By Ali Robertson
The scene at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center is a familiar one. On January 29, its doors will open for the 2012 New York International Gift Fair. Buyers and designers will enter, weaving through the display maze of housewares and accessories. And Carlo and Clorinda Palandri will man their booth for La Villa Collections. There, the company plans to unveil its nine newest lines of European glass, ceramics and tableware.
Three years ago, the Palandris built La Villa Collections on a foundation of heritage, specialties and networking. Now, Carlo and Clorinda are the Jack and Jill of all trades. The husband and wife team oversees the entire process, from the drawing book to the actual production to the sales.
Carlo manages the trade shows and operations while Clorinda works closely with the company’s sale representatives scattered throughout the country. Both share responsibility in designing La Villa Collections’ products. Some designs are exclusively Carlo’s, while others are the result of Clorinda’s fashion and art expertise.
At age twenty-one, Carlo moved to the United States from his Tuscan homeland. While in Italy, he apprenticed for a furniture maker and attended art and dance school. Once in the States, he opened a furniture business. His involvement and connections in the industry helped him forge relationships with overseas factories. As Clorinda puts it, one thing simply led to another.
The first collection of handcrafted home décor was made in Italy, which seemed appropriate considering the country was perhaps the greatest source of inspiration for La Villa Collections.
They continued to make a handful of collections strictly out of Italy, but have since expanded. One of the biggest changes came in the past year and a half, when they began using Turkish factories to produce glassware.
“Right now it’s hard for a lot of factories overseas,” Palandri said. “A lot are eager to work with us, and we have close personal relationships with them.” These close relationships with glass factories in Florence and ceramic factories in Umbria require Carlo to travel to Italy usually five times each year. Palandri said she is not quite as lucky as her husband, but believes it is also a good excuse for him to visit his family members.
The Palandris started their business during an economic time as fragile as their products. But La Villa Collections has managed to survive – a feat that realistically is the company’s greatest accomplishment, Palandri said.
In an effort to appeal to a broader audience, La Villa Collections has turned to designing more price-conscious selections for its glassware, their best-selling product. Colored glass and stemware from Italy and Turkey will be among these new collections. Palandri predicts new products from India will also be even more competitively priced.
“So many people have told me working with India can be difficult,” Palandri said. “But they have been wonderful. I think you can really tell when someone wants to work with you.” The company will soon release its latest line out of India, enameled aluminum serveware.
For the up-market, the company also plans to introduce mouth and hand-blown glassware from Italy. Palandri said the creation of each individual piece takes an average of about twenty minutes and requires the work of six men. The intricate style will feature Murano-quality glass.
Palandri’s pride and joy of the new releases, however, is her self-designed collection of sea-inspired glass and dinnerware. The line will feature shades of turquoise and white – a stark difference from typical collections. “We’re bringing in so much color,” she said. “Everything has been a lot of gold and silver, so we did it just to make a little more variation.” Palandri expects the color-infused glass to be a hit, especially as the summer months approach. The collection will serve as the answer for buyers interested in a season-appropriate look with a twist.
“I really worked at making everything work as a story,” Palandri said. “Different pieces can go together.” As one would expect, she is the go-to person for coordinating the products of La Villa Collections. She prefers to mix and match, often combining floral patterns with solids to add “a little more personality and dimension.”
Her personal favorite is the recently released Textura collection. The line of serveware is made in Turkey and produced in both gold and silver with a cracked leaf finish. “We’re all about sparkle and shine, if you haven’t noticed.”
In its beginning stages, La Villa Collections only featured about five or six designs. New collections are now released once or twice each year, which means the business is constantly working on an alternative design or fresh look for its products.
The tableware and ceramics are currently sold through online sales events and in specialty stores throughout the country, including those in Manhattan, Brooklyn and New Jersey. Palandri said the company continues to grow, slowly but surely. Although there are no changes planned for the immediate future, Palandri said she would like to see La Villa Collections in high-end department stores by the end of 2012.
Currently, she anxiously awaits the arrival of her new collections, knowing she will finally have the opportunity to perform her favorite part of the job: testing her creations. “I’m like a kid,” Palandri said. “I can’t wait until the new stuff comes because I always know that’s going to be my new favorite.”
For more information on La Villa Collections’ products and store availability, visit www.lavillacollections.com or contact firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information on the 2012 New York International Gift Fair, visit http://www.nyigf.com/