Famed for quality and craftsmanship, the prestigious “Made in Italy” label is worth its weight in gold. Especially in the face of stiff competition from new emerging economies where production costs are lower.

“As a country, we are less competitive than new emerging economies,” admits Vittorio Bertazzoni, CEO of family-owned appliances company Smeg. “But Smeg production is entirely in Italy. We strongly believe in our origins and the quality that can derive from the ‘Made in Italy’ label.”

And apparently, so do consumers. Revenue for the company has crossed the 700-million-euro (S$1.2-billion) mark. Production has been ramped up by 40 per cent since 2009, even as Italy’s domestic appliance output fell to 13 million units in 2012, from 24 million in 2007.

The “Made in Italy” label has always been associated with prestige. Think fashion brands like Ermenegildo Zegna and timepieces by Panerai. But Bertazzoni goes further. “We’re from the Emilia region, which is home to luxury automotive manufacturers like Ferrari, Maserati, Ducati and Lamborghini,” he says. “They are all excellent examples of how you can combine the best design with the highest technology.”

Best design comes in the form of collaborations with award-winning Italian architects like Guido Canali and Renzo Piano, who designed the ovens and gas hobs of the Classic and Piano Design lines respectively. This differs from its similarly high-end competitors like Miele and Gaggenau from Germany, which mainly rely on internal design teams – not to mention the mainstream brands which prioritise price and function over style.

It has also tapped the knowledge of traditional artisans like Italian master blacksmith Giancarlo Candeago, whose technical expertise in wrought iron found in the gates and staircases of older Italian homes has been incorporated into Smeg’s Cortina line of ovens and hobs. The result is an elegantly rustic look with antiqued silver finishes, polished brass and copper details.

Says Bertazzoni: “I think Italy is still one of the best countries for production, thanks to our knowledge, good sense of aesthetics and high level of technology.”

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