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Pineider: From Palazzo Vecchio to Dante Del Vecchio

The long history of an up-and-coming name in Writing Instruments!

Pineider is a relatively up-and-coming name in the world of luxury writing equipment, yet Pineider as a brand was established in 1774 - something of a paradox you might say! Famous for their personalised stationery and leather goods and much loved amongst the nobility, royalty and celebrities throughout its history, Pineider may be argued to be the new kid on the block when it comes to the design and manufacture of writing instruments. 2017 was a year of great change for the Pineider brand as pen icon Dante Del Vecchio (Formerly a co-founder of Visconti) joined the company as their brand Expert - the rest, as they say, is history in the making!

Dante at his drawing board in Pineider – Photo Credit: Gianfranco Chicco  - On Experience Design, Marketing, Craftsmanship, and Daily Life.


Pineider: The Early Years


1774, the year that Giacomo Casanova was permitted to return to Venice after 17 years banished, the same year that Birkenstocks were created by German cobbler Johann Birkenstock and that American pioneer and apple tree introducer Johnny Appleseed was born. This was also a big year for the Pineider family name!


Pineider was the brand creation of Italian entrepreneur Francesco Pineider and 1774 was the year that his first workshop was opened in the heart of Firenze (Florence) in the historic and magnificent Piazza della Signoria near the Palazzo Vecchio (then known as the Palazzo Della Signoria). With views of Michelangelo’s Statue of David (before it was moved in 1873 and replaced with a replica), there is a certain poetry to a young Francesco Pineider gazing upon the statue from his workshop, ready to take on the world of luxury leather goods, exclusive and custom stationery, and incredible quality paper products. Using traditional Italian techniques, Pineider soon became synonymous with world renowned luxury and opulence.

Palazzo Vecchio, Florence,  - Photo Credit to: Georges Jansoone 

Pineider’s refined style attracted the attention of the elite and by 1800 it had become popular among politicians, writers, nobility and even royalty - with famous fans of the brand including Lord Byron and Napoleon.  When Florence became the Italian capital in 1865, Pineider's customers expanded to include embassies, ministries, state offices and sovereigns. The option of personalised monogrammed stationery was a huge draw and to this day, the Florence headquarters of Pineider holds a Fort Knox style archive of the original dyes and plates for monograms and crests for Pineider's customers.


In 1871 a second location was opened in the equally beautiful and historical Rome to allow for Pineider’s exceptional stationery services to be provided to the royal court, ministries and embassies which had relocated to Italy’s new capital the year prior. The shop was located in the Piazza di Spagna - near the base of the infamous Spanish Steps. It is said that this second location was established at the request of the Royal Household. Aristocratic families, stylish professionals and luxury seekers located in and around Rome continue to visit Pineider for their engraved wedding invitations and personalised stationery as well as high end business cards...not to mention to gain ownership of the famous Florentine leather found in the wallets, briefcases and timeless desk accessories offered at Pineider. The Pineider shop now sits proudly on the Via Del Leoncino, at the centre for luxury shopping with big names such as Bulgari, Hermès, Gucci and Louis Vuitton all in close proximity. But back to our story...


1888 saw further expansion of the family business. Pineider opened another shop in Florence on the palatial Via De’ Tornabuoni where the small workshop of Pineider became a fully established company. As with the Rome location, this street remains a hub for luxury. The modern Via De’ Tornabuoni houses high fashion boutiques, belonging to designer brands such as Gucci, Salvatore Ferragamo, Enrico Coveri, Roberto Cavalli, Emilio Pucci and others; also boutiques of jewelry such as Damiani, Bulgari and Buccellati.

 

Image Credit: TuscanyFirenze01

Shortly after this addition, the Pineider range expanded to include writing instruments imported from the United States under an exclusive agreement. As the first modern fountain pens, they were well received by those who were already endeared to the quality stationery and leather goods Pineider was known for. 

 

Image Credit: Pineider

Pineider: Mid-Century Decline 


The Great Arno River Flood of 1966 killed 101 people and damaged or destroyed millions of masterpieces of art and rare books. This event had a lasting effect on Florence, at its highest point the flood waters reached almost 7 meters deep. Economically and culturally Florence was devastated.  Because of the fact that Florence had a relatively low frequency of flooding meaning that almost no emergency measures were in place and when the flooding began on the morning of November 4th 1966, residents could only watch in horror as the event unfolded. The Pineider history does not go into specific detail about the events of this time and the impact on them but given the survival of original dyes and plates for engraving stationery and the survival of many designs -  including the 1949 collection which contained pens, leather desk accessories and a whole host of beautifully designed pieces which would go on to be popular gifts among the Italian Government and officials. 

Modern Example: Pineider Pen Case for 12 Pens - Black - Available at The Hamilton Pen Company

Throughout its history, Pineider was owned and operated by the Pineider family although this was to change in the 1970s. Although the Pineider family remained involved in the design and manufacturing process, the brand itself was bought out by a branch of Gucci. Guccio Gucci had purchased his own shop on the Via della Vigna Nuova in Florence after spending many years honing his skills as a designer and undertaking market research as a Porter at the world famous Savoy Hotel in London where he was able to observe the luggage tastes of the rich and famous. The Azienda Individuale Guccio Gucci originally sold imported leather luggage but soon opened a small workshop to have local craftsmen create Gucci’s own leather goods. This workshop was soon expanded to be able to house Gucci’s 60 artisans. The growth and popularity of Gucci was astounding and before long there were Gucci stores international and Gucci had branched out into many types of goods. A Rolls-Royce luggage set was created and Gucci partnered with American Motors Corporation (AMC) to create the Gucci version of the AMC Hornet thus becoming one of the first American cars to offer specialist luxury trims created by a famous Fashion Designer. 

 

 

1972 Gucci Hornet Sportabout. Image courtesy of AAA.

It was in the 1970s that a branch of Gucci saw the legacy and infamy of Pineider and bought out the company at a time when they had begun to struggle financially due to a saturated market and intense competition. This boost from the sale of the brand to Gucci was initially beneficial to the company who continued to trade under the established Pineider name. 


In 2001 Pineider was honoured by the Italian Government when it was chosen as one of the official suppliers to the G8 Summit in Genoa and then again in 2009 at the G8 Summit in L’Aquila where Heads of State were given Pineider Products selected by the Italian Government. 


Pineider retained its renowned name but there were some difficult years which were faced by many in the industry. Pineider celebrated its 240 year anniversary in 2014 with the release of the ‘Ego 240’ Limited Edition but unfortunately the financial stability of the company grew ever worse and prior to 2017 they almost faced liquidation. 


Pineider: The Rise After the Fall


The reputation of the brand seemingly outweighed the financial difficulties that Pineider had experienced in recent years as 2017 saw the Rovagnati family invest as shareholders and breathe new life into Pineider. With new stakeholders on board, Pineider was re-launched with a renewed passion for and emphasis on Italian quality, history, and craftsmanship in its historic three areas: fine papers, writing instruments and functional leather goods.


The Writing Instruments element of Pineider had always been the shorter leg of the tripod and so with the relaunch, Pineider wanted to give the writing instrument department the opportunity to gain the reputation enjoyed by the paper and leather goods departments. Pineider wanted to create a truly innovative pen range that would launch the name Pineider into infamy among the writing instrument community. Initially they contacted highly famed brand Visconti to discuss the possibility of a collaboration or sorts however a collaboration never took place. At the time of inquiring, Visconti was going through a break up of sorts between its co-founders. 


Highly renowned and respected pen designer Dante Del Vecchio left Visconti but remained enthused for the industry and found the perfect fit as pen expert for Pineider. Dante Del Vecchio began his career as a collector of pens before forming Visconti with Luigi Poli in 1988 and after 30 years of friendship and business they experienced disagreements within the company which ultimately led to Del Vecchio leaving the company to Poli. A move which caused great distress to Del Vecchio but ultimately allowed him the ability to flex his creativity and innovation and bring new life to the pen world with new freedoms afforded to him through his position with Pineider.

 

Dante Del Vecchio – Photo Credit Gianfranco Chicco 


The Rovagnati family had initially sought to have Visconti produce a line of Pineider branded pens but through meeting Dante Del Vecchio they realised the opportunity they had been given. They provided Del Vecchio with a completely free reign, including the initial formation of the pen department to his own liking. Del Vecchio has been very careful to leave Visconti behind him and gifted almost 20 patents to the company upon his departure. His move to Pineider was as much a new start for him as it was a relaunch for the Pineider brand with the man known as the rock star of pen making by the media and with the respectful term ‘Maestro’ by those in the industry who recognise his exceptional skill and expertise. 


The Man behind the brand, Del Vecchio is an enigmatic character oozing with charisma and charm with a loud confidence that for many would be distasteful but teamed with Del Vecchio’s welcoming and playful demeanour and his very obvious talents this confidence adds to the draw. When he isn't designing and making exceptional writing instruments, the 62 year old is found racing motorcycles...much to his wife's displeasure. The legacy and success Del Vecchio has enjoyed in his career means he could very easily retire and enjoy a life of luxury yet he remains dedicated to the passion of his craft and his motivation to thrust the Pineider name into the metaphorical hall of fame of writing instruments.


When asked in an interview with Goulet Pens’ Goulet’s Guests,  Del Vecchio said “people ask me which is your best pen...the next one, always” Del Vecchio very opening speaks of his pride over his commitment to creativity and innovation as well as his ultimate mission which was to create an identity for Pineider.


His first step in creating this identity was the creation of the Pineider Pen Clip. Each pen clip design features a feather, symbolic of the history of writing instruments and Pineiders long history. Del Vecchio talks of a family of feather clips, each aimed at connecting with the customer. For example, on entry level models, a contemporary feather design features on the pen clip to appeal to the younger customers and those new to writing instruments. The concept of a family of feather clip designs will be created to represent the family value of Pineider which persists through changes to the company and the product lines, it brings the history into the future of the company and provides an instantly recognisable feature of Pineider which is founded in the ethos of the company. 


In addition to the pen clip, Del Vecchio established a classic shape for Pineider Pens. The reason being that in Luxury Writing Instruments, unusual shapes can provide a barrier to buyers and can create a short lifespan of the Instruments affections. Additionally, the nib of each Pineider pen is carefully considered. Del Vecchio created the hyper-flex, a soft tip featured in pens such as the La Grande Bellezza or the Mystery Filler which would provide a distinctive yet unique writing experience that would adapt to individual writing styles. Finally, Del Vecchio wanted a specific cap closing mechanism that would stand out. The smooth closure of the magnetic system is one that Del Vecchio is very proud of, the inclusion of technology is something Del Vecchio does not shy away from.

 

Example of Feather Clip - Pineider Arco Limited Edition Fountain Pen - Desert Beetle - Available at The Hamilton Pen Company

 

In fact, the purist view that pens should always be made using traditional methods is one that Del Vecchio wholeheartedly rejects whilst respecting traditional techniques. As an example, The Avatar was created as an entry level pen for Pineider and Del Vecchio took a mixed approach to its construction by combining artisenal approaches with an industrial edge by using 3D modelling and CNC machines. Through the process of The Avatar’s creation, the definition of the target price was established before considering what approach would make a successful product at that level and price point. This way, each design remains accessible to its target market and new innovations in manufacturing can be explored to provide the highest quality products for each price point. To make The Avatar as successful as possible, Del Vecchio commissioned the creation of a new material called Ultra-Resin which took 8 months to develop and aesthetically appears as celluloid but is not plagued with strength and degradation issues associated with celluloid. Again, considering the price point of the final product, Del Vecchio and his team came up with an approach to hand assembly that would allow for the speed and accuracy required and this required the assembly process to be an adhesive free one to promote rapid and precise construction. Because of all of these considerations, The Avatar has the look and feel of a more expensive pen which, in part, resulted in its huge success for Pineider as over 10,000 units were sold in the first three months of its release...a remarkable feat in the market.

 

Pineider Avatar Fountain Pen - Neptune Blue  - Available at The Hamilton Pen Company 

In his first year with the company he released La Grande Bellezza and the Avatar, a demonstration of his vision and his love of speed. Del Vecchio never lets the dust settle on a release…he is always working on the next big idea with his team of experts drawing upon the values and reputation of Pineider for excellence.


An example being the Gemstone collection of La Grande Bellezza which was inspired by the colours found in gemstones.  The barrels were created in resin and marble dust to create lustre and provide some weight to the pen. Each one showed off a rich hue and classic elegance. The nibs are 14K gold proprietary flexible nibs designed by Del Vecchio and produced by world renowned german nib manufacturer Bock. Of course you will find the feather pen clip and patented twist magnetic seal cap which prevents the need for the twisting that is required with a threaded pen cap.

 

 

Pineider La Grande Bellezza Fountain Pen - Gemstones Rodolite Red - Available at The Hamilton Pen Company

 

Pineider, with Del Vecchio at the helm, enjoys a challenge. The Honeycomb special edition was just this! With 888 pieces created, this demonstrator style pen features a barrel and cap carved to resemble a honeycomb structure formed from kevlar and aluminium -unique and fascinating. This creativity and innovation in the Writing Instrument team at Pineider is making them a power house in the market. The popularity of the pieces created as well as the industry recognition for the excellent writing instruments coming from Pineider have reignited the interest in the brand and have made the name Pineider synonymous with exceptional writing equipment alongside their reputation for luxury paper and leather goods. 


Dante Del Vecchio has reinvigorated Pineider, part of this has been instilling his team with his acquired learning and highly honed expertise. Particularly his understanding that, contrary to the desires of many pen designers, it is impossible to create the perfect pen because writing itself is an imperfect activity. Del Vecchio himself acknowledges that he has terrible penmanship! 


Dante Del Vecchio and some of his recent Pineider pen introductions. Note limited edition Honeycomb, third from right. Image Credit: Forbes

Everyone writes differently, and in my case this can be dependent on the type of pen or surface or even my mood at the time! This difference in writing amongst individuals means that you can't create a product which will satisfy everyone's requirements and desires - and frankly that would be boring! The creation of different pens for different functions is part of what keeps the Writing Instrument Industry alive. In much the same way that we no longer require watches to tell time because almost everyone has a phone to hand at all times, there isn't a need to have a high end pen to be able to write  -  any old pen will do! Del Vecchio acknowledges this truth by designing pieces with elements which are not necessary but rather are pleasant and add to the experience of writing. Part of the success of Dante Del Vecchio and Pineider is that each writing instrument produced - whether incredibly high end or more entry level - is a celebration of a love and admiration for pens born in the history of Pineider and in Del Vecchio's beginnings as a collector. This celebration of writing instruments and the craft of their creation is somewhat independent of the object itself, each piece released by Pineider is more than an object - because ultimately a multipack of cheap ballpoints bought from the supermarket perform the functionality required….but without the charm and enjoyment. 






 

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