Federico Gauttieri founded Roman jeweler Casato, and his innovative style and outgoing personality have made him a hot commodity in the ultra-competitive jewelry world. He sat down with Elite Traveler Editor-in-Chief Douglas Gollan to discuss how he has found success, what he likes to do in his free time and the challenges that lie ahead.
ET: Can you tell us how you got into the jewelry business?
Federico Gauttieri: I got into the jewelry business by accident about 20 years ago. I was studying law at the university but I really wanted to do something different. I had a partner in mind and I said to myself, ‘Why not, let’s try it.’ So we became partners and started working with stones. We fell in love immediately with semiprecious stones and worked with them from the beginning.
ET: So tell us about how the business is now—where are you selling around the world?
Federico Gauttieri: We are actually selling more and more around the world in many different markets. The United States is a big market as is Russia, the Arab countries and the whole of Europe. But the most important thing is the relationship we have with our customers through our retailers. We are very friendly with all of them.
ET: Tell us about Casato.
Federico Gauttieri: The company is four years old. But we started more than four years ago. The company’s actually 15 years old, but we changed the name. Since the beginning, we started manufacturing jewelry—diamonds, colored stones, semiprecious stones. We know how to work with stones, which is not easy, especially semiprecious. You don’t see much of these around because you have to know about stones, you have to know how to work with them, you have to know about facets, the materials you can find. It’s not an easy job, but we put a lot of passion in it because we love it.
ET: We’re here in the Vicenza Fair and it’s filled with wonderful jewelry. What do you think sets Casato apart from some of the other jewelers here?
Federico Gauttieri: I think we are different from all the other manufacturers for a couple of reasons. First of all, the way we work with stones is different than any other company. Another important thing is that we broke with tradition by stepping away from diamonds, which is what everyone else was doing. That made it a bit difficult at the beginning. But now we feel that we created a trend and there are a lot of companies, some more important than we are, that are following our stance.
ET: So you were here for 11 years and were very successful. Tell us a little bit about changing the company name and what led you to do that.
Federico Gauttieri: It was a big step. We changed the name because we believed that we had to go for branding and we were looking for the right name. We came to this name, which is easy to pronounce, and we liked that. I come from a noble family; my family’s about 1,000 years old. Casato in Italian literally means ‘noble family.’ When we wanted to change the name of the company, I didn’t want to use my name but I wanted something connected to my name. Also since we are distributed around the world, we needed a name that’s easily pronounced. So Casato seemed to be the right choice.
ET: You mentioned your family’s noble history. Do you have any other family members working in Casato with you?
Federico Gauttieri: No, not at the moment.
ET: What are some of the biggest challenges in managing a growing business, especially a global one?
Federico Gauttieri: The most important thing is adapting to meet the demand of your customers. I think that is the most important challenge. If you meet the demand, it means that you really can’t fail. You also have to produce the right thing at the right time—in terms of product, organization, packaging. And not only the product, but the mood and the spirit of the brand is important. Everybody’s doing a lot and you need to do more and more.
ET: You mentioned the competition. Every time you pick up the newspaper one of the big conglomerates seems to be buying another brand. What’s it like to compete with these huge global conglomerates on a worldwide basis?
Federico Gauttieri: We don’t have many weapons against that. We fight with this [pointing to his heart]. We use the power of our passion, and we keep on doing things the way we think is best. We don’t put much energy into thinking about others because there is not much we can do.
ET: Do you also do the designing of the pieces?
Federico Gauttieri: Yes. My hand is behind every piece.
ET: How do you divide your time running the business between designing and managing?
Federico Gauttieri: Every part of our business takes a lot of time, but we try to organize. We dedicate a lot of ourselves to the product. In one week, I dedicate about 16 hours to meetings with the creative staff to discuss research and design. There is plenty to do.
ET: Do you have any hobbies?
Federico Gauttieri: I have several hobbies. One is sailing. Many years ago, in 1994, I was number one in Italy in the ranking for Hobie Cats. I was super-busy, but I could take about 15 days to go participate in the Italian and European championships. I feel I can’t do this anymore though I still love sailing. I also love rugby and of course traveling, art, architecture and cooking. I wake up in the morning very early to go to the open market to buy fresh food.
ET: What types of food do you cook?
Federico Gauttieri: I love all dishes made with vegetables and fruits. I’m especially good at cooking pasta and also fish. I don’t eat much meat.
ET: As far as traveling, where are some of your favorite places?
Federico Gauttieri: I enjoy South America—Brazil, Venezuela, wherever. I also like the Far East, Thailand especially, and other Asian countries. It’s really the spirit of travel that I love. When I travel, I am a traveler not a tourist. So when I go to Arab countries, I am as much of an Arab as I can be. This is how I am in every country where I go. I eat the local food, I drink the local wine. Even if it’s not good, I don’t mind. I want to be part of the country where I am in that moment.
ET: Speaking of traveling, what about hotels? Any favorite hotels or resorts?
Federico Gauttieri: I have to admit I like luxury hotels, and there are many I like. I was in Thailand at Rayavadee in Krabi 15 days ago. It is a fantastic place because you really can enjoy the sea, nature, food; it’s a perfect environment. Another fantastic hotel is the Swissotel in Istanbul. I think I have traveled to at least 60 different countries in the world so I know many hotels.
ET: You design the jewelry, you travel a lot, you said you like architecture and art. Is there anything specific that gives you the inspiration behind the jewelry you’re designing? Where does the inspiration come from?
Federico Gauttieri: Inspiration comes from all over. Many things I see inspire me. I spend a lot of time walking the streets of the old city [Rome] and spending time admiring the details of the buildings. I really like art. I can spend 20 minutes just looking at a statue or a building or a particular image. And when you put all of these ingredients together and give it time, after a while something comes out—sometimes in the middle of the night. Sometimes I wake up and draw, and then the next morning when I go in the office, I say, ‘Let’s see what comes out of this.’
ET: So in four years you’ve built Casato into a brand. You must think ahead—how do you envision Casato in five years from now?
Federico Gauttieri: I see Casato involved in a lot of things. We are consistently growing each year, but there are many things to still do. I have to admit that we are interested in accessories and leather.
It takes time of course. First you have to put everything in place. I already started thinking of this. Sooner or later it will become reality, but I have to wait for the right moment.
ET: There are a couple of other well-known Italian jewelers and fashion houses that are now in the hotel business. Will we see a Casato hotel?
Federico Gauttieri: It is a dream to have a hotel. I could leave everything right now to run a hotel. It’s really something that one day I would love to do and in a city like Rome, it’s not difficult. The difficult thing is to be different from others, which is our point, in everything we do.
ET: Anything else you’d like to talk about regarding the current collection or is there anything else you want our readers to know about Casato?
Federico Gauttieri: To talk of our collection is easy and difficult at the same time. Every day when I walk into the office and sit down and talk about business with my colleagues and staff, the only thing we really try to do is to anticipate a woman’s desire, a woman’s wish, as well as we can. If we do that, that is success.