Renato Minotti should have been appointed Prime Minister of the new Italian government. Maybe he just doesn’t have the time, but his company certainly seems to have the secret to making Italy successful again. Its missive? Returning to the old values that once made it great – things like handmade quality, honouring artisan skills, treating employees like members of the family and, most of all, manufacturing in Italy.
Minotti has just launched its new range of furniture in Australia at dedece in Darlinghurst, Sydney and Russell Street, Melbourne and we had the opportunity to speak at length with Minotti himself while on break from making sure that things were “just so” for the launch.
Making sure things are “just so” pretty much sums up how this company runs. Attention to detail has become a dull, meaningless phrase today, but at Minotti it really means something. Look closely at the seams of the new leather furniture and you will see a flash of grosgrain ribbon. Examine the legs of the sofas and chairs and you see that they are lacquered, dye-cast aluminium, a process that is both time-consuming and expensive. Design for this new range was in the hands of architect Rodolfo Dordoni and his clean, elegant lines and intricate detailing show a masterful grasp of his art, from the leather covered legs of the coffee tables to the self-righting swivel action on the lounge chairs.
“No one can cheaply copy these details”, says Minotti with a faint smile. “It’s just too hard to do. And look at the fabric. We design it and make it ourselves; you cannot see it anywhere else.”
In these days of cheaply manufactured replicas churning out of China like sausages from a high street butcher, this comment holds weight. The genuine things were always the best and the days are returning when authenticity really means something in a world full of fakes.
Remarkably, everything we see on the showroom floor was made within a 50-kilometre radius of the Minotti headquarters in Meda, just north of Milan. Equally surprising is the fact that 95 per cent of their production is exported.
“We spend a lot of time building a program for out artisans to teach their sons and daughters their skills,” Minotti says with a look of pride. “Some of our craftsmen have been working for us for many generations. They are really my family just as much as my brother and mother who run the company with me.”
Unlike many famous Italian marques, Minotti is still a private company owned and run by the sons and wife of the original owner, Alberto, who set it up in 1948.
This is one of the secrets of making furniture of such high quality. “We do not answer to shareholders or money men. Of course, the financial aspects of our business are important, but not more important to us than the quality of our products or the opinions of our customers.”
And customers, after all, are the lifeblood of any design company. Perhaps it’s just as well Renato Minotti isn’t running the country – his customers need him where he is.