Signé sat down with the namesake wizard behind the jewellery brand, Marco Bicego, during the preview of their latest collection at the One and Only Palm Jumeirah.Hailing from a family of Italian goldsmiths from the city of Vicenza, Marco Bicego has single-handedly positioned a brand with old world Savoir-Faire onto the world map. With beautiful pieces featuring hand engraving and twisted coils, his brand of unique is something not easily replicated. This unique manufacturing technique paired with design excellence has won the hearts of millions world over. We caught up with the designer to learn more about his unique journey to becoming a global success.
How did you get your start in this business?
Our company started as a family business. I’m a second generation jewellery maker. My father established the company in 1958 where we still live just south of the Venice. Growing up, I did not think my future would be that of a jewellery designer. It came naturally. I had spent a couple of weeks during the summer holiday in the workshop, started understanding the business, and started making my prototypes. As the years passed, I discovered that I had a passion for it. My father taught me his techniques and instilled in me his passion.
When I took over, I wanted to create something different. I knew that the quality of the jewellery is essential, I knew that the value of ‘Made in Italy’ has immense value, but I also understood that branding is essential. By branding, I mean combining beautiful, high-quality jewellery with the right marketing and the right distribution. It is vital to communicate to the customer what the Marco Bicego brand is all about. Good or bad, we are unique.
The brand, your design; how do you define it?
“From the beginning, I wanted to create something unique, something that reflected my lifestyle, something that is easy to read, something that is versatile enough to be worn every day for different occasions whether dressed up or dressed down”
Honestly, I’m very lucky because everything came naturally to me. When I first started, I worked with yellow gold because my father, whose techniques I learned, also worked with yellow gold. It is part of the culture of the family. So for me, yellow gold is the DNA of my brand. From the beginning, I wanted to create something unique, something that reflected my lifestyle, something that is easy to read, something that is versatile enough to be worn every day for different occasions whether dressed up or dressed down. We also design one-of-a-kind customised jewellery for special customers, but mostly our jewellery is everyday jewellery. It has a discreet understatement, but with real value, and with a unique style. I receive a lot of compliments from women customers who say ‘I have a lot of jewellery, but the jewellery that I love to wear the most is Marco Bicego because it is easy’. They enjoy playing with our jewellery in different combinations.
“As a businessman I have to worry about the full package: not only the craftsmanship but also the quality, the price, our customer service, about our business partners and so on”
People often ask me if I am first a designer or a businessman. I would say I am 40 percent designer and 60 percent businessman. If I were a designer first, then I would only focus on designing and on whether my design sold or not. If it sold then that means the customer liked my design, and if not, then they did not like it. But as a businessman I have to worry about the full package: not only the craftsmanship but also the quality, the price, our customer service, about our business partners and so on. If the customer likes the overall experience, they will return, and they will tell their family and friends about it. This brand, not even 50 years old, is growing and can grow a lot more.
What are some of your standout offerings?
In addition to the yellow gold, we also have some white gold because some women prefer that. It’s not just plain gold; I love combining gold with precious stones, particularly multicolour gemstones, and in a unique way which renders each creation truly one-of-a-kind. I also like incorporating our signature hand-engraved pieces made with the traditional “Bulino”, which is an ancient tool for hand-carving gold. It gives the gold a fine, brushed texture. I did not invent this technique, but I brought it back into use. We also use gold spheres in our jewellery that are unique. I use a signature technique taught to me by my father whereby the spheres are not cast solid but are hollow. This technique allows us to incorporate large spheres into our designs while keeping them light and comfortable for the wearer.
“I love combining modernity with my reinterpretations of different traditions”
Our collections such as Jaipur, Africa, Marrakech, Masai, Paradise, Cairo [among others] are inspired by the traditions of different regions which are then combined with modern styles and techniques. I love combining modernity with my reinterpretations of different traditions. For me, our uniqueness comes from having a balance between them, and at the same time being wearable, timeless, and durable.
Can you tell us about your business model and how it gives you an advantage?
In the old days, we used to get one big order for a year from our regional customers, and that’s it. Now we receive orders monthly or even weekly because now we have better feedback and we also use just-in-time techniques to manage our production process. We enjoy this flexibility because we are a fully vertically integrated company. We manage everything in-house, from the procurement of the bars to the melting, to the making of prototypes, to the manufacture, to marketing, and to delivery. This is what allows us to be flexible, and allows us to manufacture as per customer demands. We can make our designs based on our market information, and we can make customised jewellery as per our customers’ requirements. We are like a suit tailor who procures his raw materials and puts together a suit as per market trends, or he may make a customised suit as per the client’s requirements.
Could you tell about your history in the GCC market and about your relationship with Damas?
Our relationship with Damas began around 1995 when we were a purely a wholesale business to retailers like Damas and others. Then in 2001, the Marco Bicego brand was born, but our relationship with Damas has continued to be strong. We have stayed together through the good times and through the bad times. I love having long-term relationships with our business partners because they allow us to build a strong understanding, they also give us the confidence to explore new opportunities together.
Do you encourage visitors to your factory to see the manufacturing process?
Yes! Always. We often organise visits for our partners to visit our facilities. We have a showroom, but I feel that the best showroom for our customers and our partners is to visit our production facility, for them to see the artisans at work, using their hands to produce the finest jewellery, and for them to see for themselves how we merge modern and traditional techniques.