De Vecchi is a silversmith’s workshop established in Milan at the end of the 1930s.

We got Matteo de Vecchi, from the third generation of silversmiths, to take us through the history of the family and the workshop.

How was De Vecchi born?

We are called De Vecchi Milano 1935 because that’s the date of the formation of the first company, by my grandfather Piero: he was very highly skilled in hand engraving and the use of the burin. In the early Sixties, the firm was passed on to my father Gabriele, and at the end of the 90s it came to my brother and me; the future De Vecchi will be developed together with Vhernier (who bought out the majority stake in 2010). In fact, we understood that if we wanted to continue to produce our objects, we would have to turn to the world of high level luxury and develop new strategies and new products.
The firm has always been closely linked to the two main personalities who created it, that is to say, my grandfather and my father.

One of his most famous pieces is called T8, taking its name from the eighth Milan Triennale of 1947. Since 1997, it has become one of our greatest commercial successes.

My father had always been around in the workshop, and already after finishing school he had created some small works.

Tell us about your grandfather.

My grandfather had learned his trade very well over the years, going through various phases. For example, under Fascism, he was forced to work in materials other than silver, in part because it was very expensive, and in part because people wanted to ennoble new materials like aluminium, so he used and developed his technique on different materials.
Since the Fifties, with the great industrial development after the War, there was specialization in silver: so we concentrated production on those precious metals that could not have a future in the industry of series production, but that needed the expert hands of skilled craftsmen.
Next to traditional type workmanship, my grandfather had a strong inclination for research.
We have documented his participation in a Futurist exhibit of 1933 with an object that is called an oblò. He tried to go beyond the workshop market, and he wanted to develop forms and objects that, although having no market of their own, satisfied his eye and sensibility. He took part in the Triennales that were held in Milan from 1936 to 1963, trying to combine his experience with research activity, aware of what was happening in the world of design and architecture. In 1956, my grandfather produced a coffee service designed by Gio Ponti and commissioned by Calderoni Gioielli.
One of his most famous pieces is called T8, taking its name from the eighth Milan Triennale of 1947. Since 1997, it has become one of our greatest commercial successes.

And your father?

My father was "almost" forced to follow in my grandfather’s footsteps. At that time, if a father had a profession, his son followed him without too many discussions. My father had always been around in the workshop, and already after finishing school he had created some small works.
My grandfather wanted him to study at the Brera Academy, and there he probably learned from books what he had already learned in the workshop, like styles and various decorative elements, composition and forms. My father took part in the artistic activities of the T group (where T stands for time) between '59 and '65, and then he continued to move ahead with his artistic research parallel to his silversmith’s work, in 1962 he in fact became owner of the company. Until the end of the 1960s, he carried the firm forward with the same methodology as his father.
Over the course of the years, he began to include some collections that were based on a different kind of design methodology, taking pains not so much with the individual piece as with the creation of a common language for the collections, like the collection made entirely of spun metal. My father also worked on the concept of mirror images in silver, identifying the properties of the material and inventing a code that also included environment where the object would be placed. At our headquarters, we have the "tunnel of mirrors", which explains this concept better than many words could.

And what can you tell us about yourself?

In 1997 there was an exhibit at the Milan Triennale called "the language of mirrors", and it was a moment to get our bearings on the situation: I improved my knowledge of my grandfather’s work that had been hidden for years, and together with my father and brother, we understood that a change was taking place and that we could not continue on the same road that we had been on up to that time. We were trying to make our "code" and hence also to turn our firm somewhat from a workshop unknown to the public towards ta "brand" that conveyed our values to our clients.
We did not have the strategic tools to put ourselves forward as a design brand, but at the same time in the studio R+V we had developed our need to construct and communicate a new identity. We had worked with new, young designers that became very famous after that, like the Bouroullec brothers, Patricia Urquiola and Jean Marie Massaud, gaining highly significant experience, even if we realized that designing for the world of silverwork is very difficult, especially if you try to satisfy only an aesthetic form and not a form that goes along with the characteristics of the material, too.
Since 2008, we have begun to feel the economic crisis, and the crisis of the culture of silver, too. So we have decided to develop the brand on other types of products and other types of materials, and our experience with silver we use for the luxury market, where clients and distribution channels are well-known and unique pieces are sought out, made by hand. In this phase, Vhernier will certainly be of help to us, with its exclusive distribution channel and with the development of common strategies.

How have the different generations of your clients evolved over time?

Let’s say that in my grandfather’s time, clients were for mostly the upper class families of Milan. If somebody said he’d come from Pavia, it seemed like he had made a very long trip!
With my father, instead, the range of clients broadened, to the point of including all of Lombardy and Italy.
We are trying to work out a strategy that will enable us to reach our clients all over the world, trying to communicate with different types of clients.