Living Divani CEO Carola Bestetti on Building a Successful Italian Furniture Brand
Over 50 years ago, Living Divani founders Luigi Bestetti and Renata Pozzoli took over a small upholstery workshop in Italy. Today, that modest facility has become a leading manufacturer reputed for its elegant furniture, with pieces sold worldwide. Space Furniture currently carries the brand in Singapore, displayed in The Architects’ Apartment, a residential-inspired setting within the showroom that features many of the firm’s iconic creations.
The co-founders’ elder daughter Carola Bestetti now helms the company from Como, Italy. Among other tasks, the gregarious CEO was responsible for diversifying the rand’s collaborators to include international designers such as Junya Ishigami and David Lopez Quincoces as well as Singaporean designers such as Nathan Yong and Studio Juju. She lets us in on her journey with Living Divani.
How did your parents start and run the business?
Carola Bestetti (CB) They founded the firm in 1969, way before my sister and I were born. The company is their “first kid” and the one that never complains, so it’s easier to manage (compared to raising children)!
My mother concentrated on developing the commercial side while my father focused on production and products, so they complement each other. I joined the company formally in 2003. The one thing they passed on to me that I will forever be grateful for was humility. My parents have always been low-profile; even if they have some free time, they prefer to keep working.
What did Piero Lissoni do for the company when he became art director in 1988?
CB Living Divani was already well known in Europe, but the style was a little more classical. When Piero came in, he brought a much purer visual identity to the company. For instance, he changed our decorative fabrics to plain colours with more textures. The company was already collaborating with established names, but it was interesting to work with an architect my parents gave complete freedom to. He was only in his 30s then and had just finished his studies.
In addition, Piero didn’t just want to be a product designer; he also designed all the catalogues, invitations and fair stands to create the clear image of Living Divani which we are known for today.
See also: Piero Lissoni Designs Italian Yachting Brand Sanlorenzo's Singapore Showroom
How do you choose your collaborators?
CB We are recognised for a very strong minimalist design language. When I pick a designer to work with, it’s not their place of origin that makes a difference; it’s about finding a common sensibility between the designer and the company. I spotted the work of Studio Juju at Salone Satellite (during the annual Salone del Mobile furniture fair in Milan). When I first saw their creations, I thought, “wow”. I think their collection for us is playful but not outside the vernacular of Living Divani; it still keeps the same clean lines.
What are some of the challenges the furniture industry is facing today?
CB It’s important to understand what the market seeks as the clients are changing and have different needs. For example, in the Asia Pacific region, customers are more interested in using the Internet and mobile apps. During the pandemic, we have ramped up our use of digital communication tools to address that. We have always invested in our production facilities and the development of products.
But we can’t take it for granted that people will know that we have high-end products; we have to communicate that quality properly to our customers. Social media can be dangerous because people sometimes don’t go in-depth with what they see; they might not understand the difference between a company such as Living Divani and other firms that do not invest in product development, who just copy (the designs).