suit on the stairs

Giuseppe Aquila

‘As a company that has remained dedicated to handmade production, a service like the configurator is something we had always aspired to offer, but the technology and market climate simply didn’t exist until relatively recently to make such a step possible.

After spending years reorganising and refreshing our supply chain, eventually we were encouraged by the efforts of a few luxury brands to sell and offer individualised services online. From the outset, though, we knew that our offer needed to be much more than simple monogramming.’

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‘On the one hand, the generational shift in luxury is causing great upheaval. These emerging luxury customers have been nurtured on digital goods and platforms like Nike ID, so we must respond. On the other hand, people in general are much more interested in cultivating a personal style than adhering to fashion. To be different is the fashion.

Then there is the fact that acquiring truly scarce objects has become much more competitive in recent years – in almost all categories. Bespoke and custom production are avenues for collectors to expand their wish lists and secure ‘grail’ items on different terms. Collector culture is growing and diversifying – and will continue to do so.’

woman with a fountain pen

‘[Personalisation] is very welcome trend that allows artisanal industry to return to its roots. Of course, now our customer could be anywhere in the world; but in 2020, technology makes it possible to offer them a similar service to what a walk-up private client might have received in 1920. Unlike a century ago, though, production needs to be swift. This means that the modern atelier needs to be well stocked and perfectly organised.

Read more: Artist Yayoi Kusama’s designs for Veuve Clicquot celebrate joy and innovation

Personalised products also help craft businesses show their full repertoire. Many of the options found on the configurator are the result of experimentation and artisanal curiosity. Though beautiful and worthy, most would have considerably less opportunity to flourish if we were confined to offering our products within traditional distribution structures.’

fountain pen

‘The configurator is the only platform of its kind in the writing world, so it has been a been a real drawcard for our site and for Montegrappa in general. More importantly though, it has been tremendously helpful with attracting new customers: these are people whose desire to own a writing instrument is distinct from seasoned aficionados and collectors, and are interested in other paths of discovery.

Perhaps the most rewarding aspect has been the acceptance from established Montegrappisti. The configurator has been like a release valve for all their ideas – all the pens they have secretly wished to own. It has helped us make many good friends within the community, and to learn from them.’

Design your own Montegrappa pen:

Reading time: 2 min
hands holding grapes

The Respected by Gaggenau initiative recognises excellence in the categories of food, wine and design

German luxury appliance maker Gaggenau begins its search for three extraordinary makers and producers for their Respected by Gaggenau 2021 campaign. LUX reports

The inaugural Respected by Gaggenau prize aims to bring global attention to three exceptional regional producers in the categories of food, viniculture and design. A team of global experts have put together a long-list of 80 nominees from across Europe, which will be whittled down to 15 by Dr. Peter Goetz, Gaggenau’s Head of Design Sven Baacke, viniculture expert Sarah Abbott MW and culinary critic Tom Parker Bowles before the announcement of the final recipients in January 2021.

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The winning producers will receive a promotional package to support their business and showcase their craft, including videography and photography created by Gaggenau. They will also become an official Gaggenau global brand partner for 2021 giving them access to the brand’s high-net-worth customer base.

The Respected by Gaggenau 2021 long-list nominees from the United Kingdom were selected by LUX’s own editor-in-chief Darius Sanai, Kol restaurant chef Santiago Lastra and celebrated chef Cyrus Todiwala. Nominees include:


Caroll’s Heritage Potatoes @carollsheritagepotatoes
Elchies Estates @elchies_animals
Keltic Seafare @kelticseafare
Langley Chase Organic Farm – Jane Kallaway @langleychasefarm
Rhug Estate Organic Farm – Lord Newborough @rhugestate


Billy Tannery – Jack Millington @billytannery
Cara Guthrie Ceramics @caraguthrieceramics
Retrouvius – Adam Hills & Maria Speake @retrouvius


Albury Organic Vineyard @alburyvineyard
Coates and Seely @coatesandseely

Watch the campaign video below:

For more information visit:

Reading time: 1 min
Will Chalker and family in the new acqua di parma campaign for colonia pura
Picture of model will chalker and his family in black and white for Acqua di Parma. Natural beauty

Model Will Chalker and his family star in the campaign for Acqua Di Parma’s newest fragrance, Colonia Pura

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.
Colour headshot of Acqua di Parma's new ceo and president laura burdese

Acqua di Parma CEO & President Laura Burdese

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.

Read next: Czech designer Jiri Kalfar’s bumble-bee collection at London Fashion Week

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“.

Will Chalker and family in the new acqua di parma campaign for colonia pura

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.

Collection of fragrances by Acqua di Parma

Acqua di Parma’s latest fragrance, Colonia Pura

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.

Read next: Ruinart’s decadent art hub at Rosewood London

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.

Small boy eating yoghurt pot in a scene of natural beauty

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.

Reading time: 6 min
Giorgio Sermonetta

Giorgio Sermonetta


When I arrive in Giorgio Sermoneta’s flagship store in Rome, things get off to a slightly unnerving start. Squeezing into the multi-coloured glove store – floor to ceiling of outstretched elegant hands, greens, yellows, browns and blacks, studs and bows, cut-outs and ruffles – I muscle my way over to what Google images had promised me must be Sermoneta. Bright blue eyes, square figure, neatly cut white hair and a serious mouth. I tap him on the shoulder.

“Mr Sermoneta?”

He looks blank.

“Me? I don’t work here. You’ll have to ask someone over there. I’m just browsing.”

There is an awkward pause as I hurriedly scan the room. The serious mouth twitches then beams and the blue eyes crinkle. “I got you then!”

Before I have time to force a relieved laugh, he says we are heading off for lunch. I follow, past the browsing crowds into the glaring sunshine. Sermoneta’s first glove shop could hardly be in a more perfect location. In the shadow of the Spanish steps, its rainbow colours and glowing reputation attracts passers by and those in the know. While the

tourists marvel at the sheer number of ways you can decorate a hand, connoisseurs march to the front desk for the owner’s advice. Wise decision. Were it not for a helping (well-dressed) hand, you could easily spend hours hypnotically running through the options. Some wide-eyed, open-mouthed wanderers in the corner look like they might have done just that. Carefully crafted, beautifully dyed and exquisitely designed, Sermoneta gloves have graced some of the most influential hands in business, fashion, music, film and politics. Without knowing it, you have watched them seduce and enrapture, part a crowd and denounce dictators. With that sort of power, you had better pick the right pair.

And if you were looking for a guide to gloves, you would be hard pressed to find one more knowledgeable or experienced than Giorgio Sermoneta. He first established his glove business in 1964 after he left the army at the age of 21. Keen to make his own mark away from the family business, he adopted the idea of glove making from his 17-year-old girlfriend’s family, now his wife. With little experience in business or gloves, Sermoneta relied on his wits and wide-eyed creativity to pull him through.

Carefully crafted, beautifully dyed and exquisitely designed

Carefully crafted, beautifully dyed and exquisitely designed

“When I started, I knew nothing about gloves. I was surrounded by monsters in the business,” he says. “Big names. It was like a comedian between mummies. They were old, dedicating their gloves to blue blood; they had only black and brown leather. We wanted to bring something new.”

It isn’t particularly difficult to imagine Sermoneta as the only one refusing to take glovemaking quite so seriously. We take our seats on a busy side street tucked moments from the Piazza di Spagna, but no sooner have we sat down then Sermoneta is up, greeting friends who pass by in streaming Italian, always ending with a husky laugh and a teasing joke as he waves them on.  Unfortunately, to start with, Italy didn’t seem to like his sense of humour.

“At the beginning it was very, very, very, very difficult,” he says, fixing me with a serious stare, emphasising each “very” with a soft bang on the table. “Then I started to find a new way to do business.”

Before I can venture a guess, Semoneta continues.“Tourists!” he says, triumphantly. “They want to buy gifts for their family, maybe five, 10 people to make happy, but they do not have much space in their suitcase. Gloves are very easy, very easy to carry. People started saying to people ‘Go to Sermoneta.”’And this is how I started.”

Trade picked up rapidly.

“I remember the time we didn’t even go to lunch. Starting from 9 o’clock in the morning to 8 o’clock in the evening,” he says of the early days. “No lunch.”

The waiter approaches our table with a hefty maroon coloured menu. Sermoneta waves it away and orders several plates of fresh mozzarella, tomatoes and basil and a mysterious local dish of spaghetti and pancetta, mixed in front of your eyes in a hollowed out bowl of hard parmesan.“

Do you like cheese?” He asks. I nod. He gives me an approving smile.

In his time, Sermoneta has seen many stores come and go. What is the secret to his success?

“Nobody is perfect,” he says. “Something could happen to a Mercedes, a 777 plane, anything, so we give a guarantee. Even from Rome, Japan,  Australia and we still do it. We always put our customer first.”

It probably helps that Sermoneta is an outstanding salesman. Watching him at work is a marvel. As smooth as his leather, he glances at each hand, perhaps gives one a small squeeze then burrows into the rolls of gloves tucked in the shelves behind him, barking ‘what length?’ over his shoulder. Finger gloves to elbow length, embellished or classic; with a no nonsense, experienced tone, he will cut down your options, flicking through the layers of leather hands as though they were pages of a notebook.

“The first pair of gloves you have should be black, because you can do so many things. You can go to a party, an opera, they go with everything, even if you don’t like black,” He says. “Then you can progress.”

And goodness, is there room for progress. The sheer variety is impressive. I ask Sermoneta where his ideas come from.

“Sometimes I wake up in the night, make a little sketch and go back to sleep,” he says. “I came up with the idea of the iPhone touch glove which everyone is copying. This year, I’m doing denim.”

You can see how a love for gloves can become an easy habit to slip into. Some visitors return so regularly that they become friends. When she was U.S. Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright once diverted her cavalcade simply so she could pop by to say hello.

“I was in my store in New York,” he says. “There was one lady trying on gloves while her friend smoked a cigar outside the window. I came out and started talking to her. ‘Do you like gloves?’ I asked. ‘I have a pair of gloves my father left me 30 years ago. They are so worn. No one in the world can make these gloves.’ I asked to see them and she pulled out a pair of beautiful chicory yellow gloves, so used and damaged they looked like they should be in a museum. ‘It is easy. I will make them for you, but I don’t want to be paid. Give me your name and address and I will deliver them’ ‘Annie Leibovitz.’ I didn’t realise who she was. She was so happy though.”

The most beautiful gloves you'll own

The most beautiful gloves you’ll own

Despite the variety of celebrated hands that now boast Sermoneta’s gloves, he realises that gloves are not for everyone.

“If they don’t match your personality or your dress, it is better not to wear them at all,” he says. “It is like having chocolate on a pizza. Disgusting. When you see certain people who have matched their gloves correctly you can say ‘There is a gentleman with a capital G.’”

We stroll out onto the afternoon sunset streets of Rome, Sermoneta chatting to tourists – even once bursting into Japanese – waving at shop keepers, punching the arm of a passing leather goods man.

“Now you have had a long day, I think you must have an ice-cream.” He does not, however, have gloves designed specifically for ice-cream consumption. Yet.

Reading time: 6 min