FOUNTAIN OF JOY
In an age of turbo-charged technological advance, you might wonder what use there is for the fountain pen. At first glance it sits on the scale of modern obsolescence somewhere between the horseshoe and the fax machine. Yet it is precisely the elemental nature of its communication method that provides this classic writing instrument with an important – and growing – niche market.
Francesco Poggesi is the CEO of Visconti – a maker of high-end luxury pens and other accessories, based in Florence, Italy. He believes the key to the healthy state of demand for the firm’s products lies in the human connection, something that is gradually being lost in the digital world. “What you can transmit in handwriting is completely different from online communication,” he says. “It’s more emotional, it’s real. Our handwriting is unique to each person and says something about you – more than could ever be said in an email.”
Francesco used to work at another famous Florentine luxury brand, Gucci, and says that his experiences there taught him the value of a complete sensory experience – the whole package for which the brand stands. “For us, it’s the sound of the paper when you write, the smell of the ink,” he says. “We are creating a world around the pen, so everything we create has to be of the highest quality.”
It’s an approach that has earned Visconti admirers far and wide. “Our global network in distribution ranges from the United States to China, all across Europe, Australia, Mexico and Brazil,” says Francesco. “We’re looking to grow in Russia and the Middle East, and now production has to keep pace with that distribution.”
So, what makes Visconti stand out from the competition? “Beautiful design is at the centre of our brand,” says Francesco. “Our designers have an amazing amount of technical skill and we use a lot of scrimshaw, filigree, skeleton processes and some jewellery techniques. The company has also always been innovative in its use of materials. We don’t just use standard resins.”
Francesco cites his favourite pen from the Visconti collection – the Homo Sapiens – made from a mixture of resin and black volcanic lava. “It doesn’t just look different – although its unique appearance is part of the pen’s appeal – it also smells different,” he says. “There’s something like sweetness from the lava that is like nothing else.”
Colour is another crucial element across the company’s range. “Our competitors use colour palettes that are predominantly black or brown – at their wildest, they may be blue,” says Francesco. Instead, Visconti’s designs draw inspiration from the kaleidoscope of art history: from local boy Michelangelo to Rembrandt or Van Gogh. “It’s quite daring to use these colours,” Francesco adds. “But it creates something really special. It’s something we would like to develop even further.”
The new CEO is only at the beginning of his journey with Visconti, but the energy and enthusiasm he transmits suggests a restless determination to keep the brand relevant and forward-thinking. “That idea of creativity, in both design and business, is in the DNA of Visconti,” he says. It’s why these beautiful objects can maintain and grow their relevance – by virtue of powerful genes.