Haute Living sits down for an exclusive interview with the scion of the Pininfarina legend-a third-generation visionary and self-confessed rock star
By Ayesha Khan
“When our Boeing Business Jet is placed next to another one, ours will stand out because it is a designer edition, so we’re ahead of the game.
The Pininfarina name already pervades the world of design, from the most exclusive Ferraris, Maseratis, and Alfa Romeos, to the Olympic cauldron in Turin, and a sleek line of consumer products as diverse as wines, sunglasses, and mobile phones. But never content to rest on his laurels, and stalwartly determined to build upon the unmistakable mark of luxury and colorful family legacy associated with his name, Paolo Pininfarina is now exploring the worlds of private aviation, hospitality, and luxury boating.
Born on August 28th, 1958, in Turin to the illustrious Sergio Pininfarina, Paolo Pininfarina’s future in the family business was somewhat inevitable, but never forced. He recalls being constantly inspired by the diversity and creativity of the dynamic father-and-son team of his father and grandfather, the legendary Battista “Pinin” Farina. In fact, one of his earliest memories features the charisma of his grandfather.
“My grandfather decided one day that he would buy an aircraft. The family was in the Riviera, my father on his boat, and his sister and her husband on their boat. The whole Pininfarina family was there, in the Port of Alassio. My grandfather arrives with a driver, and tours the boats of his daughter and son (my father). At the end of the day, he says ‘I want my family to come with me to the airport.’ So we all go to the small airport in Villanova and he says goodbye to all of us and jumps on this aircraft and flies away, leaving the entire Pininfarina family standing together. I was eight, and that image stayed with me and my brother. It was a perfect demonstration of the man, the family, the company. That is one of the secrets of our business,” recalls Pininfarina.
Although he excelled in engineering at the world-famous Politecnico di Torino, his interests were not always dedicated to his inevitable career path. It is in a rock band that Pininfarina found his earliest inspiration.
Pininfarina recalls, “I was playing the drums-it was just an amateur group, but it added a level of excitement growing up. It was a very important experience for me. After years, I understood that the drummer is actually the leader of the band. And I was the leader of my band. We would hold about five events per year, each had a different theme. Sometimes we would even project lights from behind the stage! It was very low budget, but was an outstanding experience. For a while my father was afraid. ‘My son is studying English and doing music!’ he would say.” But the rebel child turned out just as his legendary father and grandfather would have hoped. He is now vice chairman of the board at Pininfarina and at the helm of Pininfarina Extra, a company that seeks to take the Pininfarina brand into design sectors other than the automotive niche that his family’s empire has so expertly conquered.
He is right at home in his Miami hotel suite, and most likely scanning the room for ideas and criticisms now that he has his very own chic San Diego boutique hotel, the Keating. Located in the trendy, historic Gaslamp quarter, a visit to the Keating is like living in a Ferrari for a few unforgettable days. Its 35 rooms and suites feature the sleekness that is to be expected of the brand. Red reigns supreme, and sleek sky blue, black, and white complete the palette alongside sleek, brushed steel finishings and state-of-the-art Bang and Olufsen technology. So which trendy U.S. city is the next stop in the Keating Tour de Force? Pininfarina flashes a mischievous smile hinting at U.S. hubs like Miami and New York, but giving us the requisite, “I can’t really confirm anything yet.”
But his business in Florida on this trip is a lucrative deal that has Pininfarina Extra redesigning some of the most glamorous aircraft in Aero Toy Store’s elite fleet of Global Express, Challenger, Gulfstream, Hawker, Citation, and Lear jets. Following the super success of the 7-seater Learjet 60, Pininfarina is receiving one new commission per month from the world’s elite travelers, who have an eye for sleek beige and cream leather seats, grey anthracite carpeting and brushed aluminium detailing-a mark of true Italian acumen.
“When our Boeing Business Jet is placed next to another one, ours will stand out because it is a designer edition, so we’re ahead of the game. And who better to collaborate with than Pininfarina? We have been honored to spend quality time at all of the Pininfarina design and manufacturing facilities in Turin, Italy. When I first met with Pininfarina’s representatives, the most important thing they expressed to me was Paolo’s passion for long-term relationships. This was made clear again when we finalized our deal directly with Paolo, and was one of the driving factors of our interest in the exclusive collaboration,” said Aero Toy Store COO Ben Shirazi, no stranger to successful family businesses.
As we leave Paolo Pininfarina, there is one lingering, burning question that we just have to ask: what is his all-time favorite Pininfarina-designed car? He saw this one coming, but still hesitates like a father asked to choose his favorite child. “The Ferrari 360 Modena is a dream come true for me. I can talk about this car as the designer of the car, as the greatest design critic of the car, and as a user of the car, so it’s a one hundred percent Pininfarina experience-a Pininfarina car driven by Mr. Pininfarina! But if I may choose my other two favorites, one would be the Fiat 124 Spider of the 70s-the celebration of durability-and the third is the Maserati Birdcage 75th.”
With this latest move into the United States, the future is full of promise for Pininfarina Extra. The group’s American domination continues with a string of Keating hotels and a developing relationship with leading Mexican real estate group, GICSA. A line of elite Pininfarina-designed yachts is also expected to hit marinas in the very near future. “I think that’s pretty great if, after one year of being here, we have telephones, aircraft, boats, hotels, and real estate.” Certainly not a bad take home for a year’s hard work. “Everything here is so big, there are so many opportunities,” explains Pininfarina with a gleam in his eye. “You never know the people you’ll meet. We try to define a strategy, but if somebody says let’s make a rocket and go on the moon, anything is possible!”