Roberto Di Giorgio, the managing director of the famous pen brand Campo Marzio, explains the importance of remaining true to your own sense of style… the brighter, the better.
“There’s no place in the world I don’t like visiting as long as I can walk along the streets and enjoy the pleasures of meeting people in an informal environment like a local restaurant or café,” says Roberto Di Giorgio. In the last three years alone, the elegant, soft-spoken Italian and Campo Marzio’s second generation managing director, has personally been present at the opening of 80 flagship stores around the globe. And after each opening, he loves nothing better than exploring the many local roads and byways.
Although the intensity of his travel schedule can be grueling, he takes delight in the variety. “I always try to plan my business trips so I visit at least two or three different places,” he explains. “If I have to go to a store opening in Hong Kong, I’ll stop over in Dubai or Singapore and maybe spend a weekend in Sydney. If I only need to go to London, I’ll take the train to Paris.”
He also pays particular attention to nurturing the relationship with his two sons — aged 3 and 8. “Even though they have already visited all five continents, it’s not always easy to travel together,” he acknowledges. “But using today’s technology, we’re able stay in touch. So I believe they are learning that I love them even when I have to be away from home for extended periods of time.”
Stationery meets fashion
In a world increasingly mired in monochromatic black and white or boring beige, Di Giorgio says Campo Marzio’s focus on bold colours interwoven with traditional Italian fashion savvy and craftsmanship is what sets the company apart. Founded in 1933, the company remains committed to the concept that style is as important as function, and colour is the glue that binds it all together.
“Orange used to be considered somewhat risqué, but it’s my favourite colour,” Di Giorgio says with a slightly mischievous crinkle at the corners of his eyes. “Yes, I also like the other sun colours, yellow and red, but orange is special because it’s softer and more inviting.”
Colour, he believes, reflects a sense of self-assurance and individuality. “Many people think they cannot wear colour, because it’s easier to go with blacks, greys, whites than to choose to be different. When you go to a mall, typically you’ll find they have all the same offerings, so really all you’re choosing is the brand you’re going to purchase. At Campo Marzio we want to transform buying a writing instrument into an entire experience that’s more than simply trading money for goods — like the days when a gentleman would have all his suits custom-made by a tailor.”
With a look of joy, Di Giorgio selects a pen with an intricate silver filigree over a green base from the signature Pen Wall in his recently opened store in Vancouver’s ultra-posh Pacific Centre mall. Resembling a proud papa, he writes his name with a flourish. Surprisingly, the ink is as emerald as the pen casing.
“Blue and black inks have only recently become the norm,” he explains. “In the 1920s and 1930s, many famous people used different inks — green, purple, red. In fact, one Italian judge used to say he couldn’t write out his sentences until he had his special ink — a custom tint somewhere between purple and burgundy. We often have more than a dozen shades of each ink colour, and we typically change colours at least twice a year. Right now we have five different shades of purple.”
Describing a colour, he adds, is difficult. “Usually we have to go to the factory with a sample in order to get exactly what we want.”
Expanding the brand
Di Giorgio was barely into his second decade when his father, the company founder and an irrepressible entrepreneur, passed away. As the only child, he made the tough decision to give up his university studies and take over the family business. Little did anyone guess it would be a turning point of such magnitude.
The pen’s transformation from sole instrument of communication to lifestyle accessory opened a new world of opportunity for Di Giorgio, who decided to expand the Campo Marzio brand to include leather goods and business accessories like notebooks, journals, and agendas.
In 2000, the year of the Roman Church’s Jubilee, the company was invited to produce a special collection of fountain pens for the Vatican Museums. The momentous occasion not only saw the Holy Father himself use a Campo Marzio writing instrument but propelled the company onto the international stage.
As high-profile as Campo Marzio has become, Di Giorgio points out the playfulness and spontaneity in his shops. “You’re not just choosing a pen, you’re choosing the colour of the box, the ribbon, even the wrapping. You’d be amazed how many people come to our stores every week for a little something, a gift — maybe for a friend, maybe for themselves.”
“I’m not a nostalgic man,” he says. “I rely on email and sending digital information, but there is still something special when you write with a pen — especially a fountain pen. You have to concentrate more. Think about it this way. For thousands of years, books were written by hand. If you made a mistake or even if a drop of your sweat fell on the page, it was ruined. Today, you just hit backspace and re-type.
“I love speaking about what I do — especially here on the West Coast. People understand our concept because they feel it. Vancouver is a North American location, but it has a European heart.”
Photo by Milos Tosic