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Biagiotti: the Leonardo Prize? The 'Oscar' for Italian Products
Rome - (Adnkronos Multimedia) - "What is The Leonardo Prize? We could call it the Oscar for Italian entrepreneurs, which is awarded to the person who has given the greatest contribution to the image of our country in the world". Laura Biagiotti, the "Queen of Cashmere", as the New York Times affectionately nicknamed her, is not only one of the internationally best known names in Italian fashion; she is also chairman of the Leonardo Committee, a post she has now held for five years. The body, with the organisational support of Confindustria (the Italian Manufacturers' Association) and of the Italian Institute for Foreign Trade (ICE), every year awards the prizes which bear witness to the country's entrepreneurial vitality.
Why the reference to Leonardo da Vinci?
"To underline that Italian firms are successful not only because their products are competitive, but because of their design. It's no coincidence that the Leonardo Prize has in the past also been awarded to an architect, perhaps the most famous Italian architect in the world, Renzo Piano, and to a scientist, Umberto Veronesi. And this year the prize has gone to Vittorio Merloni, chairman of Merloni Elettrodomestici, one of the companies which has most contributed to the affirmation of Italian products on international markets. The prize was handed over by the President of the Republic Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, in the presence of the Chairman of ICE, Beniamino Quintieri; the Chairman of Confindustria, Luca Cordero di Montezemolo; and of the Minister for Industry, Antonio Marzano. Even though the ceremony is held every year, I always find it an emotional experience".
Why Vittorio Merloni?
"The Prize is always given to leading figures in the entrepreneurial world. As can be seen in the choice of past winners, such as Giovanni Agnelli and Sergio Pinifarina, who is also honorary chairman of the Leonardo Committee. But Merloni's was not the only prize awarded: there were also the Leonardo Quality awards, given to Nerio Alessandri, founder and chairman of Technogym; to Piero Antinori, who runs one of Italy's leading wine producers; and to Diana Bracco, chairman of the pharmaceutical group which bears her name and of the Italian Federation of Chemical Industries. As you can see, a vast range of personalities and entrepreneurial experience".
Basically, you are called on to judge your colleagues. How does a queen of Italian fashion feel in this role?
"Well, it's certainly not a family party, by any means. The Leonardo Prize jury includes the editors of Italy's leading newspapers and many economic journalists, who are well aware of the entrepreneurial commitment of the men they are giving awards to. We feel impartial and have given the Prize to entrepreneurs from every sector, from cars and chemistry to food and fashion".
You run one of the most important Italian fashion houses. How do you see the near future of this sector and, more in general, of Italian industry on international markets?
"Fashion is a standard-bearer for Italian products, but it is also a difficult and delicate sector. Every year we all start with a blank sheet on which we have to outline our company's immediate future. We need to continuously re-invent ourselves, to maintain the margins of competitiveness that keep us at the top of the market. It's difficult and tiring. Nothing can be taken for granted: we need to lay ourselves open to the judgment of the public, especially today, because now the era of easy status symbols is over, the market judges products much more severely. And this holds true not only for fashion, but for all the products of Italian industry. But I am confident we will go on from strength to strength".
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