Alberto Campagnolo is a versatile personality, professor, luxury expert and brand management consultant for luxury, fashion and design companies.
Dalila: You have had a very accomplished and diverse career in the luxury world. Can you share how your career began and evolved?
Alberto: “My career is the professional transposition of my personal interests. I was born and grew up in a really beautiful yet very little village close to Venice, so moving to Milan after I achieved my first degree in order to learn the deep codes of luxury, it was a real need to me. That relocation turned up my life completely. I was lucky enough to meet some persons in Milan-fashion designers, entrepreneurs, creatives, luxury influencers- who have believed in me and have taught me everything I know, first in lifestyle design, then in luxury fashion. No doubt my previous career as classical concert pianist has also helped me a lot (forced to quit professionally after a bad accident) in terms of discipline and individual research. However I never stop learning, and yes, today I am still improving my luxury culture, mostly working with France and the new arising markets like China. Three years ago I have decided to relocate along the sea in Tuscany region, working as luxury consultant and academic professor all around the world yet based in the middle of nowhere and surrounded by the purest beauty of the Italian landscape, somehow I can say this is my current chapter of my luxury experience”.
Dalila: Why did you decide to work for Luxury industry? How was your work experience in Armani ?
Alberto: “I always consider my career in luxury as a growing self-discovering of myself as a person first. Consequently it was not a choice, it was the identification of my place in the world, and I simply fit in it. It is not true that a person who lives a luxury lifestyle can be logically successful in the luxury business. Three qualities are a must from my point of view: an endless curiosity for the beauty, a deep 360° culture and an individual, genuine sensitivity. And these are within my DNA.
About my job experience at Armani, in no way I can express how much I have learnt there. Despite my role was very much close to the market, leading in person the training courses within all the stores of the division I was working for, I have always considered the luxury vision expressed by Mr.Armani within the headquarter as pure light, this is why I will always tip my hat to him”.
Dalila: What would be your advice for somebody looking to start working in the luxury industry? Where can they start?
Alberto: “To do exactly what you are doing. To me, the quality of the Master you are attending fully allows -well, for those who are humble enough and able to do a bit of soul searching first- to achieve the personal uniqueness that every luxury company considers as the real added value of an employee. The Master in Luxury Goods at Sole24Ore is one of very few examples of institutes (besides the others where I am currently working all around Europe) where a student can learn not only pure knowledge, but also build up a personal luxury vision.
And this is somehow the reason why I have decided to extend my career on an academic direction. My ultimate mission as professor is to assist students in exploring their own uniqueness. While imparting practical knowledge is essential, helping students unlock their own original, intriguing vision remains of utmost importance to me. Enabling students to discover the spark within is what I look forward to achieving the most.I know what a luxury company wants from their employees because as director I have selected some of them in person. Now it is the time to turn the table and to help my students making their dreams come true”.
Dalila: Since you’ve worked both in a consultancy agency and in a company, which one do you suggest at the beginning of the career? In your opinion, is it a company environment more stimulating than an agency one?
Alberto: “Without any doubt: within a company. Now I am a consultant after more than fifteen years within luxury companies covering a manager then a director role, and my experiences and results allow me to clearly demonstrate my reliability. How can you be a successful consultant if you have not worked on the other side before, and successfully”?
Dalila: According to you, Could the internalization of Italian brands ownerships affect their made in Italy value?
Alberto: “I am not scared about the internalization of the Italian brands. My point of view is that the value of Made in Italy and mostly its perception abroad is fast changing and we must decipher the new drivers for this evolution, supporting new ways to convey that value in a strong way. I am much more scared about the conservative approach held by 100% Italian companies used to say “we have always done in this way”, or convinced that the excellence of their production does not need beside a strong service towards the customers or worse again a strong communication to any stakeholder. Spreading the wings abroad is not dangerous for the Made in Italy value as much as that “old school” approach unfortunately is”.
Dalila: How important was the concept of “genius loci” for luxury brands you worked for?
Alberto: “Really a lot. I always remember the connection Mr.Armani has found between the color palette of Milan, his city of adoption, and his collection.
Sobriety, minimalism, worth, are values we can notice in Milan as well as in Mr.Armani’s style. That is magic, of course, and also in this case the discovering of those connections is a consistent part of the luxury experience for the consumers.
Yet I am also thinking to other companies where I am working as consultant (mostly in Florence within the field of leather goods and accessories). The lily, symbol of the city, is a real non-verbal DNA of those brands, you can notice it everywhere. It is stronger than any brand logo. Italy is a country where the spirit of the Genius Loci is extremely relevant to decipher the quality of the Italian luxuries”.
Dalila: What have been some of the largest changes in terms of internal strategies you have seen when you worked for Armani?
Alberto: “My experience at Armani was long enough to see an evolution mostly in terms of market penetration. On the other hand I have to admit Armani is one of the most coherent and somehow resilient luxury brands in the world. Everybody understands at a glance the red thread that links the first Emporio Armani collections of early 80’s and what the brand has become today. Like a natural evolution, without disguises or fleeting details. Giorgio Armani is credible and coherent with himself, maybe I can say in a very rigorous way, and this is the reason why everybody respects him so much”.
Dalila: Since nowadays everything is changing fast and the digital is taking over, is the value of craftsmanship becoming outmoded or is it more precious?
Alberto: “Honestly. As a brand management consultant in luxury I have to say that the digital strategy cannot convey perfectly all the values the luxury is made by. Luxury needs a multi-sensory approach, declined in a slow way, while the digital is fast and somehow ephemeral. I am not at all scared about the possibility the handcraftsmanship could become outmoded. I am much more scared about the depletion of the culture that stays behind, seems to me that the younger Italian generations are not so sensitive to these values and this is why I am really concerned”.
Dalila: Most of the Italian brands have a strong and rooted heritage that has to be mixed with the present lifestyle, how do these brands manage to stay relevant while also maintaining their rich heritage?
Alberto: “One century ago Friederich Nietszche wrote that “the real world has become a fairy tale” within his book Goetzen-Daemmerung, “the Twilight of the Idols”, the famous, strongest inspiration for Richard Wagner. For me no doubt this sentence has always meant a lot. Even just considering the current luxury retail physical artifacts in Italy, such as the stores, the windows, the pavilions, the visual projects, and so on, their basic functions have by the time achieved a new inspiration, a very special taste that recalls a more human approach, full of suggestions, reminds, evocations. The real world is expressed by his appearance, with an individual poetry that the magic of Italian luxury has by the time enhanced”.
Yet what Friederich Nietzsche has not mentioned is what those fairy tales have become… How true overall today, where often people have no time anymore to downshift, to be seduced, to dream. We can then assume that the modern fairy tales have become the luxury brands themselves, considered as a very bind storytelling between the companies, their heritage and their listeners, their stakeholders: consumer and customers, of course, but also everybody else who might be somehow interested in what a luxury brand has to say”.
Dalila: According to you, will Italian brands be able to keep and preserve their “made in Italy” value, I mean not just the label to stitch inside the items, or will it fade?
Alberto: “Pretty strange maybe, I travel a lot all around the world and seems to me that everybody really loves Italy and its luxury much more than the Italians themselves. No risk to fade then. The real risk is the rest of the world will always admire the beauty the Italians own and create, yet with a certain sorrow caused by their carelessness”.