Interview with Alessandro Grassini-Grimaldi: Retail Director of Damiani

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Damiani is not the first name that comes to mind in the very competitive world of fine jewellery, especially in the jewellery heaven of Old Bond Street.  This is the Street where major brands compete and pay stratospheric rents to be at the Piccadilly end of Old Bond Street. But – Damiani means everything to the Italians, who adore the creative talents and jewellery expertise of a company founded in 1924 – the peak of the art deco period.

Things are changing, as exclusivity and craftsmanship rise to ascendancy in every sector of the luxury industry. Damiani’s dedication to design is paying off. After establishing control their flagship London store, the clever appointment by Damiani of Alessandro Grassini-Grimaldi, previously with Bulgari as their UK Retail Director, shows the company means business. Alessandro, a retail guru with an enviable pedigree in the fashion industry and in depth knowledge of the London market, is already sprinkling his own stardust on a very special brand, bringing Italia Dolce Vita to Old Bond Street.

Luxury Topping spent the morning with Alessandro at 11 Old Bond Street in Mayfair, where delicious coffee was served at the start of a thrilling exploration of a brand with history and pedigree. 

You have been with Damiani for over year, what have been your highlights of this adventure? 

Damiani have given me the freedom and the time to do what I do best, looking after my customers.

Damiani are a listed on the Italian Stock Exchange and revered in Italy. With three family members on the board, do you find it retains its essence as a family run business?

Very much so. The company is very similar to other Italian Global Brands who have a deep-rooted tradition in design and craftsmanship. But at the very heart of the company is the Italian custom of the family. For example, Damiani are recognised for their design research and technical innovation winning eighteen Diamond International Awards. This has not been matched by any other brand.

The founder of the company Enrico Grassi Damiani commented that it is neither the jewel, the gold, nor the diamond but something more subtle, and ephemeral.  He said it is the idea that is most precious. Does this still comment still hold true in 2015?

Yes, sometimes people go for just a big stone, but Damiani go for design, bringing the stones to life. The fruits of creativity and designers working in the Damiani workshops in Valenza use a mixture of precious stones to build jewellery that is a combination of precious stones and innovative design – and more importantly – originality.

Your flagship store is in a prime position in Old Bond Street. How important do you think it is to have a store in Mayfair? 

We have around 70 stores worldwide. London is the heart of the international world with its rich combination of culture, fashion, top businesses and art. At one point or another, all the super-rich end up in London and this is why we maintain presence in a premier Mayfair location.

 Recently, we held in conjunction with Condé Nast, a Damiani Art and Diamonds afternoon showcasing the new Damiani diamond collection ahead of its premiere in Hong Kong. This shows the power of London to simultaneously combine all heady elements of life.

You have worked in London, Boston, Naples and Capri. Where do you call home?

Now, London. The city has the feeling and vibes of New York. It is a very exciting place to live and work. However, I still love the sea and adore Capri.

Your own heritage is steeped in Italian history with a very famous ancestor. Can you tell Luxury Topping readers about it?

My great great grandmother, Josephina Grassini was a noted Italian contralto but she achieved notoriety as being the lover of two great generals, Napoleon and Wellington when he was British Ambassador in France. Josephina sang in London in the early nineteenth century at the Haymarket Theatre and the Kings Theatre. This is probably another reason that I love London.

You have clients from all over the world. Who are your favourite clients?

I am very fond of the clients of Damiani. I am a strong believer in ensuring the jewellery matches the client. So, for me, they are more than clients, but friends who appreciate good design. I was very privileged to be invited to a very special wedding recently. This demonstrates how well we get to know our clients.

The clients from Russia and the former Soviet states are extremely cultured and spending time with them as we explore the complexity of a piece of jewellery is especially rewarding.

You are known on Old Bond Street as the man with the beautiful dog. Before we conclude the interview, can you please tell us about your lovely dog? 

Vesuvio is my lovely golden Labrador who accompanies me everywhere. He shares my love of polo.