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ANTOLINI Transforming nature’s gifts into alluring masterpieces

Mr Francesco AntoliniStraddling the Adige River in Veneto, Verona is one of the main tourist destinations in northern Italy. It has become one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world because of its artistic heritage, several annual fairs, shows and operas.
Last September, Verona held its annual international stone industry trade show – Marmomacc, which is perhaps the most essential fair for operators in stone industry, for professionals in construction and contract sectors and for designers and decision makers looking for success in an increasingly specialised and competitive context.
While deepening its understanding of current evolution and trends in stone and design sectors, the Stone and Tile in India team met quite a few stone industry heavyweights at Marmomacc 2013, all keenly involved in showcasing their products. The team had the good fortune to interview Mr. Francesco Antolini, chairman, Antolini Luigi & C., an Italian stone company rooted in over fifty years of experience.

Company’s History

A leading innovative producer of natural stone, Antolini of Verona was founded in the 1950s by Mr. Luigi Antolini, who wanted to offer his customers a distinctive and varied selection of stone colours and finishes. Sharing the journey of the Company Mr. Francesco Antolini said, “The Company was started by my father in 1956, but it comes from my great grandfather’s vision. So it would be technically wrong to say that the Company was founded in the 1950s. My family conducted very first business way back in 1920 at a small workshop in Sant’Ambrogio di Valpolicella. Their entrepreneurial spirit was so strong that significant investments were immediately made to expand the production site and to buy up quarries. Between 1950 and 1960, Luigi Antolini took over the management of the Company, along with his uncles. In a short period, he gained the experience needed to start up his own business and create ‘Marmi Antolini’ with his sister. Between 1961 and 1989, the new firm, Antolini Luigi & C., was established near the River Adige in Sega di Cavaion, in what is still its main building today. Over the following years, the company worked with international markets and, in 1988, three different companies joined together and ‘Eurotrading’ was created, which covered an area of 130,000 sq.m.

“During 1990 to 2000, the Rosa Beta and Sarizzo Antigorio quarries were bought. Both became part of the Antolini group under the name ‘Licci Alti and Simplon Graniti.’ In the same period, the new ‘Eurotrading’ warehouse in Spain was purchased and ‘Eurobrasil Ltda’ was established in Brazil.

“And between 2001 and 2005, the Stone Boutique and the Stone Gallery were inaugurated on the company’s main site. These were designed to display marble, granite and precious materials, and the two showrooms quickly became focal points for experts in the sector.”

Antolini Showroom LeopardDesignAntolini’s Collections

Antolini has an uncanny ability to take what belongs to nature and transform it into an elegant masterpiece. All of its stone products bespeak tradition, technology, passion and quality. Consider, for instance, its Natura Collection, an exclusive product line. It stems from the company’s love for transforming surroundings by applying exclusive workmanship to natural stone. The patterns in this collection evoke nature, the plant kingdom and a wealth of exotic or native woods in elegant geometric, leaf and plant motif surface decorations that are perfect for floors or walls. At Marmomacc 2013, Antolini proudly presented its Flamingo Design, a new pattern designed by designer Alessandro La Spada. Along with patterns such as Magnolia Design, Atlantis Design and Mangrove Design, this new pattern strengthens this collection’s already important role.

Commenting on the Natura Collection, Mr. Antolini said, “Natura Collection is the best example of the creative process we uphold at Antolini. We always try to develop new ideas… . One kind of idea was to make this kind of design on natural marble, inspired by the natural world – from leaves to the zebra and the crocodile – even wood – to create something new…to imitate the natural… .”

Apart from presenting new additions to the Natura Collection, Antolini presented new patterns for the Woodstone Collection – another Antolini product line. Wewood and Herringbone are the new patterns in this collection; they complement the Freewood motifs presented in 2012. It may be mentioned that the Woodstone collection is meant for decorating surfaces using exquisite creations that maintain the robust nature of marble but are reminiscent of parquet shapes. Pieces in this collection can be used to create countless elegant and linear geometric effects.

Antolini’s luxury collections are for those who want to add a touch of style to their room or office. The dream-like gems in these collections bring together elegance, sophistication and charm. One of these luxury collections – the Precioustone Collection – has over a hundred types of precious stones for interior design applications. At Antolini, precious stones such as amethyst, quartz, jasper and agate are transformed into coverings of sheer beauty. “We have developed all lines of precious stones – ranging from Precioustone, Preciousglitter and PreciouSwarovski to New Age, Shellstone and Gemstone – to give our customers something new, something different and unique. These stones are for the discriminating customer,” said Mr. Antolini. Interestingly, some of the minerals used in the Precioustone collection are translucent; this makes the slabs suitable for backlighting to create striking and highly original chromatic and artistic effects.

At Marmomacc 2013, Antolini also presented new complements of its Marble Drop – stone for washbasin, fireplace, coffee table, etc. Marble drop is part of the company’s Sir/A Collection designed by Alessandro La Spada, which is, to put it in the words of Mr. Antolini, “a collection that creates a dialogue between walls, floors and furnishings, a dialogue in the language of the single beautiful and natural material.” This collection, which can be regarded as a new chapter in product innovation, expresses the maximum potential of Antolini’s craftsmanship and abilities.

Speaking about the exclusive types of stone products offered by his Company, Mr. Antolini said that his Company, to put it in his words, “knows how and where to find natural stones anywhere in the world…and can offer the market many exclusive types of uniquely beautiful granite, onyx and marble – thanks to our company’s skills in highlighting the material’s best features.”

Spirit of Innovation

Steve Jobs, American entrepreneur, marketer, inventor and co-founder of Apple Inc., once said that innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower. At Antolini, a lot of importance is given to creativity and product innovation. Perhaps this is why the company is an undisputed leader in its field. Speaking on his Company’s insistence on creativity and innovation, Mr. Antolini said, “Originally, the company was just like any other stone company in Italy. But we decided to do something different. So, we first started to increase the number of quarries and the amount of materials. Marble came from various countries, including India… . But that was not enough, so we tried to develop new kinds of finishing and design in stone. Briefly, it was our desire to create something new in stone that kept us on our toes. We also looked for new ways of using marble. Traditionally, marble was used for floors and stairs. So, we moved to the furniture market, to the kitchen, to lavatory tops. In our effort to stand out from the rest, we went for the latest production technologies. Technical innovations have consistently happened at Antolini. Let me tell you, as a producer or manufacturer, you cannot disregard creativity and product innovation if you are looking for beauty or striving for perfection.”

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Global Economic Crisis and Antolini

Antolini’s business may not currently be booming in Italy and Spain, but the company hopes to do well in the near future. “Due to the economic crisis, markets declined quite a bit, but now they seem to be recovering. The North American market has become important to us. The European market is also reviving. Unfortunately, Spain and Italy still have miles to go. Our sales have gone down in Italy, but we hope we will do well soon; the crisis will soon be over. Fortunately, we have been able to increase our exports,” said Mr. Antolini.

Antolini and its Market in India

Commenting on his Company’s presence in India, Mr. Antolini said, “We’ve been active in India for many years, so we know quite a bit about the quarries there. We hope to continue importing marble blocks and limestone from India. Also, some Indian customers are looking for quality Italian stone products. Unfortunately, the import duty on Italian marble is rather high in India…and that kills the market. The tax put on us for sending our stuff to India is far greater than the tax levied on Indian exporters for sending their stuff to Italy. I hope this will be adjusted rationally in the near future…and then it would be possible to supply Italian-made marble to many Indian customers. Incidentally, we have supplied our products to a few customers in India – customers who are rich and who do not mind paying the taxes. But we want a bigger market in India… and we are looking forward to increasing our exports to India. As we know, India is a developing country and thus would not take long to become a big market. We need some time, but we are very much there.”

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