n. 11 Apr 2010 Tereza Salgueiro
n. 7 Aug 2009 Marco Moro
n. 6 Jun 2009 Marco Martuzzi
n. 5 Apr 20089 Serenella Iovino
n. 4 Aug 2008 Seamus Egan
n. 3 Apr 2008 Giovanni Allevi
n. 2 Feb 2008 Marco Bicego
n. 1 Nov 2007 Jan Garbarek

Online bimonthly
Reg. at Vicenza Court No. 1165 on 18 December 2007
Editor and director Bianca Nardon
Redazione STEP Srl ContrĂ  Porti, 3 Vicenza

Year I no. 2 - January February 2008

Interview with Marco Bicego

The jewellery designer creates his own island in the Italian North East

Marco Bicego is recognised as the most internationally successful Italian jewellery designer. While the sector has suffered a considerable downturn, his company has had a boom in turnover. What led to these results?
It is not enough to make the 'best jewel'. There are other elements: wearability, price, unique nature of the offer. I look for jewels that my consumers, mainly women in their forties and fifties, can wear every day. The name counts, but it must be related to an experience and a positive approach, a direct feeling. I like to think that the woman who has bought the Marco Bicego item becomes fond of it and that in some way this object becomes part of her life. I have created collections that have their own unique style, without copying already existing examples. I think that Marco Bicego has a clear identity. And this, in my opinion, is the real strength. From a production point of view, I inherited a certain kind of manufacture from the family business and I have reinterpreted and reused it. Furthermore, less than 20 per cent of the work is finished by machine. The rest is all done by hand. It is a highly craft-oriented work. The same is true of the stones. They all come from India and are cut by hand, one by one.

How is the idea of a new jewel conceived?
Never at the drawing board. I take ideas from various stimuli, mainly from what I see, particularly at trade fairs, and I reinterpret it in my own way. I love irregular shapes. I like everything that can't be reproduced. Now, for example, we are making necklaces with semi-precious stones all cut by hand and in different, random shapes. Each necklace will be similar to the others, but never exactly the same. The quite exclusive decision to use clear stones arose from my own intuition. I have personalised and elaborated my feelings.

As an international, creative entrepreneur, how do you experience the relationship with the cultural world of the province of Vicenza from where you and your company originate?
From a professional and company point of view, all the creatives in the world of Italian production, also in fashion, have gained their own regional, cultural experience and interpreted it personally. So the link with the original local environment counts. I have tried to interpret yellow gold, typical of the production area I come from, in a modern, contemporary way. Regarding lifestyle, I travel a lot. And there is not much difference to me between here and the rest of the world. The term 'glocal' is particularly apt for me, I feel as if I combine the local and the global. It is the value of the experience that counts. For example, also in cuisine, in the choice of restaurants both in the province where I live and in any other country in the world. I need only find substance and authenticity in things. It doesn't matter whether it is a Veneto 'osteria' or the most glamorous restaurant in New York.

The creation of jewels leads you to study and prefer aesthetics and harmony. How do you relate this personal research with the urban and architectural context in which you live and work, with its high concentration of industry?
I am building new premises and also rebuilding my own home. My only regret is to not have been able to buy a bigger piece of land. I would have been able to create a bigger island then with more extensive grounds. The new building will cover an area of 4500 square metres. I don't need a new production factory at any price, but mainly a place that will better represent my identity. The general architectural context here is in decline and the only handsome buildings are the old ones. On the other hand there is no town planning culture. There is no style or identity. It is not even a question of appearance. In some cases there is no external finishing, for example a simple, cheap coat of paint on houses built 20 or 30 years ago. This shows that it is not an economic problem but a cultural one. If I have to find a physical link with the land, I look for it in precise, defined places, such as the Ca' Masieri restaurant in Trissino, an estate in the hills of the town where I live. At times, in some seasons, I find it has some aspects that are typical of the Tuscan landscape.

Have you ever considered moving to a place you feel more in tune with?
At present I don't believe in relocation. Even though here there are neither infrastructural or tax incentives. In recent years we have invested a lot and we have believed strongly in our aims. If I were in Milan or somewhere else it would be easier for me, both for the clients and the staff. We are going from being a family business to an international company, so I need new, high level skills. Moving here is not particularly appealing to professionals seeking a certain lifestyle, even though I have the strength of my trademark and my company. The downturn in the sector in recent years gave us the chance to hire qualified staff locally, where a lot of companies have closed down. I stay here mainly because I am tied to my roots and to my family. I have three children who are growing up here.

To what extent do the problems of Italy's image abroad, regarding the more recent question of waste management in Campania and the difficulties of the country's political life in general, influence your sense of being Italian?
I think that our country has great potential, which we are unable to exploit. We go limping around the world. Many of us have ridden the fortunes of the 'Made in Italy' label, but we cannot make it into something empty. The foreign client looks for a different, creative, original idea behind this label. He looks for an effective offer. I am asked for an exclusive design. I feel like a representative of my country in the extent to which I can meet this expectation.

How closely linked are you to nature? In your jewels you use stones, in the packaging, the style, the promotional language, in your own-label shops you use the materials and colours of the earth, brown, wood.
Nature is fundamental. I think that first of all everyone has to live at peace with himself and the natural environment helps us to do this. I love fishing and am an enthusiastic gatherer of mushrooms. In both cases I love to go out alone, in the morning, to see and feel the water, to wade into the river, the stones, walking in the woods, relishing the silence. I work in the sphere of luxury objects, but real luxury for me now is to have a day to go away and rediscover myself.

The best trip and place you remember?
I don't necessarily need exotic destinations. For my holidays in recent years I have always gone to the Asiago plateau, in the province of Vicenza, where I have a house, because it offers me what I need: nature and quiet.

Is there one aspect of the natural environment you like more than others?
I really love the seasons. Their characteristics. To live through the change of landscape, of weather. Every season offers different sensations, which last for a certain time. If each one of these was to go on for too long, I'd get tired of it. Seasons that unfortunately partly no longer exist and that, when I was a child, I appreciated more fully. Even in winter when it was very cold I always used to play outside, in the district, on the street, in the fields. My children today have these experiences but at a lower level. We protect them more, perhaps too much.

What do you think about the contemporary relationship between man and the quality of the environment?
The environment has deteriorated. You don't have to hear this said by someone else. I have seen it with my own eyes and through my own experience. Going fishing each year I have seen the quantity of water in the rivers, the quantity of fish, diminish and the pollution increase. I have seen the rivers die, a little at a time. I consider the environment a priority. I'd happily see more restrictive laws and incentives not to pollute.

What do you think about the outcomes of this relationship and the future?
I am by nature optimistic, but I recognise the magnitude of the problems. After the war the priority was development. No attention was paid to pollution, it was necessary to increase productivity and employment. Since then the problems of pollution have spread and intensified. There has also been increased sensitivity in the application of corrective systems, but I don't know how effective they are. It seems absurd to me that major economies that have a great effect on world environmental balances, such as the US, have been able to allow themselves not to sign up to the Kyoto Protocol. Both for a fair division of the different countries' commitments, and for an evenly shared load of the economic costs to be borne. The same is true of the emerging economies, India and China. The priority now for them is development and this reduces their attention to global impact. But they have an enormous influence on the future of the Earth. Regarding our lifestyle, for example, the separate collection of rubbish has gradually become part of the routine where I live and now, when I go to some other parts of Italy, I am amazed to see that this has still not been implemented everywhere. I find this inconceivable. The mechanism should always be the same: everyone should be responsible for themselves, do small things to contribute to big changes. From the point of view of time, I don't see the environmental breaking point as being so imminent in my life and not even that of my children. At least I hope not. And if on one hand I think it necessary to intervene more decisively on the matter, I also think that the possibility of resolving the problem is closely linked to an unwillingness to damage widespread economic interests, regarding the deforestation of many parts of the planet, the safeguarding of the Amazon and other problems of a global nature.

Have you followed eco-sustainable criteria in the construction of your new premises?
We have designed a small solar-power system, but there wasn't enough space for anything large enough to make us completely self-sufficient. We need a great amount of power. Otherwise we have focused on insulation materials and glazed surfaces.

The links between your creativity as a designer and music, cinema and other forms of art?
I love listening to music, though I don't have much time. I like Italian singers: Pausini, Ramazzotti, Zucchero and Jovanotti. I'm interested in cinema and other forms of art, but I haven't got time to enjoy them.

How important do you think it is for an entrepreneur to have an influence outside his company and the sector in which he works, in culture, in social work or in other spheres?
I have personally decided to sponsor a local sports club where I live ? Trissino Football ? of which I am vice-president. It is a young club that had big survival problems. The decision is related to my personal feelings about my past as a footballer and the awareness of being lucky and a duty to make this luck available to others. I think it is fundamental to be involved particularly in social work, but it has to be completely impartial.

Do you have your own personal or religious belief?
I am a believer, according to my cultural tradition. But the thing I think is most important is what people put into practice every day, how they live. I think a personal and professional ethics is essential. Regarding our destiny, I cannot be completely sure of this, but there are many things that make me think our journey does not end with this physical life.

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Online bimonthly
Reg. at Vicenza Court No. 1165 on 18 December 2007
Editor and director Bianca Nardon
Redazione STEP Srl Contrá Porti, 3 Vicenza