Raffaella Renai’s family has been in the jewellery business for five generations. She is the head designer of the Anna Maria Cammilli jewellery brand, one of the most unique and successful Italian jewellery lines on the market. Taking over from her mother who launched the brand, Renai continues the special process for designing the pieces which includes special glossy-matte effects. Anna Maria Cammilli is the only brand that offers seven different colours of gold in their designs.
Renai credits Florence, said to be the birthplace of the Renaissance, with being a major influence in everything she and her team create. From the beautiful natural surroundings to atmosphere of creativity that is imbued throughout the city, it all shines through in the finished work.
Recently Tharawat Magazine had a chance to sit down with Raffaella to discuss her work, her city, and how they combine to make their second-generation family business what it is today.
Raffaella, let’s get started first with this slightly strange situation whereby you are a 2nd generation and a 5th generation family business, do tell us more about your background.
Okay, it’s kind of unusual but also usual for a family coming from Florence because our city has a long tradition of arts and crafts. Lots of historical families are going on with the business of generations. In my case, me and my brother Ricardo, who is the CEO of the company, are the 2nd generation of the brand Anna Maria Cammilli which is the starter of the brand my mother began but the 5th generation of the jewellery tradition in the family. That means that the grandfather of my grandfather used to have a jewellery business in Florence. He was the only one who was taking care of the clock at Palazzo Vecchio situated right beside the Uffizi Museum located in Piazza degli Uffizi in Florence. He was the one who was taking care of the time for the old Florentine families.
That’s a big responsibility, keeping time for all of Florence. Anna Maria Cammilli is your mother’s name so how did this brand start?
Yes, my mother was a painter and a sculptress. She met my father when she was 18 years old and my father introduced her to the jewellery business. Unfortunately, my father passed away very early, when I was only five, so she was left to develop the brand by herself. In 1982, she started the brand in Florence with the production in the kind of style that we are known for selling now. Our style is very recognisable. Her main inspiration has always been nature. In Florence, we have a lot of very beautiful hills and mountains and nature all around so inspiration is always near. We can breathe art all around so its added value to be from here. The atmosphere was a very important factor in my mother’s success.
What do you mean by ‘atmosphere’?
If you live in a town like Florence, in a region like Tuscany, in a country like Italy, it’s easier to explain creativity because what’s around you helps you a lot. The beauty and the art and that everybody around you does something, maybe not very artistic but very creative. It’s in our DNA. Simply walking around the town at night, you can feel the atmosphere and you can see all around all the art and expression. We belong to a town that was the starting point of the Renaissance. It was a very long time ago but we contributed to the expression of art as a unique and important discipline in the world.
Being a female entrepreneur in what was surely a male-dominated industry must not have been easy. How did she deal with the challenges she faced in setting up the company?
It was a little bit unusual for the time. My mother is very kind and unique. So everybody was looking at her work with great interest from the beginning. That’s why it was something different. I think it was strongly linked to her personality and her reputation as an artist.
Tell us more about when you and Ricardo joined the business. How did you make up your mind? Did you always know you wanted to work with your family?
I started with art school and I became an architect after graduating from the University in Florence in Architecture. It was my destiny. And also my brother, who is a little more commercial-minded than I am. It was written and it has been our passion, always.
How was it working with the two generations side by side and you with your brother?
The secret is to keep the roles clearly apart. I wanted to do design and he wanted to tend to the commercial side. We are each good at what we do in our respective fields and so get along just fine. It’s a strategy that works for us.
How do you maintain uniqueness in an industry that is so competitive?
We have to focus all our efforts on the uniqueness of our product. The design is unique in our case, and we are leaders in world for the finishing of gold. So we have a shine and mount finishing in every single jewel which is unique. The style is very recognisable. Also, we work with seven different colors of gold. The options we can produce are limitless.
Is it a competitive advantage for you to be a family business in this industry?
Of course! For instance, four years ago we celebrated our 30th anniversary for the brand. We had a great party in Florence with friends and customers. There’s a history behind it all that you can explain to the customers and the customers love this. For this occasion, we opened up our flagship store in the city centre which is very expressive of our style. So if you go into the shop, you will understand the style of the brand. Our customers usually come to Florence to visit the town and to visit our store. It’s something that helps a lot.
What you think the future holds for the jewellery industry?
To me, the first important thing is to be different, to have our own style. This is a suggestion for every other brand – be unique, be very recognisable. Because the consumer is developing more sensitivity and taste for beautiful things.
For instance in our case we want to keep everything 100% Italian. From the idea to the design and production. It is part of our authenticity. It is who we are.