European Business: Fabbrica Pelleterie Milano (FPM) is an Italian leather goods brand that has found its niche in the world of luxury. Its products are sold in the most exclusive department stores in the world such as Harrods or on New York’s lavish Fifth Avenue. What makes FPM so special?
Beppi Fremder: FPM has found the balance between tradition and innovation. We value ancient techniques, authentic craftsmanship and ethical values such as honesty, trust and fairness. At the same time, we benefit from modern production technologies, digital communication and social media. We enjoy experimenting with new, innovative materials and cooperating with exciting designers. We are also open to unconventional ideas. Our products simply reflect this deep respect for tradition and our open-mindedness.
European Business: FPM has come a long way to become a well-known luxury brand for leather goods. After its establishment in 1946, it disappeared from the market for several years but celebrated its notable comeback in 2009. What is the story behind this exceptional brand?
Beppi Fremder: FPM was founded by my father in 1946. Craftsmanship has always been a key characteristic. We have always worked with the best premium materials and benefitted from experienced, competent employees sharing our vision of excellence. There are several milestones in the company’s story that have influenced its development. In 1984, we entered into a joint venture with Samsonite Corporation, a world-leading manufacturer of luggage. Our brand FPM had been frozen for many years but not frozen was the know-how of FPM that was fundamental to build the soft-side lines of Samsonite. The cooperation with Samsonite was successful and inspirational; however, we decided to end it in 2009 and relaunch our own brand instead. Looking back, this was one of the best decisions we’ve ever made. It was risky and extremely challenging, but it opened up so many new opportunities. At the age of 57, I was ready to begin a new chapter. I had a lot of energy for embarking on a new adventure and running my own company together with my family and friends.
European Business: So, you basically reinvented the brand. Today, FPM has 70 employees and generates eight million EUR with exports accounting for 76% of business. FPM became a modern brand based on its exceptional heritage. You started this new chapter in 2009, a time of deep crisis in Italy. How did you overcome the crisis?
Beppi Fremder: First of all, I simply saw the potential of our brand and wanted to make the best of it. There was a market niche, and I wanted to seize this opportunity. After all, this is a family company; everyone is committed to it and believes in its potential. We knew we could do it. Our concept was actually quite simple: We created a network of local partners – partners who identify with our brand. This philosophy still works very well. Distributing partners share our ideas and visions. They are passionate about our brand. Every year, we broaden our global network. Finally, our products speak for themselves. They have this certain something, letting you travel in style, and their unique design makes them stand out.
European Business: What are FPM’s flagship products today?
Beppi Fremder: Suitcases are still our core products. The Bank collection is a best seller and is known as extremely durable luggage for carefree travel. We work with premium leather as well as with metals and other materials to create beautiful yet functional products. The aluminium suitcases are made in Italy, that offers maximum protection and quality. To create unique product designs, we like to cooperate with interesting designers like Marc Sadler and we develop capsule collections like the one we developed with Nick Wooster, who comes up with the most exciting ideas. Marc Sadler created special edition pieces such as cook-stations, portable bed-stations and work-stations fitted within a recycled aluminum shell – perfect solutions for modern nomads. At Pitti we have launched the Bank on the Road collection: a Backpacks Line where we were able to apply our iconic Butterfly Lock . They are elegant, modern and highly functional – ideal for business or leisure travellers. Butterfly Locks make them especially secure. Another novelty is the Bank Zip suitcase, which comes also with a Butterfly Lock providing extra security.
European Business: With respect to uncertain times, what are your strategies for the future?
Beppi Fremder: We are flexible and experienced, and our market still has great potential. Our aim is to grow step by step, slowly and in a sustainable way.