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blomingdale
23/02/2011
ALU | Interview with CEO Abramo Ma…
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ALU | Interview with CEO Abramo Manfrotto
When we usually do a article on the interior of the store, we spend more time talking about the products than the
way they are displayed. Not long ago I was introduced to a international company called ALU, who have been
specialized in the creation retail world experiences for the past 25 years.
It all started in 1987, when photographer and entrepreneur Lino Manfrotto realized that New York retailers were
using the Autopole in their window displays and store interiors. He then decided to create a new business, clearly
differentiating itself from the original photographic business, and ALU opened its first showroom in New York.
25 years later the brand has grown into a international company with its headquarters located in Romano
d’Ezzelino, Italy, creating standard, customized and fully custom products, to various clients like Bloomingdale’s,
Macy’s, Sears, Hudson Bay, Debenhams, H&M, Zara, GAP, Benetton, Sony, Bank of America, Ray Ban,
Luxottica, Helly Hansen, Wrangler, Deutsche Bank, BMW/Mini, Nokia, and Chevrolet Europe, among others.
I had the opportunity to ask CEO, Abramo Manfrotto a few questions. A man who was born in 1966 in Bassano
del Grappa, not far from the beauty of Venetian architecture, He belongs to that category of young entrepreneurs
being CEO of CEO of Manfrotto and head of the photographic division of Vitec Group at just the age of
24. Abramo Manfrotto has been CEO of the ALU company (taken over by Manfrotto SA) since December 2003.
Inteview with Abramo Manfrotto
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ALU | Interview with CEO Abramo Ma…
Alu is a company dedicated to create innovative constructions. Which construction is the most
innovative and why?
The most innovative is also the most difficult, by many parameters: it’s the fittest for a specific purpose but also has
the ability to adapt and become fit for many more, it’s the most cost effective, it’s one that is not particularly trendy
but, rather, contemporary and long lasting, it’s the one that get most copied and so on.
The best examples of that in ALU are the Autopole and the Super Clamp, the two products which created ALU
right from the beginning. They are still here and they are still strong. Actually without them we couldn’t look back
on decades of clients worldwide. In November 2009, MoMA New York added both Autopole and Super Clamp
to its permanent design and architecture collection
As shops become more about the experience, where do you see your role as a company?
Helping Brands and retailers produce that experience. And doing so in a way that is simple and cost effective.
MiND is a great magazine, what is the reason for it publication? The concept?
Sheer stupidity! Jokes apart, what lead us to engage in an
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ALU | Interview with CEO Abramo Ma…
editorial project such as this (3 issues a year, 100 pages a issue and a total circulation of about 15.000 per issue) is
the same that drives everything else we do: the maverick instinct. We like to set ourselves apart, play by our own
rules.
We used to work with a small Norwegian advertising outfit, these amazingly creative guys had been producing
sublime catalogues for us, but after three years of the same format, we had enough of it. So, one day we met them
with the intention of firing them because we were looking for something different we thought they could not deliver,
something that would bring us closer to our clients, something less branded but much more enticing and interesting
to read. Instead of pleading for mercy the creative head at the agency pulls out this teaser they had been secretly
preparing for us and BANG!: here came the magazine idea. I loved him for that.
We spent the next three days working on the name, the format and the content. Shortly after we went to press with
the first issue which was beautiful, but a lot more artsy and designy than we had wanted, so they did get fired in the
end and we moved of with the people that create FRAME and Mark magazines.
What we have now works great, each new issue better than the previous, but insatiable us, we’re already over the
whole old style magazine thing, we’re ready to take MiND to the next level, soon.
The Magazine is about inspiring others, who or what inspires you the most?
My three children. They give me inspiration, energy, motivation, drive, courage, youth.
Where do you see the company in 5 years?
I see this small, strange company finally imposing itself as true key international player in the retail fixturing market.
I see it becoming not only larger, but broader, in a multinational sense. I would love to have itinerary Head
Quarters: one year it’s somewhere in Italy, the next is NY and then Madrid, Amsterdam, London and so on.
Finally, as this was once the offspring of another, larger company operating in a totally different market, I see ALU
becoming the mother of yet another offspring.
It seems you are slowly growing in the domestic market, do you like this trend? And what does the
future hold?
We love this trend, we seek it and we aspire to it. We are going to actively pursue growth in it. Only thing, we are
not calling it domestic but “civil”. As in pertaining to citizens, to people. We are going to make people, not space,
the core of our attention.
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ALU | Interview with CEO Abramo Ma…
The simplicity of you products make them great to use, do you see Ikea as an inspiration? Would you
buy their products and which is your favorite?
No, I don’t find Ikea inspiring at all. I think that everything they produce is first and foremost price driven and that
their display principles are geared towards making you buy things you don’t really need.
Simplicity for us means simple to understand, to use and reuse in many different ways and in many different
environments. When you’re done using an Ikea product you can throw it away, it’s so cheap anyway… when you
are done using an ALU Autopole as a shelf holder, you can use it as a banner pole, a hanging unit, a curtains pole,
a bicycle holder, it grows with you and it follows you in your pilgrimage through work and life.
You are attending the show with FLOS? Why is this?
Lighting is one of the most important elements in any environment, be it a shop, an office, a factory or a home. We
love FLOS, they are one of our favourites. And we are lucky enough they live close to us, they have very similar
goals and aspirations and they like us too. It is only natural for ALU to partner with such a strong lighting company
that so perfectly complements what we do.
If you could do anything before you die, what would this be?
Have one last pizza! Oh my God, really, what are you looking for, the philanthropic, the romantic, the personal, the
playful or the professional answer?
So far I have been lucky enough to have been able to do many things I would have wanted to do before dying. The
better and the longer I live, the many more of these things I can do. I have many ambitions, but I if I died today I
would die a happy man.
Thanks to Abramo for a great interview!
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