Interview with Cristina,
Successor of her Parent's Business

Cristina, manages her parents company

Your father and his brothers have owned this workshop for half a century. You attended University but eventually decided to work with your family. How did it happen?

I studied Economy and Management for a couple of years but it didn't work out very well; I realised I'm more a practical person than a theorist. After that I worked for a company that had nothing to do with leather or fashion. When that company had to close down I figured it was finally time to come here.

Why didn't you work in the family business early on?

I wanted to experience something different as I wasn't sure if this would actually be the right job for me. Moreover, I wanted to have some time and space out of the family.

You have obviously mastered the craftsmanship. Did you already spend some time here in the past?

Well, I was born into a family of craftspeople and as both my mother and father worked here I used to come to the workshop every day after school. I played with pieces of material that had fallen from the workbenches and I remember how they used to give me adhesive tape to stick pieces together and make my own creations. Later, I came and helped out every now and then.

What is it like to work with your family?

It doesn't run smoothly all the time and naturally things can get personal. There can be some heated discussions, but then we talk things through and get back on the right path.

The older generation have decades' worth of knowledge and experience, but technology is progressing and one has to move with it in some ways. In my opinion, the reason that many smaller businesses in this region and in the country as a whole have had to close down is because they have failed to modernize their production processes.

What criticisms do you have of the leather industry in Italy?

I don't like the unfair competition. Many companies offer much lower prices, which attracts customers, but their goods are also much lower in quality. Many of these companies also treat their employees unfairly and without respect. The salaries are not nearly high enough for the workers to live off; it enters the territory of human trafficking and slavery - this is the price being paid for the lower cost of goods. It's wrong in every way.

Do you have a personal interest in fashion and design?

Yes, I always liked looking at and wearing nice things. Presentation is important when part of your job is representing the company to the clients.

How would you describe your favourite leather?

Nappa leather is my favourite because it's soft and because the more you use it the more beautiful it becomes. The features of good leather for me are softness, a material that wears well and gets better with use and, personally, I prefer a matt finish.

Meticulate planning is the key to keep small businesses effective
Cristina returned to her families' business four years ago

"Surviving as artisans in Europe is about managing, modernising, integrating machines and improving efficiency. Nowadays it is purely about the right workflow, with the working methods of the past we cannot compete. "

What do you like most about your job?

I really like the relationship with the customers: understanding their tastes and what they want and then making it happen in terms of technical realisation. Our customers speak directly to me, I'm the one who knows precisely what product they want us to create and how. So when I check the workbenches I know I'm able to make sure that everything is being done as it should be. Being a craftswoman myself, understanding how to make a wallet, or a bag, for example, enables me to really guide the whole process of realisation.

Have you made any changes since working here, based on your education and experience in management and administration?

This is an old family business; introducing changes to its system and mind-set isn't easy. Through persistence, I've managed to integrate more machines into the business, which have enabled us to be more efficient. Nowadays you really have to think about optimum workflow and that sometimes means letting go of some of the working methods of the past.
So yes, I've implemented some changes, but in my opinion we still need to integrate some more advanced technologies into the production process. Step by step we are getting there.

The varnishing machine helps to make hand-labour more efficient
Ten artisans are employed at the workshop

There is an increasing use of plastic derivatives in the production of leather goods, what do you think about that?

It depends on the customers, some will choose lesser quality materials in order to lower the costs of the finished products: like photographed leather, it isn't quite like plastic but it isn't quite like leather too. It is different to both touch and smell and requires a different manufacturing too.
Some of our big customers target customers who follow the current fashion trends, they are interested in buying the season's last trend; every external detail must look perfect but they do not necessarily care if inside there are mediocre materials, the product is not meant to last. But there still are many people who admire quality and in the long term this will become more important again, we already feel that now.