Contract in the round. Interview with Gian Luca Colombo

Despite all the changes undergone by the company, the identity of Consonni International continues to be a solid one. How would you describe it?

Consonni is a pure contractor. We are exclusively engaged in the contract business which is subdivided into three main themes: hospitality, yachting and private residential projects. These three markets are handled by three separate divisions, each one of which has its own independent organization, governed by completely different strategies and philosophies.  It is of fundamental importance to note that Consonni no longer operates in the contract business with furnishings or FF&E alone (Furniture, fixtures, and equipment), but today we address the market as a general contractor, able to supply a vertical turn-key service: we start from the fittings (interior finishes, surface coverings, bathrooms, the construction of partition walls and false ceilings) and terminate with FF&E, with no limit to the possible styles and solutions.

You have a widespread organization in terms of projects and foreign companies…

Geographically, Consonni addresses the world market: since we have no mass production brand, we go where interesting projects are first conceived. We are organized in the same way as a multinational company and so we have our own branches in Abu Dhabi, Kazakhstan, India, Switzerland and France, as well as a representative office in Monte Carlo.  Our strategy consists in continuing to operate in the country where any new project has been conceived, leveraging it to open up a new market. Not being able or willing to open showrooms, the finished project then serves as our showcase.

You are clearly oriented towards international business. Do you intend nonetheless to preserve a bond with your own country? 

Our territorial roots are just as strong as ever. The communications strategy we pursued for the Salone del Mobile was based on the slogan Made in Consonni, since it set out to emphasize that  Consonni intends to preserve a strong bond with Italy since this famous brand truly represents a series of universally acknowledged values that are well worth hanging on to. In the contract business, this brand takes the form of guaranteed service quality.  We wish to stress that if we export 90% of what we produce, it is equally true that we produce in Italy 90% of what we export.

If contracting is your core business, how do you approach this sector?

An effective comparison I like to make is that of the fashion industry.  Consonni International is the tailor who only makes suits to measure, for a customer with different tastes in terms of models and colours, different measurements and different deadlines to respect and who is prepared to pay  a different price. This is the contract business. We are as far removed as possible from any concept of standardization.

What are the main developments you have encountered in this business?

Companies that are able to provide a vertical turn-key service are increasingly sought-after abroad, that is to say, those which also handle fittings as well as FF&E. The sector has certainly changed with regard to the type of product requested, particularly by hospitality structures: today’s hotel represents a great theatrical back-drop destined to last no more than 20 years, so it must lend itself to being refurbished more easily; even the large hotel chains have now abandoned standardization in favour of the contextualized design of individual establishments.  This has affected interior design styles and the type of product being used. The contracting concept and the way in which these orders are processed has led mainly to organizational changes: it is necessary to get over the small business concept in order to