On the occasion of Dalle Piane Cashmere’s birthday, we interviewed Leonardo Dondini, head of the company since 2003. Who better than Leonardo to tell us about the changes and the most important objectives of the company throughout the last 30 years?
We often hear about companies that continue generation after generation. Inheriting a profession from one’s parents may seem like a required and simple choice rather than of one of the heart and passion. What was your experience with this? Would you follow the same path again?
Working in the family business is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, there is the good fortune of having an already-defined career option, whilst on the other hand, working with one's own family is not always easy given that visions and backgrounds do not always align. The challenge is to find a good balance between tradition and innovation. In our case, the processes connected to the old tradition are linked to new activities such as e-commerce, for example, which is also the most important. The economic results show that we're on the right path.
If I were to go back in time, I would definitely make the same choice. Working for something that comes from so far back in time, from my parents, from my grandfather, is an honour that brings great satisfaction. What's more, I was born and I live in Prato, the realm of textiles, so even without being part of this family, it is most likely that I would have worked in the same field.
Children dream of becoming astronauts, firefighters and policemen, but you have defined yourself as "a child who dreamed of going to wool school". Do you have any special anecdote to share with us?
There are so many memories. The first that comes to mind is when my father brought me bags of carded wool that I would play with for hours. That same carded wool was then spun, worked and used to create garments.
Let us talk about the company today. What have been the most significant changes since you have been at the helm and which, rather, are the values that have remained constant over time?
Without a doubt, the constant values that have endured throughout the thirty years in operation are tradition, product quality and customer satisfaction. The way of weaving has not changed, the difference is in the relationship with customers. With the internet, we can reach the end customer directly, which allows us to offer more advantageous prices and to maintain a relationship that, to date, has been a fundamental value.
The most significant changes are related to the development of production technologies. For example, today the frames are connected to the internet so, in simple terms, the pattern-maker creates the garment on a programme that is then sent from the machine to the frame and then the weaving begins. I would like to clarify that machines will never replace the manual work of our artisans, which is fundamental throughout the entire phase of creation.
Another great task we are working on concerns big data, having decided to gather information from all our sales channels into a single database. This allows us to better understand the trends and requests of the customers.
Let us move on to the products: which is the most fashionable? And what do you think distinguishes you on the market?
The product we sell the most is the shawl. Both in winter and during the summer. However, the garment that best distinguishes us is the poncho. It was the first one to have great success and immediate appeal and that, in doing so, has paved the way for all other e-commerce products.
The most popular colours are the classics such as grey, black and beige. This year, following current trends, we will add others such as purple and lilac to reach a total range of 18 colours available.
Before concluding, in honour of the company's 30th birthday, do you have anything to say to the existing and future customers who are reading this?
We hope that the next thirty years are equally full of satisfactions for us, for those who work with us and especially for our customers, and that they are always happy with our products and our service.