We start today an open conversation with Mr. Ermes Ponti, the man whose name is also the company name.
His presence is always discreet, but nevertheless clearly perceived, more through actions than words, especially towards the young people in our company.
For whoever works in the manufacturing industry, as we do, the generations who opened the way to our crafting activities are a constant reminder of technical abilities and approach to entrepreneurship, elements of our everyday life.
But now let’s hear from Mr. Ermes Ponti.
– Mr. Ermes, how did the company begin its activity?
Ermes Ponti –
– It all started on the banks of the Po river, in a small town right outside Mantua, San Giacomo Po.
At the end of the ’30s, my father bought the first machines to start a carpenter shop; the story goes that he rode his bicycle to Milan, and when the trucks with the machinery arrived in our village everyone came out of their homes, thinking the new bells for the church had arrived!
– How did the carpenter shop grow, later on?
Ermes Ponti – A few years after the end of the war , the shop moved to San Biagio, where we are now, inside an old power powerhouse. We were an industrial company at that point, many people knew us for the modern furniture we would propose, something none around here did at the time.
In 1957 we have been the first ones in Italy to be able to put polyester paint on furniture, getting the idea from a car hood someone showed us.
On April 12th – I still remember the exact date – we showed it at the Milan Fair, and it was a huge success. For many years after that we developed projects derived from the new polyester paint, which is still in use, by the way.
When the ’60s came by, it came my time to join the family company.
We decided to call a great architect, someone who could design new collections for us. I sat down with my wife Gabriella – to whom the Gabriella chair is dedicated – and wrote a letter to Mr. Gio Ponti, with whom we started immediately a long collaboration.
Mr. Gio Ponti designed for us a brand new furniture collection, based on an innovative home concept: the Apta series.
Unforgettable times: Gio Ponti has been for me a true role model.
– When did the company the company headquarters took the actual shape?
Ermes Ponti – It was in the ’70s, when we broadened the premises and built the actual laboratory; in that period we got important assignments, mostly very big hotels and private villas.
– With which important brands did you get involved?
Ermes Ponti – We worked with many, crafting high quality pieces designed by the most famous architects, one name for all: Driade.
– Does this mean you specialized in design?
Not really, we specialized in… well done jobs.
Later on – mid ‘ 90s – we got in touch with the fashion industry, with the MonteNapoleone Corneliani boutique, in Milan.
After my son Paolo and his wife Daniela, both graduated in Architecture in Florence, joined the company, Corneliani offered us the chance to work on the first projects of integrated design; initially a small showroom in Paris, then a boutique in Russia, and so on… until they decided to rely on us for the entire London New Bond Street project, and Milan Montenapoleone project.
To this date we have realized over 50 Corneliani shops all over the world.
– In the recent years, which have been the main projects?
In the last ten years we have worked mainly with fashion industry, designing and building great flagship stores, both mono-brand and multi-brand, worldwide.
The whole process – from the very first idea to the turnkey realization – is managed by us, and guarantees the client a constant reduction of resources employed, optimizing the whole project in terms of:
- architectural aesthetics
- handicraft furniture quality (drawings, samples etc.)
Thanks to this new integrated method of design and building, we have acquired important assignments in luxury retail and top brand yachting.
– The yachting industry: everybody says that it has been hit badly by the economic crisis…
Ermes Ponti – It’s true, but – as strange as it may seem – the hard times have pushed many people towards our company.
When we approached this industry, a few years ago, the crisis was already at its worst… but our method helped reduce consistently the resources needed to complete a project.
For instance, we have been able to cut by 50% the delivery schedule of a 94-feet boat, by reinterpreting the drawings and optimizing the building times.
– Crisis as opportunity, then?
Ermes Ponti – The crisis has taught a lot to us.
It asked us to evolve, by diminuishing time and costs, and increase quality.
My son Paolo has been working in this direction for 10 years now, putting into practice many equally important elements: his architectural culture, his practical and organizational intelligence, the passion for his work, the commitment to his community, the daily sacrifice.
I think that these are the values of the “small” Italian companies, something that have made “great” the Made in Italy in the world.
Personally, I think that such values are still relevant, and maybe the economic crisis has helped us to re-discover them.