Robb Reader: President and CEO of Acqua di Parma, Laura Burdese

The future has bright, refreshing notes to it according to the woman at the helm of the luxury fragrance house.

What is it about handmade products that makes them special?
There are many reasons, but I’d say that the most important element is the human factor behind it. Italy is made up of hundreds of thousands of small, family-owned factories and workshops that work together and pass on know-how from one generation to the next, allowing them to generate value. Artisans usually work there for their whole lives, developing a unique expertise and never-ending passion.

What do you find rewarding about working with artisans?
For over 100 years, Acqua di Parma has symbolised the very best of Made in Italy craftsmanship. I have to admit that matching hand-crafted processes with an ever quickening time to market, while delivering outstanding products, is not easy. In this respect, our Research and Development department is key, along with our Quality Control Department, which works closely with our artisans from the very inception of a product, controlling each phase of the process, not only the outcome.

Acqua di Parma CEO Laura Burdese 

This is what I find extremely rewarding: working with these people since the very beginning, watching them while they create products which are all thoroughly thought through and shaped with pure passion and dedication. It is this love for products created with patience, care and attention which conveys an authentic, centuries-old tradition. It is at the core of our maison: only handcrafted products, created with love and care, can develop a soul.

Why are cultural partnerships so important?
Since the maison was founded our commitment to art, culture and the natural world in Italy has always been a key focus. Supporting different expressions of art is a natural attitude for Acqua di Parma, a way to promote Italian excellence worldwide and to share a set of values with an engaged and conscious audience.

How have you tweaked in-store experiences for the post-lockdown era?
On reopening our very first priority was the health and safety and security of our employees and customers, our community. We’ve been following all the necessary sanitary precautions and hygiene guidelines. I truly believe that we have to re-invent the role of our points of sale.

They have to be shaped to offer an experience which can be complementary to the online one. They have to be at the epicentre of our client activities and customer loyalty programs, education points for employees and clients, as well as our live-streaming sets. Our boutiques are our homes – we want to make them alive and encourage people to live in them with us.

Acqua Di Parma’s Colonia Futura 

How does the products being genderless affect its character?
Acqua di Parma was born over a hundred years ago as a personal fragrance and it soon became a must-have for a grown-up generation of illuminated and discerned connoisseurs.It is true that the original product, Colonia, was created by a man for himself, Mr Magnani in 1916, and for decades it was exclusively sold through men’s tailors. However, over the course of a century and due to its gender-neutral scent, Acqua di Parma developed into a unisex, genderless brand.

Our fragrances are all made with selected and carefully chosen ingredients grown under the Italian sun, but they are not meant to be for men or women, they are just meant to be the best on the market. What affects the brand is our ability to evolve accordingly to the age we live in, always driven by passion and beliefs – not by the obsession of reaching a specific gender or age. We celebrate nature, sincerity, and generosity – a way of life in its most sophisticated form and this is how we are able to exert appeal on very different cultures. With such a strong legacy, our creations are not simply products but rituals that grow within our lives and in the long term become tools to transmit values from one generation to the other.

What’s your own personal definition of luxury in this most extraordinary era that we’re living through?
I think this extraordinary time has changed many people’s outlook on luxury. What’s happened In 2020 has forced us to step back from the world as we know it and to enjoy things, like spending time with our families, that sometimes we don’t always have the time to do or are too consumed in day-to-day life for.

I think it will also affect the luxury industry, in that people will be looking to purchase products that are worth buying and not something that is unnecessary, redundant. People will want to buy items for pampering themselves without letting them feel superficial or silly: something that soothes the soul, without wasting our planet’s resources.

People will want to gain and perceive added value from luxury products and experiences, because they understand that every action they take can have a profound impact on our lives and on our planet.

I believe we’ll be dealing with a more conscious approach to luxury, made up of unique, relevant and meaningful products and experiences. People will not buy just into luxury products anymore. It won’t be a question of price anymore. They will buy into a purpose – into something that’s meaningful to them.

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