Giulia Cazzola is the fourth generation of Fope, a Vicenza-based, family jewelry company known for its famous gold jewelry. She is bringing up the fifth generation, but took time during September’s Vicenza Jewelry Fair to talk about how she has put her stamp on the Italian business. She even gave Elite Traveler Editor-in-Chief Douglas Gollan some Italian ski recommendations.
ET: Tell me about the history of Fope.
Giulia Cazzola: Fope was started in 1929, by my great-great grandfather. It started as a luxury gold manufacturer, and then later developed into a chain manufacturer. In the ‘70s, Fope started to produce the famous Fope Chain (Novecento’s Chain) and various collection with that trademark, which is still our strength nowadays. We were the first ones to make the elastic wrist band for watches, watch cases, and, always, machinery and technology was very important in our company. Now we are all over the world with direct distribution. We are present in the best retail shops in Europe, Middle East, Asia and North and South America. Vicenza is the headquarters.
ET: What other family members are in the business right now?
Giulia Cazzola: My father and my mother are still in the business. But the day-to-day jobs are mostly done by a general manager that oversees the whole operation. We have a sales manager for Italy, and one for the Export markets. I’m in charge of all the marketing.
ET: Do you get involved in designing?
Giulia Cazzola: No, we have internal and external designers. We have meetings to decide on good designs for the market.
ET: What did you do before you got into the family business?
Giulia Cazzola: I went to undergrad in Boston, and then I went to graduate school in New York. I worked for other big jewelry companies for three years, and then I opened up our New York headquarters. Three years ago, I joined the head office in Italy.
ET: The readers of our magazine—a lot of them are like your family—very successful business owners. As the fourth generation in the family business, was it valuable for you to work outside the business?
Giulia Cazzola: It was very valuable, because if you go directly after school into your own family business, you don’t have a larger view of business in general. You just know about the business that you were born into and you don’t see the problems or the good parts of your business any longer. If you go outside, you bring in new ideas, and you have a better picture of how the business should, and should not, go.
ET: You’re expecting – is this your first child? Will that be the fifth generation?
Giulia Cazzola: It’s my first one. She will be the fifth generation, but I hope she will become a doctor! Anything but working with the family! Just joking!!! Back in the years, we just worked within the family members and it was fine, but now it is mixture between the family and the new management. We like to mingle with them.
ET: As Fope has grown, and the management and staff goes outside the family, how do you balance the aspects of growing a family business and having to bring in outside talent?
Giulia Cazzola: We usually test these people. They have to know how to work in a family business. That is not easy at all; it is one of the most difficult things to do, because we have strong ideas, it’s our baby and we tend to be overprotective. We’re very attached to the business. It’s not only a business, but it’s part of you. So you have to bring in people that understand that. But we also like very skillful people that they know a lot about the different aspects of our business.
ET: Is it difficult today to be a family-owned-and-operated business competing against huge conglomerates?
Giulia Cazzola: Definitely. You can’t compare yourself with big luxury Groups. We’re definitely not at their level. They have huge capital invested to make their brands big and known all around the world. But if you have quality and you work very hard—especially, you see, like at this show where everybody is negative about the business around the world—we’re actually doing very well. It means that we have something that people are still interested in, and we are doing things that must be right.
ET: Do you feel, because you’re an individual brand, you have to stay more focused on the product?
Giulia Cazzola: Stay focused on the products and stay focused on what make us different than others—the quality that makes the difference. It’s really your DNA that makes people understand the differences in your products.
ET: What do you think it is that makes Fope different, unique, and successful?
Giulia Cazzola: What makes Fope different is the design. First of all, not that many gold manufacturers have survived. 70 percent of our lines are gold. We have some stones, but the majority of it is still gold. It’s hard to survive, but what allows us to survive is a recognizable trademark, our chains. If you look at a piece, you know that it’s Fope. That’s what, through all the years, made us known. And now, we have invented this new bracelet, Flex’it – the elastic bracelet, which takes us back to the time when my great-grandfather invented the elastic bracelets for watches. Now, we made it into a bracelet to wear. The combination of the technology and the product makes us unique.
ET: Switching gears. Outside of work, do you have any hobbies?
Giulia Cazzola: I love sports—I love to ski, I love to go boating. Skiing in the winter and then boating in summer. One of my big interests is also art that is the reason why, for our latest ad campaigns, we are picking different artists and using their art as the background. It represents The ART within The ART.
ET: What are some of your favorite places for skiing and for boating? What type of boat?
Giulia Cazzola: Boating, well, I would love to go sailing, but the time that I have is limited, so I use the motor boat. We usually do the coast of southern France and then to Sardinia and down to Sicily. This year we did that. Skiing, well, the Dolomites here are beautiful, so skiing in Italy is definitely wonderful. I like France and Switzerland for skiing as well.
ET: Do you travel much on business?
Giulia Cazzola: I travel a lot. I lived for fifteen years in the United States, and I liked to travel back to Europe every 2 months. I now travel a lot to the US and around Europe.
ET: What are your favorite places to visit in the United States?
Giulia Cazzola: I love New York. New York is my second home, so definitely New York. And the Caribbean.
ET: Any favorite islands or resorts in the Caribbean?
Giulia Cazzola: I love St. Barts, but just because St. Barts reminds me of Europe.
ET: How long have you been at Fope?
Giulia Cazzola: It’s a long time, thirteen years.
ET: Is your husband in the jewelry business too? Is he at Fope?
Giulia Cazzola: Yes he is, he overlooks the North American Market.
ET: So after work, do you talk business?
Giulia Cazzola: No, no, no. Not at all. Maybe…sometime!
ET: You’ve been in the business for thirteen years. What are some of the things that you’d like to do to put your stamp on the business in the next five, ten or fifteen years?
Giulia Cazzola: I think I did already, especially in the look of Fope. As I was mentioning, the communication, the marketing and the management organization, that already is making a difference. What I like, of course, is to bring Fope to global recognition.
ET: If you hadn’t gotten into the family business, what would you have done?
Giulia Cazzola: Enjoy life. Take a vacation and spend daddy’s money. I should have done that… Just kidding….I could not have done that! I would have loved to be a doctor!!!