NeoCon, one of the world’s largest events for the office furniture industry, has just come to an end. We took the opportunity to have a chat with Roberto Vidotto, Frezza’s Regional Manager for North and Latin America. In the interview we analysed the differences between the European and American markets, focusing on how the office furniture sector is changing and what role the Made in Italy label plays in it.
Given your long experience abroad in partnership with Frezza, what are the greatest difficulties and satisfactions you have encountered working in the American office sector?
I’ve been working with Frezza for the last 10 years, but this isn’t my first overseas experience in the office furniture sector. I’ve lived in Venezuela and Panama, and am now based in Miami.
Being here is essential, because distance is the main difficulty. Time zone and cultural, social and administrative differences make adaptation policies necessary, which can only be successful if refined with the experience of those who live the area every day.
Having managed, together with my colleagues at Frezza, to create lasting and trusting relationships with prestigious partners, recognised for their professionalism and seriousness, remains my greatest satisfaction.
How is the Made in Italy label perceived on American soil?
For Americans, Italian products are synonymous with beauty and attention to detail. In the same way as for cooking, cars and fashion, Made in Italy products are also appreciated and looked upon with admiration in the furnishing sector.
In a market in which product functionality is emphasised to the expense of aesthetics, all Italian companies that have been able to adapt their collections to meet the best of both worlds are achieving very satisfying results.
The NeoCon trade fair in Chicago has just ended: what are the main features that differentiate it from the traditional European kermesses?
NeoCon is a sort of ‘open house’ of the permanent showrooms of office furniture manufacturers located inside Chicago’s MART Design. MART is a very large building: 25 floors spanning no less than two blocks. Of these, a good six floors are dedicated to design and house more than 250 showrooms.
Since 1969, NeoCon has been the most important event of the year for the commercial interior design industry, as well as a point of reference for learning about the innovations that will shape the international market in the years to come. The fair is a great opportunity for all the brands at MART (and many others) to present new collections and train their sales network in this regard. The event is characterised by parties, events and experiences that last throughout the whole fair.
In the last couple of years, some major companies have been also moving their showrooms to Fulton Market, another Chicago area where a parallel event (the Fulton Market Design Days) has been taking place, which is very similar to the Fuorisalone in Milan.
How are American companies evolving in the office sector? What trends influenced this year’s edition the most?
The leading companies by size in the office furniture sector are North American. The national market offers them the opportunity to reach far greater numbers than European companies; their greater financial capacity also allows them to tackle internationalisation policies that require investments that smaller companies cannot afford.
Until recently, little importance was given to design in the US, basing product development on functionality. We are now however witnessing a change of direction with an increasingly aesthetically-oriented market, heavily influenced by home furnishing trends. Many North American companies are speeding up this process by acquiring European companies that are recognised worldwide as innovators in terms of design.
We thank Roberto Vidotto for answering our questions, giving us an overview of the market in which he operates for Frezza.