The Heir Behind One of World’s Leading Furniture Companies Talks Access to Luxury, Gen Y — and Ikea
He says, his heart is in Puglia, but his wardrobe in Milan (and so is his pied-à-terre). Pasquale Junior Natuzzi, son of Natuzzi’s founding CEO Pasquale Natuzzi – is heir to the thrown of one of world’s most recognized furniture brands, which net sales over the year 2016 exceeded the $500 million mark. The 28-year-old – who describes himself as a contemporary nomad due to his hectic traveling schedule between hometown Puglia, Milan, the US and Asia – has acted as the company’s Chief Marketing & Communication Officer as of July 2017. Pasquale Junior is currently on a mission carrying the Natuzzi brand into the world of the next generation of consumers via virtual reality initiatives, collaborations with names from the worlds of pop culture and fashion, plus a more accessible alternative to luxury.
‘I believe that outside of our industry, in fashion for example, many companies have warmed up to the concept of targeting millennials. Within the design-and-furniture sector that’s not the case, except for maybe Ikea,’ Pasquale Junior says when we meet inside the Natuzzi store on Milan’s Via Durini 24. Dressed in his signature style (i.e. a tailored suit with wide lapels and cropped pant) the Natuzzi heir adds, ‘Most furniture companies think just about luxury, big contracts and a starchitect collaboration from time to time. Many people who belong to my generation of under 30-year-olds possess the type of dynamism which sees them changing house on a regular basis, plus they live in smaller spaces which they may need to share with others. Thus a brand, for those people, should be omnipresent. In the sense that, you need to create pieces that one can easily take with itself when relocating. This same audience also cares about sustainability and innovation. In our current landscape luxury isn’t accessible – you must find a way to reach luxury, luxury doesn’t come to you.’
The Chief Marketing & Communications officer looks at street art collaborations, exhibitions, event sponsorship and contests involving young talent, as ways to target an audience which, he describes as one that, ‘spends 24/7 on Instagram.’ As far as celebrity marketing as a mode to lure gen Y and Z consumers is concerned, the Puglia native appears to be more or less on the fence. ‘I believe nowadays sharing the stories of people who aren’t necessarily (social media) famous but have a one of a kind story to tell, is far more interesting than reaching out to a random celebrity that partners with a handful of other brands as well. At the same time, if I would work with a Hollywood celebrity, it wouldn’t be just because they’re Hollywood, but because they’re actual creatives. Someone like Virgil Abloh for example. I could almost kill myself when I saw that he designed a bag in collaboration with Ikea – I was walking around with that idea for a long time. I’ve followed Virgil for a while and admire him as a DJ, designer and creative director – so it’s not just about his celebrity power. The same thing goes for Pharrell,’ Pasquale Junior shares regarding his take on celebrity capsule collections in partnership with Natuzzi.
It’s since 2011 that the Natuzzi offspring has entered the company founded by his father in 1959. ‘The truth of the matter is that my father raised me asking the question “What do you want to do when you grow up?” every day of my life, and I would answer “Become President of Natuzzi.” I’ve studied the company since the age of three, so it would be a great loss for me to not invest in it and allow for it to further grow.’
Speaking of dad, co-existing inside the company with Pasquale Senior, hasn’t always been easy, according to Junior. ‘It’s not easy working with my father on a daily basis. He’s tough and has a strong presence inside the company. However, it’s getting easier to convince him in terms of projects I suggest. In the past I remember we’d engage in these wars of several months before I’d get anything done. Nowadays it’s become easier to convince him, plus we both understand what our territory is: he’s the CEO so he looks after numbers, business plans, strategies etc. I do branding and focus on improving the customer experience.’
Upcoming Natuzzi projects include a collaborative effort between Natuzzi and a well-known Italian fashion designer, a move towards virtual reality, and the unveiling of a new icon during Milan’s Design Week. ‘It’s a chameleon-like object that can be placed anywhere – interior, exterior, loft, hotel, small apartment, you name it. We’ve never done anything similar before, and it promises to become very iconic. It’s a type of object I personally haven’t seen before,’ Pasquale Junior hints, without disclosing further information.
As far as virtual reality is concerned, Natuzzi shall implement its latest addition shortly. About the VR development, the Natuzzi Chief Marketing & Communication Officer says, ‘With our online 3D configurator you’ll be able to customize a product of interest in high definition – so you’ll be able to see every detail. You subsequently schedule an appointment at a nearby Natuzzi store, after sending in four pictures of the space in which you’d like to place the desired object. During the store visit, you’ll sit down with VR glasses on, and we’ll show you what the product would look like inside your living space.’