Drawing on tradition to get beyond its boundaries and give rise to something new. This is the secret (at least the one we can learn about!) of Preciosa Lighting, the brand of Preciosa Group that ranges from the crafting of glass and crystal to the making of jewelry and decoration. The age-old tradition of Bohemian crystal has been combined by Preciosa Lighting with the most advanced lighting technologies to create dynamic, interactive works that boost the firm’s already large portfolio of collections, which meet with maximum expression in international hospitality projects. We talk about with Michal Gabaj, Managing Director Russia, Eastern Europe, CIS & Turkey of Preciosa Lighting.
What is the value of the Russian market, and that of Eastern Europe in general, for Preciosa?
The Russian market has become a very interesting region for us, reporting constantly positive results. With my team, I am responsible not only for Russia, but also for CIS, Turkey and Eastern Europe. While Russia has been relatively stable, the activity in countries like Georgia and Kazakhstan has increased remarkably over the last two years. It is also stimulating for us to see how the requests and tastes of clients are changing in each country. In Russia, for example, they appreciate frosted glass, Art Deco, an abundance of details and a luxurious but sober style. In Turkey they ask for innovative design and original technologies. Due to the financial crisis business has dropped by about 30%, though on the other hand we have doubled the value of the projects, because we have concentrated more on the luxury residential segment.
How are you positioned in this sector? Are you more oriented towards retail channels or contract projects?
About 90% of the jobs commissioned in this region are for made-to-measure. In Russia they are mostly projects for private homes and luxurious buildings, while in CIS and Turkey we get more requests for hospitality facilities. In these two zones the design is only contemporary.
In recent years the Russian economy and local tastes have radically changed: how has this impacted your business?
The financial crisis has caused a change in the type of clients, and their preferences. To adapt we have kept a focus above all on the luxury market, especially private homes, buildings, government offices and 5-star hotels.
The affluent class in Russia has shifted its capital from Russia to other European cities: have you managed to “follow”?
Preciosa has offices all over the world: wherever there are clients, we are there too! Many of our projects are trans-national: the designer or the architect is in one country, the project in another. Our organization is unique because we have representatives all over the world, but the production is located in a single point: the Crystal Valley in the Czech Republic. From the initial design to prototyping and assembly, all the phases happen under one roof. This choice makes life easier for clients, who have to interact with just one team, and know exactly where their lighting products come from. Those who have worked with us in Russia or elsewhere often come back to us when they have a project in mind that requires tailor-made crystal lamps. At the moment, for example, we are working on many small projects for Russian clients in London, Paris, Dubai, Miami, Monaco and Saint-Tropez.
What is the bestselling product in Russia?
Considering our portfolio of collections, the classic Rudolf chandelier, a historic piece, and the Geometric suspension lamp.
Preciosa can count on a wide range of collections, with styles ranging from the classic to the modern: where is the innovation in your offerings?
In the lighting technology. We have an in-house R&D team substantially engaged in studying new technologies and understanding how they can be applied to glass and light. One of our priorities is to offer dynamic, interactive lighting systems, and thanks to increasingly rapid technological progress we are able to create installations like Breath of Light, which turns on when you blow on a special sensor; Pearl Wave, which reacts to the tinkle of glass; or Carousel of Light, which is sensitive to movement. Clients no longer want just lamps, but elements of alternative, memorable and – let’s just say it – “Instagrammable” design. This is why we urge our designers to think of lighting as an element in its own right, not a mere appendix to add on at the end of a project: light can do a long to bring character and beauty to a space.
The production of glass in Murano is famous all over the world, as is the Canadian tradition: how does the production of the Crystal Valley differ?
Making glass is like making good wine: everything depends on natural ingredients. Bohemian crystal is special precisely because of the raw materials available at a local level. The sand, water, climate, the wood we use to shape our exclusive molds, contribute to create a clear, smooth glass that is impossible to find in other parts of the world. All the glassworks have their own recipes, and at Preciosa only three people know ours – and they are not authorized to travel together.
What will be the future of the company in terms of growth and development? What geographical areas are you now aiming at?
We have 12 affiliates in the world, and though our objectives are slighting different from one market to the next, the company as a whole will continue to focus on lighting technologies, especially dynamic and interactive systems. We have noticed that in terms of custom projects clients want unforgettable products that convey emotions, and this is stimulating, because our aim is to create contacts among people through light. The other area of interest is that of our collections. Our portfolio includes both classic chandeliers and more contemporary solitaires, both much in demand on the part of interior designers, because it is easy to imagine how they will look in a space; with such a wide variety of products, it is easy to adapt to any interior.
Is the company considering synergies (in terms of sales or contract projects) between Preciosa Lighting and other divisions of the group?
Of course. To reach our goals we collaborate above all with the Components division, because their crystals are absolutely compatible with custom lighting products. In the flagship store in Prague visitors also have the opportunity to purchase jewelry and souvenirs, under the name Preciosa Beauty.