When you enter the Ferruccio Lamborghini Museum in Funo di Argelato you come into contact with a history that shows you how a brand and a family still preserve inestimable values: the fruit of hard work and enduring passion. The beauty, quality and style that were Ferruccio Lamborghini’s are preserved in the exhibits and projects, and grow daily in the activities that develop around the name. Tonino Lamborghini created this museum to dedicate to his father and that story that seems to live again when you take a look at the studio of the head of the family. Tonino Lamborghini started with that quintessential idea of Italian elegance to carry forward a strategy of brand extension that aims to instill the Lamborghini experience in the most varied sectors.
Lifestyle products, smartphones and shoes, watches, and also eyeglasses, hotels and beverages: the Lamborghini name lends itself to various expressions of luxury while maintaining a heritage passed down from father to son and that without a doubt will be cherished by the next generation.
Tonino Lamborghini related to us the story of his brand and of his life spent with passion, dedicated to the project in which he believes with all his heart, and what it means to bear a name that is legendary in Italian industry.
The brand that bears your name ranges from fashion to hospitality and food. The core business seems to be Italian style. Can you tells us how this story of brand extension was born?
I was a bit over thirty and already managed the family businesses. My father retired rather early, giving me the keys to the companies and the full responsibility of what the brand would become. I assumed the management of various sectors while quite young, and I believe that I did well over time. But I arrived at a period in life in which the desire to do something on my own began to mature in me. I already had a passion for the great brands, and in particular for accessories. I asked my father’s advice, in part to understand if it would in some way bother him to see me branching out from the businesses; he would have preferred for me to continue in mechanics. But as he had decided as a young man to undertake a different path from his father, he set no limits on me as long as I didn’t neglect the other family businesses. I began with watches, perfumes and eyeglasses, followed by a line of leatherwear and sweaters, which allowed me to do business more quickly at the time. Obviously, I started with an important name, but it was one that was unknown in the world of accessories and fashion. In addition, at the beginning the press did not welcome my line favorably, probably because they thought that someone such as myself who came from the world of cars couldn’t understand anything about lifestyle. Luckily, they were wrong. At the start I had greater success with a female clientele, as they are more attentive to the quality and style of a product than to the brand in and of itself, which could be thought of as coming from the world of automobiles. Today, one can say that the “Tonino Lamborghini” brand is internationally recognized as a synonym of Italian luxury. I took inspiration from the field of mechanical engineering and automobile design and created a veritable lifestyle experience brand that comprises a wide range of luxury products: watches, eyeglasses, cell phones, furnishings, clothes, sports accessories, premium beverage products, five-star hotels, lounges and restaurants that all embody Italian excellence throughout the world.
Tonino Lamborghini interprets a universe of Italian style while remaining faithful to the tradition and heritage of the Lamborghini family. How much has the link with the family centennial influenced the growth dynamic of the business?
It influenced it a great deal, from when I first started to design my line. I maintained the same values of elegance and luxury, and adapted them to my area of reference. My father, for example, used the checked Prince of Wales fabric in the interiors of his cars, I liked it and used it in some of my products: it reinforced my identity and kept me linked to the story of the business. The family heritage is always present, even in the watches: the first models were inspired by the Lamborghini world in those years. The lines evolved afterward, but the family DNA remains intact.
How difficult is it to communicate different compartments inside a single brand while maintaining a unique brand identity?
It’s hard. This is especially true for my partners. My rigidity in the production and design choices allows me to maintain a unique brand identity through a stylistically coherent line in the various sectors that my brand embraces. The secret is also in interpreting the various products with an attentive eye to market demand, but without ever losing vision of the Lamborghini family heritage and tradition: seeking to succeed in transmitting the brand’s values in all of the projects, and thus creating a true world of reference that is immediately recognizable by the clientele.
Today, the company carries forward a strategic plan begun in 2009, with new projects dedicated to the most exclusive luxury markets that can exalt the brand’s essence. What results has this strategy produced so far?
We produce luxury products that are far removed from marketing: today my brand ranges from accessories to watches, hotels and lounges, and even beverage products. In the mid-1990s I began to think about those products that best represented Italy, even in the food and beverage sector, and out of all of those I chose to start with coffee. I aimed very high, and the investment met with great success, even if the project always excluded large-scale distribution. After coffee I created a full line of Luxury Beverages; tea, chocolate, Energy Drinks and vodka. The latter two products are for the most sophisticated and fashionable locales, aimed at a very young, trendy and worldly clientele. From there it was constant growth: lounges, bars, restaurants, and five-star superior luxury hotels, realized in collaboration with our Chinese partners, with three hotels open at present in China and a project for ten new openings in the next five years. We have invested in many sectors, it’s true, but we have met had excellent returns from everything and each time one comes in to contact with one of our projects, whether it be a watch or a hotel, the Tonino Lamborghini spirit is perfectly recognizable. There’s a single common denominator, which is certainly a strong point of the brand: Made in Italy.
Exporting the passion and spirit of Italian culture world-wide is your mission: What does the target clientele look for?
It might be presumptuous, but they look for what I succeed in giving them: a strong identity that is possible to follow and recognize in numerous sectors. This is why what was at first something negative‑‑the numerous areas of production‑‑at the end revealed itself to be a winning choice. Having had success in each of these different sectors has become a further guarantee for the market and has only increased the brand’s prestige. Once my father asked me: “Why don’t you concentrate on a single sector and become the leader in that?” and I responded “you also branched out into various fields of mechanics and engineering.” He admitted I was right: we have both taken a different path from the one already traced and neither of us has ever regretted it, because that type of approach has given us an incredible charge. It’s a passion that we have passed down from generation to generation, and today it’s the turn of my son Ferruccio, the Vice President of the group, in whom I have to recognize a not indifferent capacity and talent. He’s young and he has long-range vision, he knows how to resolve problems and plan new projects: this can only give me serenity.
In the luxury goods market there is a profound mutation that is leading to the development of unique projects realized by the brands through careful research into materials, technological innovation and stylistic coherence. How is the Tonino Lamborghini brand responding to this new demand?
The response is in the realization of exclusive, tailor-made projects,, dedicated at once to the contract and the final client, and personalized according to the tastes and choices of the client while respecting the brand identity. The stylistic part is certainly determinant, because whoever wants a “Tonino Lamborghini” product has to have that family life. In addition, materials have always been a crucial element for us—it’s no accident that I was the first one, 35 years ago, to make eyeglasses in carbon-fiber eyeglasses as well as the first to use titanium. Every day on the part of the market there is a greater attention to the basic materials in the realization of products, especially if they are worn, and in addition there is a greater request for green materials or for those that are light and innovative. Research on materials in my company is constant and goes hand in hand with stylistic research, but we don’t communicate this in a spasmodic manner, which Is perhaps a mistake, and we take it for granted that if you are attracted to and get to know our brand, you already know how attentive we are to this type of research.
The “charging bull” is nowadays not only a logo but also a symbol of action and the avant-garde. What new goalposts will the charging bull of the Tonino Lamborghini brand pass next?
In the technology sector, at BASELWORLD 2016 we announced a collaboration with the Korean firm KORASIA Inc., a new subsidiary of the DASAN Group, for the development of wearable digital IT products signed Tonino Lamborghini, including smart bands, smartphones and accessories, smart watches and IoT (Internet of Everything) products for home and office. The reference target is the new premium sector of IT accessories, definable as “Techo-luxury,” that we already approached last year with the launch of the Tauri88 cell phone and which will be followed by new wearable smart instruments and IoT products. In the hospitality sector, on the other hand, we have signed an important agreement for the opening of a number of Tonino Lamborghini Clubs, which is to say discos with live music and dancing. They will spread throughout all of Asia, in particular in the cities of: Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and from Seoul all the way to Australia. At present there are locations open in: Cairo (two locales), Damascus (active in spite of the war), Riyadh and Bangkok. In addition, the hotels currently open in China are the Tonino Lamborghini Library Boutique Hotel in Shouzou, the City Center Hotel in Kunshan and the Tonino Lamborghini Lake Side Hotel in Huangxi. We foresee the opening of ten five-star hotels and resorts within the next five years. The next inaugurations will include, among other locations: Weifang, the Yunxi Valley, Palong Valley Resort, Kushan, the Xianghu Resort, Hangzhou, Xingyi, Chongqing. Wenzhou and Taihu.
What can we expect in a future collaboration with Lamborghini Automobiles?
The company created by my father is close to my heart, I lived and breathed it as a child, and I hope that relations with the new management can be sincere, friendly and transparent.