When Giampiero Di Persia says he was almost born on a Poltrona Frau sofa, he’s not being facetious. Fifty some-odd years ago, Di Persia’s very pregnant mother was relaxing with her husband, watching television in her home in Rome, when the little one decided it was time to come into the world.
It was a fitting entry for him, and it seems to have ultimately defined his life. Today, he is the CEO of Poltrona Frau Miami and Cappellini Miami, which exist in part due to his dedication to the brand that was founded in Torino, Italy, in 1912. Since its beginnings, Poltrona Frau has grown into an international conglomerate still owned by the family whose name is synonymous with only the very best. Whether one is referring to the classic pieces of furniture by the world’s top designers, the special contract projects, or the unique Poltrona Frau leather, which goes through a patented 21-step process before being deemed worthy enough to adorn one of the designs, when the name “Poltrona” is uttered, one assumes a certain level of excellence.
Italians have been aware of this for generations. But as little as 10 years ago, the name hadn’t quite penetrated the minds of those in North America yet. “The company is very well known in Europe,” explains Di Persia, “but it was not recognized in the U.S. However, a certain level of people have always been familiar with Poltrona Frau leather without even realizing it. Our leather is our signature, and Poltrona Frau upholsters all of the Ferraris, the Bugattis, the high-end Mercedes and BMWs, the first class of Air Italia, Quantas, Singapore Airlines, the public areas of Norwegian Cruise, Royal Caribbean…” He trails off, but there is more. Poltrona Frau also provides the leather for the supped-up interiors of Maseratis, Lexuses, and Mini Coopers. The company also outfitted the Queen Mary 2, the Prada store in Tokyo, the first class seats of Japan Airlines, and the VIP lounges at the Adrienne Arsht Center here in Miami, to name but a few of the special projects. Poltrona Frau crafted the seating that Frank Gehry designed for his Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, and also is behind the seating at the Paul Getty Hall in Los Angeles and Pierce Hall at Harvard University. Poltrona is again working with Gehry for the seating that is waiting to be installed in the new home of the New World Symphony currently under construction in Miami Beach. So, yes, a certain level of individual was familiar with Poltrona Frau long before the brand’s flagship stores landed on U.S. soil.
Di Persia began working with Poltrona Frau in 1998, when he was tapped to spearhead the company’s expansion into the U.S. through a consulting role. It wasn’t long before Poltrona Frau realized the breadth of his knowledge about the market, thanks to various roles Di Persia held as an importer/exporter, and he became its U.S.-based partner.
“I helped Poltrona set up the New York office,” Di Persia explains, “and helped them select the right people to run the business here in the U.S. I personally took care of distribution for the Southeast United States and Caribbean area.” What he realized was that, while Americans may have been familiar with the brand’s work, they weren’t necessarily familiar with the brand itself. “Poltrona Frau was in Miami for 12 years,” he explains, indicating that high-end furniture stores carried Poltrona products. “But no one recognized the brand, because even if it was in the best store, that store was selling the furniture, not the brand name.” A flagship showroom was needed.
In 2001, he opened the doors to Poltrona Frau Miami, the third dedicated showroom in the U.S., in the heart of the Design District, which at that time was still a bit of a dream in the mind of developer Craig Robins. “I met with Craig, and I saw that he was pretty clear about his vision for the Design District,” Di Persia recalls. “And he had all of the instruments to make it happen. I thought it would be advantageous for Poltrona Frau to be the first big and famous brand in the Design District.”