Raffaele Ricciuti, the visionary with a dream called Eyewear

1955 ITALIA, the Renaissance Factory of Italian Eyewear and its brand Occhialeria Artigiana, represent a mix of quality and design that the whole world envies us, a Made in Italy excellence born from the courage and ambition of its Founder Raffaele Ricciuti.

An unusual story… Raffaele Ricciuti, on the threshold of sixty years old, decides to leave his fixed position and set up his own business, can you tell us what drove him to take this courageous turn in his life?

I changed several jobs. Already in ’86, I left “the safe place”, I worked in a bank, graduated in Economics and Banking, and I had a brilliant career ahead. One night I decided to quit, and the next morning I gave the notice to my bank. Since 1989, in various capacities, I have been director of a consulting company born as private, later become a financial company, then become a public company. In 2015 I felt that I did not enjoy the confidence of the politician on duty at the time, rather than waiting for him to confirm me in my position, well in advance and without asking anything in return, I decided to leave.

I had already been thinking about it for several years; I had put my stuff “in safety”. I desired to go back to doing things that were suitable for me, and that gave me enthusiasm: eyewear was an opportunity to do something I like. My choices are guided by the desire to live, to continue working, not to stop and to get to know new environments. I always challenge myself in everything I do. I have to prove to myself that I am “capable”.

Your passion has led you to start a company that produces glasses in South Italy, more precisely in Basilicata. A challenge within a challenge, we know how difficult it is to do business in South Italy.

I heard that phrase too many times in my previous work; it was one of the reasons why I changed. It’s too early to sing victory and say we made it, but I assure you that doing business in the South is not a challenge. Thirty, even twenty years ago it was, today logistics services, transport and internet have brought everything closer, we receive raw materials from northern Italy in a day and deliver to Los Angeles in a day. I believe that when I do something, it is my responsibility, and I can complain no one except myself.  I decided together with my partners to make eyewear in Basilicata, so the responsibility is mine; I can’t take it out on politicians who don’t make the roads or who don’t provide the services. Is there no broadband? I knew that before I bought the company! I can’t blame anyone; there’s no alibi if the company fails… it means I wasn’t able. There are plenty of entrepreneurs in the South who run great companies, which means you can.

Professionalism and competence is your company secret. How much does being different and unique count in a world that is moving towards standardization?

That’s a subject, and I’m passionate! I find that one of the reasons that have sent the Italian industry into crisis is that it has lost its uniqueness. At the end of the last century, Italian entrepreneurs, frightened by the advent of the Chinese, began to chase them down the road of reducing costs and increasing turnover. These were the times when you had to grow, times when small was no longer beautiful! The big brands that went to produce abroad to reduce costs and increase sales went from oligarchic luxury to democratic luxury, lost their uniqueness and destroyed the “know-how” of many small craftsmen who worked for them. We have lost the uniqueness for which we were famous in the world. We Italians are children of the “taste” that is the whole of knowing how to live, of knowing how to eat, of knowing how to appreciate beauty, we are famous in the world for this, we must regain before it is too late, this characteristic.

That’s why we are certified 100% Made in Italy, from design to production to the materials we use is all made in Italy is all quality.  Professionalism and skills are fundamental, but they are skills that are acquired. What is innate and not obtained is the desire to work and have fun to feel satisfied when a customer sends you a message to thank you and instead of feeling happy and satisfied you feel the desire to do more and do better. I thought that motivating employees was one of the tasks of the entrepreneur, in this new life, I learned that we are all together motivating each other and I must say that young people are masters in this.

1955 Italy, the Renaissance factory of Italian eyewear and its brand Occhialeria Artigiana, are therefore a mix of quality, unique design and zero defects and make its glasses the accessory of the desire of many men and women of show business. Massimo Ranieri, for example, wears a pair in the film “La Macchinazione” about the life of Pier Paolo Pasolini, surely a great satisfaction for you?

Our customers all have the same value; they’re all important. We are satisfied when our customers are satisfied whether they are famous people or distinguished strangers. Before we sell something, we sell to someone, and we don’t want to hit with extreme shapes or colours, but with elegance.

We are satisfied when they write to us “Thanks ❤ craftsmen with ❤” or “I’m really belli❤ thanks again. Our company really cares about the satisfaction of its customers” or “Thanks 1000… “Just wanted to let you know that I’m impressed by your response letter it is very professional”. These are messages that come to us often, that force us to work better and better, and that is the real satisfaction of our work.

The glasses of its production, with two distinct lines for eyes and sunglasses, are handcrafted by expert craftsmen assisted by modern technology. So craftsmanship and innovation are certainly an unusual combination that makes all the difference?

Renaissance artists used the most modern tools that their time allowed; we do the same. In Italy in general, when we talk about artisans, we confuse the process. I mean that they are considered artisans, the law does so too, companies that are small and where the owner is involved in the production process, in reality, craftsmanship is given by the process where manual skills in all phases. The use of modern tools is nothing more than the search for perfection.

This company is the excellence of Made in Italy and has also been able to conquer the foreign market, from Australia to Israel to the USA, what is so successful?

We do not consider ourselves a successful company if, by success, we mean turnover and notoriety. If by the progress we mean the climate in the company, we are successful. We have fun, and we like the work we do. We collaborate; it is continuous work of comparison and searches for new solutions all aimed at the satisfaction of our customers, large or small.

So 1955 Italia and Occhialeria Artigiana are the two faces of the same company dedicated to the excellence of Made in Italy, where is the difference?

There is no difference whether the products have our brand name or are branded by others; the logic is the same “producing quality products”.

A curiosity why so much discretion in not revealing the names of the international luxury brands that use your productions?

The companies that come to us need for their products to become known after they have been produced, so for us confidentiality is fundamental, we are the ones who ask our customers to sign a confidentiality agreement. They are the ones who have to decide whether to talk about us, they generally do not do it to prevent their competitors from doing the same, but it is not a problem for us, we are starting to have more demands than we can meet.

Finally, I ask you what advice would you give to a young man who has the desire to do business in the South?

Another subject very close to my heart!  You have always used the word “company” in your questions, now you ask me about the company. The etymology of the word company comes from the Latin Facienda “things to do”. The term has then taken on today’s meaning of an organization that carries out any economic activity of production. The term “enterprise”, which I like much more, gives the idea of an action instead to be done, to be carried out, and it is precisely in the etymology of the word that we find the advice.

The first suggestion is not to listen to families, the ambition of parents is to see their children “settled” no matter whether they are satisfied or not. It is a legitimate ambition but selfish. Young people need to do activities for which they feel suited and which will satisfy them. The second is not to be afraid to make mistakes. Our Catholic/Latin culture “criminalizes” the error. Still, scientists, all of them, say that the discoveries are the result of a succession of mistakes in search of an effect that very often is different from the one for which the research started.

The third and final suggestion is not to rely on luck. The success of a project depends on the commitment you put into it, on the stubbornness with which you pursue it because even when it seems that everything is about to collapse there is the leap of genius that solves the problem and keeps it going. You have to have the desire to work/have fun and never give up. Challenge yourself all the time.

Enjoy even more @ 1955 Italian Eyewear 

 by Stefania Abbruzzo