Aggregation and growth. This is the mission that has guided many of the financial operations in the design sector. But it is not the only model, albeit often virtuous; there are those who maintain a family business and increase double-digit turnover, even in 2020

In recent years there have been many acquisitions that have involved well-known design brands, From the young Design Holding, a reality born thanks to Investindustrial and The Carlyle Group, which in its portfolio has brands such as B&B ItaliaLouis Poulsen and Flos to Italian Creation Group, the holding that controls companies that have made the history of Italian design: Driade, Valcucine, FontanaArte, Toscoquattro.

The majority of Snaidero instead passed to Idea Corporate Credit Recovery II, a fund managed by Dea Capital Alternative Funds SGR. While Calligaris, after repurchasing 40% of the company sold to LCapital in 2014, transferred the majority to the Alpha fund.

And again, the passage of the iGuzzini to the Swedish lighting giant Fagerhult and Lifestyle Design – the new name of th Poltrona Frau Group, with its companies Poltrona Frau, Cassina, Cappellini, Ceccotti Collezioni, Janus et Cie e Luminaire – which acquired the majority of Karakter, a Danish start-up specialized in the production of lighting, furniture and objects. Alessi, a historic Italian company of design products, has instead brought in the English investment fund Oakley with 40% of its capital.

There are those who have worked on synergies between brands. Last but not least, in the scenario of the new companies, the IDB Group which was established in 2015 by Private Equity Partners SpA, founded and controlled by Fabio Sattin, Giovanni Campolo, Paolo Colonna and the brothers Giovanni and Michele Gervasoni, supported by a select group of high-level private investors gathered in Investindesign Spa.

The group – which includes Gervasoni Group, Meridiani Group, Cenacchi International, Davide Groppi, Saba, Modar, Flexalighting – increased from 43 million in turnover in 2016 to 152 million in 2019.

We talked to Giorgio Gobbi, managing director, about how the alchemy of this team of companies is working, five years after the Group's birth.

The first company to join the newly formed Italian Design Brands Group was Gervasoni, in April 2015. The Gervasoni have a significant share in the group, around 30%. But all the entrepreneurs who entered by conferring their company have already converted a share of the sale into shares of the parent company or kept a minority share of their companies but with exchange agreements that will make them shareholders at maturity.

“When we started”, says Giorgio Gobbi, “the entrepreneurs had to trust the solidity of the project, of the idea. After five and a half years, what we had promised happened, we went in the desired direction. Our model envisaged that entrepreneurs would sell the shares of their company but remain in charge of the operational and strategic management of their companies. The model has not changed, but we have updated it with respect to the specific weights of some activities. One above all is the digital transformation, which was foreseen in the group services provided to companies but which in the last year and a half has accelerated beyond what was expected. Also the hoped-for interaction between entrepreneurs, the monthly meeting of the strategic committee, social activities; everything that was written worked”.

“Five years after its birth”, Gobbi says, “the financial results were a positive confirmation, but the real surprise was the interaction between the entrepreneurs of the various companies; we hoped it would work, but we didn't expect it to work so well. Some brands are synergizing and working together on projects, without any duty obbligation of the Group. Each brand can in fact move in full autonomy, on all the company's activities, including research and development or creative direction”.

The initiatives are always on a voluntary basis. “Two examples could be clarifying”, continues the managing director of IDB. “Two of our companies operate in the production of tailor-made furniture for fashion and luxury brands, and they are the ones less suited to the final consumer. Regarding digital communication projects, which have B2C purposes, they did not adhere to our proposals; the entrepreneurs felt they were not campaigns consistent with their business. Likewise for the Group branch that we opened in China, which has been operational for a year, we asked our companies if they would like to use this service; most have decided to join, even if not all are operational and are working to obtain the necessary certifications to sell in that market”.

“This path prompted us to open single hub that would represent us abroad, and that is working in China. It is a form of supervision of the markets that we are considering whether to extend to other countries, such as North America”, concludes Giorgio Gobbi. “The health crisis has highlighted the value of having the support of a Group that has taken care to keep all its brands in a position of financial security e in constant, daily contact with all the entrepreneurs to try, together, to understand what was happening and how we should have moved”.

Instead, there are those who remain familiar. Founded in 2004 by Fabrizio Cameli, Talenti is a company specializing in the design and manufacture of outdoor furniture for both the private and contract sectors.

With a consolidated turnover of 16 million euros in 2019, the wholly family-owned and operated company grew by about 25% this year, a more than positive result given the difficult times even in international markets.

“I am a child of art”, racconta Fabrizio Cameli, says Fabrizio Cameli, founder and president of Talenti. “My family business worked marbles and had a construction company. I then felt the need to create my own brand – Talenti – which at the beginning of the business produced garden tables with special inlays – in copper, glass and ceramic – to replace the lava stone tables, which in those years were in fashion”.

“In the following years we got closer to design”, continues Cameli. “The first meeting was with Karim Rashid, who advised us to work on the brand and to commit ourselves to developing lines with a more modern design. The classic tables had been the first product line because with the family marble company we were able to produce immediately without making large investments. Talenti has always been a family business, we believe that our control is essential even though we live in a corporate structure that welcomes many people who move independently. The cornerstones of the company are me and my children, Federica, who follows the marketing, and Edoardo, commercial director. Instead, we have entrusted the development of the commercial structure to managers ”.

The creative direction is also followed by Fabrizio, Federica and Edoardo Cameli, with the support of Roberto Palomba, of the Palomba Serafini Associati studio, who started designing for the brand two years ago but to which the Cameli family is very attached. “There are many travel companions who have allowed us to make an excellent journey”, confirms the founder, “Among them Marco Acerbis, Cristian Visentin e Jean Philippe Nuel, who is working on a new 2021 collection. has allowed us to consolidate the positioning of the brand and to propose ourselves on a par with well-known and historic design brands that create outdoor collections”.

“For now, financial capital is all familiar”; Cameli concludes, "We are working to create collections for indoor, which we are already designing, to complete our proposal. Then it will be possible to think about making acquisitions, which will allow us to expand the range and increase turnover. In the future, we could also think of selling a small stake in the company to have greater peace of mind in the face of important investments that we will have to make to grow further”.

Talenti is considering opening a new monobrand store in the States or the Emirates, in addition to the Milanese one in via Pontaccio. The company already has a store in Dubai; the Middle East is strategic for those who produce outdoor furniture. The company is also completing the new headquarters, the result of the redevelopment of the former Pastificio Federici in Amelia, Umbria. Eighty thousand square meters of surface, with a two thousand square meter showroom, which will be inaugurated in the first months of 2021.


In the images the permanent installation Space Within A Space’ by AMAA studio. Eight shipping containers in an empty former industrial building in Azignano (Vicenza) investigate the function of architecture, in particular how volumes can change the perception f space. Ph. Simone Bossi.