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FEATURE: Fope celebrates 90 years in business

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Fope has been going from strength-to-strength in the UK, becoming a top performing brand for many of the nation’s luxury jewellers.

The Italian firm, which is known for its craftsmanship and innovation, finds itself comfortably at home next to major watch players and contemporary bridal designs in UK stores, with its patented products becoming a must-have for today’s modern woman.

But where did it all begin for the award-winning jewellery brand?

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Firm Foundations
The company started in 1929 Vicenza, Italy, where the founder, Umberto Cazzola, opened his first goldsmiths workshop with around 20 employees, before eventually passing on the baton to his son Odino Cazzola.

From the beginning, innovation lay at the heart of the business, and after the Second World War the workshop turned into a cutting-edge factory thanks to the strong economic growth that engulfed the whole country.

It was at this time that Odino Cazzola invested in modern technologies, which led him to develop revolutionary products, such as flexible metal straps, which remained the core of the firm’s production until the 1960s.

In Italy, FICM, as the brand was known as back then, was the first company to make metal straps, original both in manufacture and design. With the leading Swiss watchmakers demanding very high standards, FICM became the chief supplier in Italy, with companies trusting the firm’s capabilities, craftsmanship, and commitment to detail.

At the end of the 1960s the business received the name it is known and loved as today — changing from FICM, an acronym for Italian factory metal strap, to Fope, which translates into Factory of Jewellery Precious Export and nods to the firm’s early ambitions to go global.

In 1970 Umberto (named after his grandfather) and his sister Ines transformed the family business by investing extensively in research and the development of cutting-edge technologies.

When the third generation joined, Fope started pouring its wealth of expertise into making original gold jewellery collections.

In 1985, Fope created the Novecento mesh, an icon of the brand today, shaping it into many different designs and developing a signature style that brought the company success in Italy, and later, worldwide.

In 2000 the brand truly became international. Fope inaugurated new headquarters in the centre of Vicenza: a modern building designed to accommodate the premises and the production. In these years the fourth generation joined the family firm: Giulia, Umberto’s late daughter, who passed away at the beginning of 2019, opened the American branch in New York. Later she started to manage the brand’s marketing strategies and became part of the company’s board, playing a fundamental role in launching Fope worldwide.

The brand’s bestselling Flex’it lines feature stretchable bracelets and rings crafted solely in 18ct gold and rendered fully flexible thanks to tiny gold springs hidden between each link. Fope invented this ground-breaking system a few decades earlier, then patented it and applied it to its signature gold mesh chain in 2007.
In 2015 the brand opened its first flagship store in Venice, Italy, which has performed above expectations, whilst the following year Fope entered the Italian stock market — an important step in the company’s growth.

Now Fope is celebrating 90 years of business in style, revamping its brand identity and communication tools, alongside launching a special anniversary collection.

The Future of Fope

While the brand’s chief executive officer, Diego Nardin, couldn’t tell us what the founders foresaw and expected of the business when they launched it, he will say this: “One thing’s for sure: all the generations of the owning family have worked with a long-term approach. They have all proven a great vision and steered the business towards the success of the company.”

The firm was built on a respect for its people, attention to the environment, and a strong commitment to the company and family’s roots. These original values have remained at the core of the business throughout the decades and can still be attributed to the brand’s success today, alongside an entrepreneurial spirit that has seen each director move Fope forward.

Fope entered the UK market at the beginning of the new century, and the growth over the last ten years has been nothing short of extraordinary, with the brand now being stocked in 110 doors.

Last year, UK sales represented 20% of Fope’s overall turnover.

“We still have very ambitious plans for the UK market,” shares Nardin. “The UK is one of our most relevant markets both in terms of sales volume and of stockist’s level.”

In March 2018, Fope Jewellery Ltd was set up by Fope S.p.A. (the parent company, which controls 75% of the share capital) and three managers who have supported the brand for the past 20 years on behalf of the previous external agency (Saunders and Shepherd). The British branch has headquarters in Birmingham, and is mandated to sell the brand’s jewellery and provide operational support to British and Irish stockists, while guaranteeing them continuity.

The addition of a UK branch shows the brand’s dedication to the market, and follows Fope’s strategy of consolidating and strengthening its direct presence in key countries.

“We have invested and are investing in the UK and we expect to grow further,” declares the CEO.

On a global level, Fope will continue to invest in its product offer and brand identity, a strategy that has provided desirable results over the last few years, alongside the ability to meet retailer demands. Nardin explains: “We consider our stockists as partners and therefore we provide bespoke support. We collaborate with retailers in order to have a full representation of ope in their shop(s) and to boost brand awareness among their clients.”

This includes supporting jewellers with POS, training, events, customer service, and marketing activities.

When it comes to geography, the key markets for Fope are the UK, Germany, and the USA.

When asked how Fope stands out from the competition, Nardin answers: “First of all our jewellery has no competition. As a matter of fact you can find some fantastic brands in jewellery shops around the UK, but Fope’s product is unique: it is truly distinctive in design, original, and incredibly reliable. It is elegant and comfortable around the clock.

“Furthermore our team is incredibly motivated and client-oriented: we aim to establish partnerships, rather than simply selling jewellery.”

Tags : Diego NardinfopeItalian jewellery
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The author Stacey Hailes

Editor, Professional Jeweller

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