Few brands can boast of a 700-year heritage, and Venetian glazier Barovier & Toso is one of them. The company’s roots could be tracked back to 1291 on the island of Murano, where Jacobello, the oldest representative of the family, resided. Two centuries later, Angelo invented the Venetian crystal. Noted for its lightness and transparency, the Venetian crystal was a breakthrough at the time.
In 1878, the Barovier family founded Artisti Barovier, later re-named the Vetreria Artistica Barovier&C after WWI. The next star to come out of the house was Ercole Barovier, the 20th generation to the family’s long line. An artisan as well as a suave businessman, E.Barovier had many patents to his name, including that for heat colouring without fusion. It was also during this period that Barovier merged with the Toso family, a Murano glass-blowing company with an equally long history, and became Barovier&Toso.
Currently helmed by Jacopo Barovier, the company has 85 people working at its headquarters in Palazzo Contarini in Murano. In addition to catering to hotels, restaurants and private clients, the maison’s many vivid creations can also be found in fashion and jewellery showrooms such as Dior, Dolce & Gabbana and Cartier.
Hosted by J.Barovier, an exuberant cocktail was held to mark the opening of the Barovier&Toso, Shaping emotions for over 700 years exhibition at the ViA showroom in Hong Kong last month. We chat with the soft-spoken businessman about Italian design and his work philosophy.
What attracted you to glass-making?
It runs in the family I guess! I started when I finished my studies in 1975 – it was all pretty natural for me. As the president of a 700-year-old firm I’m also attracted to the idea of combining the old and the new – that is, melding traditional techniques with modern and contemporary designers.
Could you describe the Barovier&Toso customer?
We cater to a very specific segment of the market. Many of our customers are well-travelled and well-cultivated. They don’t see our chandeliers as merely a source of light, but also art pieces.
It’s quite impressive that Barovier&Toso is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the oldest family of glaziers, has anyone ever lure you into selling the company? Is there anyone in the family that you're looking to hand over the reins to?
Yes, plenty! Obviously there’s been some changes in the managing structure, but the company remains in the hands of the family. My son, who studied economics in university, is more interested in business than glass-making. He’s not really involved at the moment, but I’m not too worried.
Is there such thing as Italian design, as opposed to say, German or French design?
Italy is chock-a-block of factories producing furniture, lamps and whatnot, so I think Italian designs are more connected to industrial design. In fact, Barovier & Toso wants to be considered first and foremost as part of the art and design world.
What are three luxury items that you can’t live without?
Hmm that’s a difficult question…I only know I don’t like watches (laughs)! I’m Venetian so I like travelling, cooking and cars.