Born in Bari, Puglia, to Pasquale Natuzzi and Kimberlee Monique Philips, Pasquale Junior Natuzzi holds Italian and American citizenship and likes to describe himself as a contemporary nomad. With firm roots in Puglia (where he lives in a trullo house) and Milan, but with an eye on the world, he constantly searches for new talent in the art and design world. Passionate about fashion and craftsmanship, Pasquale Junior personally designs his clothes, which are made by “masters” of Neapolitan and Apulian tailoring.
Specialising in Economics and Management from Bocconi University’s Faculty of Economics, he nurtured an interest in marketing and branding, and at the age of 20, decided to suspend his university studies to establish The Secret Society: a fashion start-up characterised by a disruptive, unconventional approach.
A year later, Pasquale Junior moved to New York to attend courses in Asset and Wealth Management at major international banking groups before returning to Italy to join Natuzzi as Marketing Program Manager, specialising in marketing and communication management, focusing on the creation of digital communication projects and the development of highly experiential events.
At the same time, he became Brand Ambassador, a role that led him to travel around the world as a representative of the DNA and values of the company.
In 2015 Pasquale Junior started working together with CEO and Chairman Pasquale Natuzzi, on the re-branding project that culminated with a new signature style, adding the Apulian – Mediterranean lifestyle as the focus of the brand communication.
Climbing the career, last year Pasquale Junior was appointed Global Business Contract Channel Director in charge for the World Wide management of the Business Contract division.
After taking charge of the creative direction of the brand, Pasquale Junior moved the focus of the company from products to experiences. He redefined the sales network – more than 300 stores around the world – as well as the retail communication transforming the stores in theatrical spaces, analyzing the exhibition space as a scenography, hence redesigning the vision for the stores. He has also involved Microsoft for the development of the first Augmented Store in the furniture business. The Natuzzi Augmented stores offer an immersive space, able to rewrite the usual shopping experience in the design world.
In 2019, Forbes Italia included Pasquale Junior in the list of the 100 under-30 Italian entrepreneurs, and in 2020 he has been the only Italian guest to the Global Family Gathering, organised by the Family Business Network – as the representative of the Italian Association of Italian Family Companies (AIDAF) – sharing experiences and best practices to contribute to the training of the new generation of family businesses.
Excerpts from an interview with Pasquale Junior Natuzzi:
Tell us about yourself. When did you realise that you wanted to join your father’s business?
I’ve always believed that my future is in this beautiful company because I grew up in it. I often say that all my life I’ve been eating bread and company, bread and corporate. My father taught us that it is love, passion and respect for people that led him to build this furniture empire.
Growing up, I considered Natuzzi as a diamond that I should take care of and include in a chain of diamonds and make it shine brighter every day. As a second generation entrepreneur in the business, it is a great opportunity to take this business to the next level and maximise its potential with my support, efforts, skills, new visions. I grew up while having this in mind very clear and as a constant till the time it became my life, my reality.
You are known to be involved in the creative process as well as the business aspect of the brand. How do you manage to wear so many hats?
Wearing many hats makes your head heavy but also your neck stronger, so it’s a bit of a test and learning process where I do my best to be everywhere physically and virtually, and try to manage at my best all the teams that I’m part of and also control. I have an assistant; we deal with contingencies and restrictions that I think are part of life. I’m just trying to surf this curve and get through the moment. I like to think of my team as a start up ... that we are “startupers” because we are definitely driving the change, living the transition, changing a lot into what Natuzzi was, is and wants to be. So definitely we need to strive, hustle, invest before we get some returns. In terms of time management, I am now investing my time even if it takes extra effort, if it takes additional strive. I believe in it and I am gonna do it to the end.
What is your design philosophy? Has it changed post COVID?
My design philosophy is what I call narrative design. So basically putting storytelling at the centre of product design, communication, marketing, scenography and set design in order to create real experiences where people can feel part of a bigger story. That’s what I really love.
After the pandemic, what I’m really seeing is a return to the most authentic and true values, having a product that can be really long-lasting, durable, comfortable with the highest level of quality and eventually sustainability, so that people can feel they are buying it through something that it’s going to be timeless, long-lasting, real and not just for the fanciness. I’m seeing a return to the roots, of having your own nest as something you have to really protect and enhance, not just for the love of having a cool house but also because you want to have a house that will be there for you over time.
You have often said that you constantly wish to create something different. How do you manage to do that?
You don’t want to just do things that can be fancy, cooler and crazy just because you want to; you really have to focus on what is relevant for people. So it’s a blend of being creative enough to interpret and give birth to new designs, new creativity, new functions. Study the next step, the next chapter, but in the meantime have a firm understanding of where the company is going, what the company’s DNA is so that you can blend the past, the present and the future with creativity and innovation. It’s up to your guts, your vision, your curiosity to see something that you see, and you’re like wow! that’s gonna be a game-changer. It’s something that honestly comes very natural to me, there are no specific rules that you can follow; definitely being out there, being curious about how the world is moving and evolving in different worlds, fashion, design, cinema, art, photography, that’s something that I’m always keen on, I’m always there.
When you took over your father’s business that was already well established, you decided to give it a new direction. How difficult was it to win the trust of your market and the creative team?
I’m quite creative myself so engaging and interacting with the creative community was something that I did as a constant in my life. So it was easy to talk to them and interact with them because many of them were my friends too. Talking about the distribution and dealership in the market, having their trust is something that doesn’t end; it’s a daily exercise. It doesn’t happen just with your dealership, with your customers and with the market, it happens with all of the stakeholders; you have to have the trust of your employees, customers, final consumers.
How do you think customer in the Middle East, especially the UAE, perceive Natuzzi products?
I believe that we are sharing the same blood somehow and this warmth that we have in the blood really makes us the best hospitable people in the world. So caring about hospitality is something that we have been nurturing for ages. The sense of hospitality is the element that I guess we share in our blood. So this idea of harmony that Natuzzi wants to express is definitely something the Middle Eastern culture would definitely appreciate, no matter the style, no matter classic versus contemporary. Hospitality, harmony, warm places to enjoy are definitely things we all want.
Sustainability has become integral to design. How are you incorporating it into your brand equity?
There are three aspects, one is corporate social responsibility where Natuzzi was always keen on and focuses on for decades. The people that brought us here are the people we care for, who we protect in the company and the factory. So we are not going to abandon them. Then we have the sourcing materials. We’re doing a lot of material innovation, material search, new materials, recycled materials, upcycled materials. That’s something that we can definitely use it as an industry that basically has a pretty simple production process even if it’s complex and articulated. The better you source the better you can be for the environment but also durability of products. We are looking at timeless products, perennial beauty, that is also a good interpretation for me and for the furniture industry leaders.
Opulence has been a big part of Natuzzi’s grammar. Is it still relevant in these time where minimalism is gaining importance?
I wouldn’t say that opulence is part of Natuzzi. We are Mediterranean people, we love simplicity, we love to leverage nature gifts, simple elements and make them more articulated. So, take simple ingredients. Mediterranean cuisine is made of very simple ingredients for instance but then you taste very sophisticated flavours. This is what we do, we don’t want to take the most luxurious, crazy or difficult opulent stuff and bring it into discussion. We want to leverage and nurture and harvest simplicity to evolve that into something more meaningful.
How has social media impacted yours and your brand’s design aesthetics?
Quite a lot. I think that people are willing to definitely experiment more, look into constancy and see what the brand can do and can express its value proposition in a more innovative and contaminated and dynamic ways. So dynamism is definitely a great gift that social media brought and gave us.
What legacy would you like to create for your future generations?
Breaking boundaries of furniture as an industry, and make furniture much closer to other worlds such as entertainment, hospitality, make it more fashionable, make it more experiential, so I think the next challenge is how do we turn this steadiness into a more dynamic ecosystem.
What are your plans for the future?
For the very near future, I would love to get to the gym and workout because I didn’t today and I need. In the mid-term there is Milan design week, and long term find a very good patient wife that will support me in the moments in which I have a bit down with my morals.