Milanese jeweller Pomellato is at an exciting moment in history as it continues to expand across the world and particularly in the Middle East.
With recent store openings in Qatar, and Kuwait and expansion across Saudi Arabia, there is no stopping this audacious and colourful brand. Most recently Pomellato unveiled its newly renovated Dubai flagship store in The Dubai Mall. Bringing colour to the shop front and a warm welcoming atmosphere, the boutique perfectly captures the essence of the brand. Led by CEO Sabina Belli, Pomellato will continue to grow over the coming months and years, while remaining true to its roots of Milanese tradition.
As one of the few female CEOs of a luxury brand today Sabina Belli has made it her mission to use the brand’s reach to help other women and encourage them to make sure their voice is heard. Working with domestic violence charities, the Maison strives to help women around the world who are suffering in silence. As the brand reopens its store in The Dubai Mall, we met with Sabina Belli to find out more.
Can you tell us about the positioning and current focus of Pomellato?
A few years ago we went back to our roots and decided to explain to the world in more detail who we are and where we come from. Our origins are Milanese, which is even more unusual than just being Italian. Milan is a very different city from the rest of Italy. It’s much more industrial, a city of business and it’s the territory where designers, architects, and interior designers boomed from the fifties onwards and have impacted the world with this Milanese view of what design is. I believe that Italian design is a very specific combination of high technology and beauty. You must have both, and when you can combine the two, it’s magic. We are very proud of that and of course, you can go and find the most spectacularly beautiful places in Italy, but when you go to Milan, you get this energy and style that’s so unique.
Our founder very much got his inspiration from the city of Milan and we have decided that we should embody this by conveying this Italian/Milanese style, but in a bold way that also showcases the creativity of our design. We started in 1967 with very original designs compared to what was available at that time when the traditional jewellery market was developing. We had a very different outlook and we brought colour, sophistication and a more laidback luxury that is still extremely high level in terms of quality and sophistication etc. but more contemporary in its style. We had to decide whether we would play with the same codes as other jewellers at the time or do something that pursues the creative intention of our founder which was much more audacious and very much in line with this Milanese inspiration. So that’s what we did!
We are here in the newly renovated Dubai boutique – tell us how his boutique showcases the image of the brand.
Walking into The Dubai Mall today I see many jewellery Maisons who I have great admiration and respect for, but then when you come to our store, there is another feeling. I wonder, how the new generation of regional clients will react to the boutique because it is very different. I wonder whether they will see that behind the colours and the freshness and elegance, you get the feeling of quality and luxury. Or is it that because we are different, our customers will miss the intention and confuse us with something more approachable? In the end, we create every piece by hand, we have one hundred master goldsmiths in Italy, and every single jewel is highlighted with diamonds or precious stones with a twist of fashion, and that’s what makes us unique.
Who is the Pomellato customer today?
To be completely honest, we are not a brand for ladies who are looking for safe or classic pieces or logo-related jewellery. But we are a very cool, a well-kept secret and when you know, you want to be in the know and you want to show up at a ladies lunch with something different that explains your own taste and your bold decision to not follow the crowd or have something mainstream. In the end, luxury is luxury because of the price, but so many luxury brands have become mainstream because whoever has the money to buy it can get hold of it. While in our case, you need the discernment and the taste to understand what we do and have a sense of self-confidence, whereby you see yourself as an independent woman, ready to wear what you choose and not what everyone else is wearing. And I think it’s quite interesting, particularly in markets where you have clients that have everything, to bring something new. At the end of the day, it’s even more interesting when you have the choice, to go scout for something different. When we analyse the profile and the motivation of our clients around the world, we find that most of the time it’s women that choose for themselves, and therefore are choosing something that highlights their look and personality rather than being a gift. It’s again something that you can wear for many different occasions, and I think it’s quite thrilling to be wearing something that has the imprint of Milanese style.
Tell us about Pomellato in the Middle East – how does the region serve the brand and what is the relationship you have with your customers here?
We are developing in the region firstly with the renovation of this store, which is again a big, bold statement. We have stores in Kuwait and Qatar that are having great success, and we are also now going to develop into Saudi Arabia. We are very proud to have our partners in the region – Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons in the UAE and Ali Bin Ali for the rest of the Middle East.
Given our size and profile, we don’t have bold, flashy advertising as that’s not the kind of brand we are, we are trying to reach our consumers in the communities that they are interested in and from contemporary arts, to design, to fashion and architecture – all of these cool industries where women can express themselves in terms of their aesthetics. We also have a mission beyond selling jewellery to be a supportive and safe space for women that need to be helped in empowering themselves, however that may be.
Last time we spoke we talked about some of the initiatives for women that Pomellato was working on, how is this progressing?
We are very aware that one in three women in the world is a victim of domestic violence. We realised that sometimes the most difficult part of this for the women involved is to speak up and to be heard. So, we thought that if we could create a channel of communication between us and as a luxury brand that can be very visible, with all the women that need a voice, we would love to be their voice.
Unfortunately, what we have witnessed is that no matter the region, nationality, social class, background etc. these situations occur across all. You can have the most incredibly happy life on the outside but be facing a tragedy at home. There is a feeling that these kinds of things happen to poor families or families where people have issues, but that is not at all the case. This is happening to one in three women everywhere around the world. And what we call gender violence is not unfortunately just physical violence – it’s also emotional violence, psychological violence, and financial violence. The fact is that in this world you can impact most things, this one is evenly the same for centuries, meaning there is a fundamental problem that needs to be addressed and it needs to be addressed in men from a young age. The boys of today are the men of tomorrow and so we must consider how we want them to behave in later life. So, it’s up to parents, teachers, friends etc. to stop this never-ending circle whereby boys are allowed to treat girls in a certain way.
How do you go about actually connecting with women as part of this campaign?
It’s through our communication of course but we also support shelters financially that help women in these situations around the world. We work with House of Women and it’s very interesting to see that even a small gesture can help immensely, and in the end, it’s again just the fact of encouraging women to say it out loud and talk about it and to let them know that it’s OK to talk about it. A big problem globally for women is that the social vision is that when we speak about these topics it can be frowned upon. Women fear that others will presume they deserved it and that is so not the case. So yes, this is a topic that is very dear to our heart and is also very much in line with Kering Group’s values which are very much focused on working extremely visibly on some topics that are difficult to address or to talk about for many. We are very proud of this.
Why was it important to you to help women in your role?
It really started from the fact that when I joined the company only five per cent of CEOs worldwide are women. In my cultural sphere, it was normal for a woman to be in this kind of position, it’s just a question of competence, but in fact, it’s not, it’s a question of discrimination. And so, although I am not at all an activist on this matter, because I think competence should always prevail, when I started talking to many young women, I realised that things are not changing. So, I am also very much motivated to focus on this because somehow, I’m legitimate in this role because I have been through it and I know what it takes to make things happen. I love the saying that says “it’s not only about the glass ceiling, it’s also about the sticky floor.” You have to push yourself and not give up.
The La Gioia high jewellery collection is a highlight of the year – tell us about how this collection has been received.
It starts from a bit of a paradox because if you look at the definition of high jewellery it’s handmade, one of a kind, made with highly skilled craftsmanship etc. And at the end of the day, at Pomellato, this is what we do every day and so technically we are always creating high jewellery. So, what we thought was that the concept of high jewellery traditionally is very much linked to these outstanding, breath-taking pieces that are worn only for very special occasions and in the end, they are mostly locked away in a vault! Nobody in their normal lives has the red-carpet occasions to wear these pieces. And also, for some, high jewellery is simply a matter of financial investment, and they buy pieces that never get worn! In our case we wanted to break these rules, so we said why don’t we interpret some of our super iconic pieces such as Nudo, Sabbia etc, in an even more surprising way than what we usually do? The first collection was born this way and then over time the freedom for Vincenzo was unleashed and the latest collection gave more space to personal interpretations, of course, the world of stones and jewellery is very much this combination of mother nature and light. Vincenzo was very much inspired by this journey through the day from dawn to sunset and into the night. And I love the way he explained this magical journey where the light and stones could match in a way that you could also marry with your own emotions and character. I think some women’s character reflects dark nights and others are more connected to the dawn and morning. There are certain stones or colours that attract certain women and I think this is interesting.
What can you tell us about what else is in the pipeline for the rest of the year and next year?
Our main focus is a very happy problem because we are growing even faster than the market, so we are in a very positive momentum, and the good thing is that the sky is the limit. We are ready to boom! On the other hand, when you have high demand, you must supply and so we need to make sure that we are still able to go with this extremely energetic flow and this means that we have to keep. The flexibility and agility of a small entrepreneurial company, but also submit to some rules of a bigger market. But these are great problems to have!
What are the stones that you love?
I am a very blue person. It’s not that I like blue in general as a colour, but I feel like blue speaks to me as it’s something I’m drawn to. I probably relate to the sky, the water, and something a bit mysterious and somehow a little scary. So blue is my colour of choice, and I would pair it with complementary greens, purples etc. I love to stack, more is more.
How would you describe Pomellato in one word?
Milanese style and elegance – it’s four words!