June 16, 2023

Made in Italy – Behind the Label

Author: Radmila Durasinovic
Tags: Design Category: magazine

Made in Italy – Behind the Label

Country of Origin

Product branding and labelling with a place of origin have a long and rich history, dating back to ancient times when consumers used it as an indicator of product quality. Evidence of brands with origin markings has been found in archaeological artifacts dating back to 4,000 years ago. The Chinese during the Han Dynasty, as well as the Mediterranean trade between 1500 and 500 BCE, used place names and brand names on goods, and stamped labels became systematic. The Romans preferred goods from specific places, stimulating trade throughout Europe and the Middle East. During the medieval period in Europe, market towns invested in developing a reputation for quality produce, efficient market regulation, and good amenities for visitors, acting as an early form of branding.

With the increase in global trade and the removal of trade barriers, the importance of country-of-origin labelling legislation became more crucial in purchase decision-making in the 20th century. A widespread psychological phenomenon called the country-of-origin effect, which explores the profound impact of a product's birthplace on consumers' attitudes and purchasing decisions, was born. It examines the intricate ways in which a product's country of origin labelling—whether it's where the brand is based, where the product was created or manufactured, or other forms of value-creation aligned to a country—can influence the way consumers perceive it.

The halo effect of a product, when labelled with its country of origin, can exude an undeniable air of prestige and quality that draws in consumers. Some products, with a strong association with a particular country, carry a special aura, such as wine with France, chocolate with Belgium, cars with Germany, electronics with Japan, and luxury and beauty with Italy.

Mario Bellini’s Le Bambole for B&B Italia © B&B Italia

Made in Italy

"Made in Italy" is one of the most recognisable and highly valued country-of-origin labels in the world. It saw a huge expansion in the 1980s when Italian manufacturers realised that they could capitalise on the country's reputation for high-quality craftsmanship and attention to detail. They began to promote their products with an emphasis on the quality of the materials and the skill of the artisans who crafted them. Over time, the label has become synonymous with high quality, luxury, and style, applying to a wide range of products including furniture.

Thanks to the pioneering work of designers such as Gio Ponti, Ettore Sottsass, Mario Bellini, and Gaetano Pesce, Italy cemented its place at the forefront of the furniture-making industry. Exclusive design brands, including B&B Italia, Cassina and Molteni&C to name a few, have carefully nurtured this reputation for years, ensuring that Italian furniture is consistently associated with the highest standard of quality and craftsmanship. Italy's influence on the global interior design industry has been nothing short of transformative, attracting the attention of emerging and established interior designers alike, while being at the centre of attention during events like Milan Design Week and Salone Del Mobile. The top Italian furniture brands continue to push the boundaries of design, infusing their creations with both a consistent aesthetic philosophy and boundless creativity. Unwavering commitment to excellence has earned them a deserved reputation for producing furniture that is both timeless and contemporary.

However, globalisation has brought about a lot of challenges for the concept of a product's country of origin. As the production process becomes increasingly globalised, the notion of a product being associated with a single country has become more and more blurred. Consumers, in turn, are finding it more difficult to discern where a product is actually made, as companies often use complex supply chains and obscure the origins of different components to avoid regulations and present an incomplete picture of their manufacturing process.

Cassina’s Milano showroom in 1968 © Cassina

Preserving the Made in Italy Brand

To combat this, the Italian 'Special Register of Historic Trademarks of National Interest was created in 2019 as a prestigious and exclusive list of trademarks that have significant cultural, historical, and artistic value to Italy. The register aims to protect and preserve Italian cultural heritage by recognising and promoting the historical value of certain trademarks that are deeply ingrained in Italian society with many furniture brands such as Cassina, Poltrona Frau, Fontana Arte and Minotti being included.

Design companies Zanotta and Molteni&C are taking the commitment to uphold the Italian tradition of craftsmanship and quality even further, remaining 100% “Made in Italy”, while catering to global demands. In an era of heightened environmental awareness, more and more manufacturers are embracing a new ethos of transparency and sustainability, investing heavily in eco-friendly solutions and sustainable design. Taking the trends into consideration, with their deep-seated commitment to quality, sustainability, and innovation, the Italian furniture industry is actively working on preserving the legacy of the “Made in Italy” brand and continues to produce objects synonymous with elegance, sophistication, and passion for beauty.

Molteni&C and Unifor poster for Salone del Mobile in the 1990s © Molteni & DaDA
June 16, 2023 Author: Radmila Durasinovic
Tags: Design Category: magazine

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