Kimpton Sawyer, run by GM Nikki Carlson, has a summer-long sunglasses promotion. Stay at the 250-key hotel, in Sacramento CA, and you get a complimentary selection of sun eyewear to try (best room, by the way, is the 1,291 sq ft Penthouse Suite, which comes with a dining table for eight, a soaking spa tub, and a private balcony). The hotel is owned by JMA Ventures, which also owns Sacramento’s NBA team, the Sacramento Kings. JMA Ventures is run by Vivek Ranadivé, and early investors were shoe designer Adrienne Maloof and her brother George Maloof, whose grandfather emigrated from Lebanon: the Maloof family has also invested heavily in Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas.
Since its founding in Rome in 1886, the artisanal maison Bulgari has produced its high jewellery products in the Italian capital. Following its acquisition by LVMH in 2011, Bulgari has expanded its product offering to include watches, bags, accessories and perfumes, with production facilities in Florence, Lodi and Como, with only its watches made outside Italy, in Switzerland. It is one of six brands that make up LVMH’s jewellery and watch segment, which combined brought in €4.4 billion of sales in 2019.
In 2017, the 136-year-old brand opened a new manufacturing facility in Valenza. Make up the Manifattura Bulgari Eighteen workshops, known internally as “islands” are grouped by fine and medium high jewellery products, integrating production, planning and logistics with jewellery makers, stone-setters and polishers. Northwest of Valenza, across the Italian-Swiss border, the chiming atelier sits in Le Sentier — a village in the Swiss mountains, famed for its watch-making history and culture.
Nurturing career development opportunities from within and teaching students the brand’s characteristic techniques and production methods, the Chiming atelier has a small academy to train a handful of watchmakers and foster their passion for the craft, while the 14,000-square-meter Manifattura holds the Bulgari Jewellery Academy, where hundreds of young artisans acquire training from professional goldsmiths and jewellers. By 2022, the brand intends to build an extension onto the Manifattura, which would take the space from the largest jewellery manufacturing space in Europe to the largest in the world.
BoF sits down with three of Bulgari’s artisanal workers to hear about how the business fosters creative talents’ career paths, infuses learning in the day-to-day, and empowers its artisans to combine innovation with the brand’s inherent Roman aesthetic.
Elaine Estella Pacia, Gold Cleaner
Despite having no prior industry experience, Pacia was accepted into the Bulgari Academy and trained as a gold cleaner. She has worked in the Valenza Manifattura for 2 years.
What is exciting about working at Bulgari today?
Bulgari always involves young people within its decision-making, which helps us greater discover and enhance talent. Our department consists of a lot of young people working alongside experts with about 20 years’ experience, which means we learn first-hand within our team — but they also want to hear our new ideas too, so we can share learnings. They really listen to my ideas.
Before I started working at Bulgari, I was working in restaurants and I didn’t have any experience in jewellery making. But Bulgari offers a lot of opportunities for younger people through the Bulgari Academy, and it all started there.
Being at the Bulgari Academy was an eye-opening experience for me as my professors really helped me discover where my talents lie. One of my professors was an expert in jewellery polishing, having been at Bulgari for more than 20 years. She had a lot of patience, offering a lot of one-on-one training. She clearly really wanted to share her expertise with the younger students, which made her easy to approach. Whenever I have questions, she’s always there to give me some ideas.
How does Bulgari empower you to explore your creativity?
The Academy introduced me to the beauty of jewellery making, giving me a chance to grow by having the opportunity to work with experts in the factory. Growing and learning inside Bulgari never ends and there’s always something new to discover. I’m constantly discovering new methods on how to improve the quality of the products.
My workplace is also well-equipped with modern and precise instruments, not only to enhance my creativity but to work in a space that guarantees the safety of its workers. We are equipped with the right safety gear and they regularly check the department to make sure that everything is safe to use.
How would you describe your team dynamic?
In our island, which is what we call the different teams, our boss ensures a calm working environment because a stress-free atmosphere helps us grow, support and help each other, allowing us to fulfil our potential and achieve the finest results.
Our island is also open-minded, open to constructive criticism and willing to admit if we’ve made some mistakes. We work through trial and error, so we do a lot of experiments. I think this is important because through making mistakes, we can improve on every aspect of the work we do.
Our team also collaborates with the whole company to do its part to deliver on quality and help others, even if they’re not a part of our team. For example, before launching a new product, which we call “the pre-series,” we go to the other departments to gather their expertise and ideas on how to finish the product to the highest standard.
Perhaps no-one would want to stay in a hotel that was a copy of Sydney’s Opera House, but they do already make reservations, in Las Vegas, for luxury hotels that include copies of the Eiffel Tower and San Marco.
There are amazing shapes already in hotel architecture – the sail shape of Burj Al Arab, Dubai, for instance. Think what New York-based Kohn Pedersen Fox (KPF) has done in Bangkok (Rosewood), Dubai (Atlantis), Hong Kong (Landmark Mandarin Oriental), Las Vegas (Mandarin Oriental) and Shanghai (Park Hyatt).
Now, the question is, when will Henning Larsen get into the hotel sector? The Copenhagen-based firm, started in 1959 by Henning Larsen, has notched up such triumphs as Copenhagen Opera House and, in Reykjavik, the equally-stunning Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Centre. In Trømso, it is working on Norway’s Arctic Museum, above, and it has just won the bid for a massive development at Sydney’s planned Cockle Bay Park, which includes vertical gardens and a highly-raised park. The gal cannot wait for this firm to enter the luxury hotel space.