In Conversation With...
Master artisan Fabrizio Verniani
We first met Signore Verniani in the summer of 2019, when we were treated to a look around his personal collection of most treasured pieces from seven decades of work. It’s thanks to his craftsmanship, creativity and graciousness that Atelier Verdi is what it is today and we’re proud that we now also have pieces in that collection. Running the company with his son Andrea, their workshop employs 7 artisans, each highly skilled in their respective fields.
As the founder of his boutique workshop in the heart of Italy’s luxury leather-goods industry, Signore Verniani mastered his craft the traditional way: learning skills passed down through his family.
As a 14-year old boy growing up in Florence, he began his apprenticeship in the 1950s, working in his uncle’s leather goods shop on the city’s iconic Ponte Vecchio Bridge that spans the Arno River.
“That's where I learnt the art of craftsmanship, looking at what was around me and learning to chisel, print and form moulds.”
He made the break to start out on his own in 1970, teaming up with long-time friend Giulio Benvenuti to open a Florentine workshop. And working within the traditional model that dominates the region, where small family-owned workshops produce collections under contract for different luxury brands, the friends immediately began crafting luxury evening bags.
They were soon joined by his son, Andrea, who began learning the trade just as his father had, by nurturing skills passed down through the family.
“The collaboration with my son started very early, Andrea was only 18 years old so we have been collaborating for 40 years now.”
The pair typically start their day together, checking on customer requests they’ve received overnight before the hands-on practical work begins. They often have several different projects running at the same time, with each being at different stages of production, and each presenting new challenges, but the father-son relationship is not one of them.
“Working with your child is extremely interesting and stimulating for both of us. As is normal, sometimes there are conflicting ideas, but we always try to find the best way.”
After a couple of decades plying his trade in the Tuscan capital, Signore Verniani and his son moved the workshop in 1995 to new premises in Scandicci, the small suburb of Florence that is synonymous with Italy’s high-end leather-goods production.
The town is a hub for luxury producers, with many brands having a manufacturing presence in the area.
“Scandicci has grown a lot in recent years, it now brings together all the biggest leather goods brands in the world and recently Atelier Verdi too, with our contribution.”
This high concentration of manufacturers means that skills and supplies are all on hand locally, while parts of the larger supply-chain such as tanneries are in the nearby province of Pisa.
“We are very happy here in Scandicci, this place helps us a lot in our business.”
The residents of Scandicci have remained largely unchanged for decades, but the customers have changed dramatically. Signore Verniani’s business once worked directly with wholesalers and warehouses. But over time, the wholesalers in the sector have moved away and the warehouses have stopped buying in Italy to buy in other countries.
“Now we work with new clients, represented by younger brands.”
Atelier Verdi is one of those younger brands, and it’s thanks to the individuality and flexibility offered by the Verniani’s family-owned business that has made it possible to work together.
“The collaboration with Atelier Verdi, in particular with Gabriella Verdi, was born in line with our values. We believe that when a person shows passion for a job they are undertaking, it is right to offer help so that we hope to create, over time, a new and exciting collaboration for both of us.”
Looking ahead, the next generation of the Verniani family is already being lined up to carry the name and skills into the future through Signore Verniani’s granddaughter Giuditta.
“My greatest pride has been to do a job that has made me happy and that has allowed me to have a precious family that I can also work with.”
“What I hope for the future of our company, with Andrea and Giuditta, is to grow and continue to raise the ideals in which we believe and which make us who we are.”
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