Sabina Belli, CEO of the Pomellato group talks to A&E about the history of the brand and why the future is bright.
Sabina Belli joined the Pomellto Group as CEO in 2015. With a background in luxury fragrance at Dior and LVMH, she then joined Bvlgari before taking on the role at Pomellato three years ago.
A self-confessed personal client of the brand, Sabina has found a harmonious balance between luxury and jewellery at a House she feels passionate about. Ahead of their new season launches Sabina talks to A&E on her plans for the future of the brand, and why it’s more important than ever to recognise its history.
Tell us about your vision and direction for Pomellato.
First of all I would like to say that I could not define any forward strategy without really diving into the brand and understanding where it comes from, from an inside point of view. I got my first Pomellato in 1989 – it was a vintage ring with an oval aquamarine stone that I still own of course and still wear. When I wear it some of the people from the production team recognise it and they feel very honoured to see it again. The reason I’m telling you this is because I am convinced that as a client and a woman I had a very strong relationship with Pomellato as a brand, and then when I joined I felt that I needed to go and scout a bit more into what Pomellato was in terms of a company and a story of success. And I really realised that there were a few pieces of information that had not been taken into consideration, so far that in my view, totally defined the mission of Pomellato and what it could represent in the world of jewellery for the future.
I think that when you do brand development people don’t spend enough time understanding the man or the woman behind the first creative intention of the brand. And then when you start trying to understand better this personality, you have a lot of answers on what the brand stands for. So in that respect I picked out of the history three very major pieces of information. The first one was about Mr Pino Rabolini. He was a Milanese born man from a long dynasty of goldsmiths. The second was that he launched the brand in 1967, and the third is that he did it by observing the Milanese women. When you put together these three threads you can start knitting and you realise a number of things.The year 1967 in Milan and in Europe was a very particular time in our social history because it was a time of rupture and breakthrough between two very conflicting generations. The new generation was born and raised during a shift in history that was very much seeking freedom and a new way of expressing themselves. That led to the first feminist demonstrations and then of course the hippies and The Beatles and all that. And so that is very important because it was a time of breakthrough, and whenever there is a major change in a society’s life it is a moment when creativity is a pinnacle. It was a time when people were seeking more information and becoming more free, and it was also the birth of pret-a-porter. That defined a new way of wearing jewellery – whereby women were not waiting for a special occasion, but rather using jewellery as an accessory for everyday life. He [Pino Rabolini] understood that, and he was the first one to design a much more simple, more organic modern design of jewellery that would compliment the look of this modern woman.
The women understood that and started to buy this jewellery for themselves, without expecting a man to gift it to them. And so it became a community of very strong, powerful, independent women that were choosing jewellery because of their taste and not because of the brand or because it was a gift. This information was so important for us to understand the personality of the woman and the creative intention to be a very fashionable, precious brand. I think the more Mr Rabolini understood that the jewellery line had to go through this fashionable style, the more he had to counter balance the fashionable aspect with extremely high end craftmanship and quality. This is precisely why we still have 100 goldsmiths at the ateliers. This allows us to have very bold and surprising shapes. So in terms of DNA and history, we have the heritage of goldsmith and craftsmanship, we have the heritage of this man that was a visionary for a new style of jewellery and this is what we want to promote to our clients.
How is the new generation relating to the history?
We are still nurturing and developing these elements and we see that all of this is very much resonating with the modern and contemporary women who buy for themselves. They also understand that the power of their spending can be defined upfront. I think that when you take time to show the consumer how these products are made, there is this amazing element of emotion and a real bond that is created with the brand, because there is a huge amount of respect that all this human savviness is put into our job. I think that people that live in a virtual world will be fascinated by the tradition and the work of the hand of the brand.
What is a challenge you face today as a brand?
Business wise the number one challenge is always to make sure that you have enough visibility and enough power in terms of getting into the arena of choice of the consumer. Of course this is a world where you are fighting against a lot of huge players, but on the other hand we have the chance to create a very strong bond with the consumers. Our consumers are very faithful to us, they become themselves our best ambassadors.
Have you done any research to see if Pomellato customers are returning customers?
Yes we always have returning customers. We have a very strong faithfulness. Particularly because of the stackability. If you get yourself one piece you will come back to get more. That is a situation that is very recurrent and we like that!
What is one thing that you would still like to create and work on?
There is this absolute need on our side as jewellers to educate the consumers and not to just throw out novelties and products in the hope people will love them for simply what they are visually. I think it’s important to take people into the journey that we go through before getting to a finished product. I really love to educate about the gems – there is so much magic behind that. The mines, mother nature, where they came from. I actually had the honour of visiting a museum in Beirut where they present the natural gemology and that was fantastic. Also the setting of that museum is amazing. You get to see that there is something a bit scary and impressive and mysterious when you look at these gems to imagine and the journey that they have been on. And through the new collection you see the mineral gems. These are all hard stones. The magic of these stones is that when you see them in big sizes, they just look like coloured gems, and then if you spotlight a specific part of the gem, and cut it right there, there is something special that happens. In this way you can reveal to the public the hidden part of the story which is that this is a world of fascination and mystery.
What’s your input on the trend for brands to become ethical and give back to society?
First of all I want to stress that as being part of the Kering Group, this is absolutely essential. This is at the heart of the major strategic axis of Kering. We have been having conversations about sustainability for many years now, and we are very proud to announce today that as a jeweller, we are sourcing 100 per cent of our gold in ethical mines, and so that makes us very proud. And we also have taken a very strong stance on fairmined diamonds. We have launched a collection called Nuvola, which is the merge of these two approaches. We are also going to implement as much as possible this same path on coloured gems. We have already started collaborating with Gemfields, in order to source the most traceable stones, and of course fight against child labour. And on the other hand we also have a very strong implication on whatever is linked to women – giving women chances to get careers. We are also very much active in supporting foundations that fight against domestic violence and we are partnering with support groups that help women that suffer from domestic violence abuse. And finally we have a very new and motivating initiative which is the one to favour and develop the work of goldsmiths among the young generations. We have paired with a school in Milan and we have financed a new academic path that will take the students to a diploma that recognises them as goldsmiths. I also sit on the board of the Kering foundation, which is a foundation that helps to support women all over the world.
Why brought you to the jewellery industry?
It’s a long career in luxury. I’m a very luxe person, because I have always worked in luxury. I started at L’Oreal working for the licences of Armani. I started really understanding the power of aspiration and dream that is linked to luxury there, and then I developed my career at LVMH for 21 years. And then I was given this amazing opportunity to move to Rome and join Bvlgari which was an incredible, really unique experience. And then by coincidence, my path crossed the one of Pomellato.
How do you define luxury?
I am one of the people that believes luxury is absolutely not futile or superficial but it is absolutely compulsory. It is at the heart of the mechanism of humanity. Since the dawn of humanity, human beings have always aspired to something better, or to look up to something that was bigger than them, and that is probably how religions have been created. To pay tribute to something that was beyond comprehension. And somehow I still think that was is really beautiful and precious and made with high quality material that creates a strong emotion, is of high aspiration and will always be of high desire, because you want to get as close as possible to the extraordinary. So to me luxury has a philosophical meaning. It’s really part of our civilisation. You see luxury in everything – in the most simple cultures or tribes, where the selection maybe a shell or a fruit as an element of extra ordinary because it’s rare or beautiful. And sometimes this is even given as a gift or reward. So that for me is very important.
If you ever worry about making a decision, where do you go to?
I tend to rely on two elements that are very innate in me but I have also maybe developed over time. One is adaptability – I adapt very quickly to people and situations, and also to strategic analysis. I tend to always observe and then adapt to what the observation is pushing me to do. And then the second thing is the intuition. My intuition has so far not failed me! I think at one point we need to be fast, and we need to have a lot of faith and trust in what we see and what we do. I think the best performers are the ones that decide fast and don’t have too many doubts. And also surround themselves with very strong people who are in a spiral of positive thinking. The moment you install a doubt everybody doubts and the doubts become a big thing. If you are in the mood whereby success call for success people will follow you. And I think that is very important.
Is there any other message you want to give to women?
There is one other thing that I have probably suffered from, and that is that women are not self-assured and self-confident enough. They always doubt their own potentials and strengths. Because maybe we have been raised for so many years with an obligation of modesty and humbleness. When you see women talking for example, they always say “excuse me if I say this.” Why should you be so careful about your ideas? I always want to communicate this feeling that there is no impossible dream, you just need to believe that it is possible. This applies also to corporate and business life. We should always think big. There is something that maybe culturally for so many centuries maybe prevented women from thinking big, because it was not humble enough, but think big girls! Don’t have anyone make you think that you cannot make it.
What would be your personal motto?
There is always a solution to everything – and the solution is inside of you.
What do you hate?
What book are you reading?
A book about Simone Veil.
If you weren’t doing what you are doing today what would you do?
What would be your perfect getaway?
A Greek island.
How would you describe Pomellato in one word?