Furniture design

From artisan business to renowned brand – The story of BertO

The story of BertO is that of an artisan company born in Meda (Brianza, Italy), built on the passion of its founders and brilliant insights that have made it one of the most innovative and significant artisan enterprises in Italy today.

Today, many artisans face the challenge of staying relevant in the ever-evolving design landscape. The most demanding task, however, is maintaining their identity while striving for growth. In Italy, one brand has exemplified how to achieve this: BertO.

Founded in 1974 in Meda (Italy), the world’s design capital, BertO is situated in the heart of the region where countless companies and designers gave birth to what we now celebrate as Made in Italy. This area is rich in history, craftsmanship, and innovation, showcasing the artisan and entrepreneurial spirit that defines Italian design.

BertO’s journey is both fascinating and essential to understand. Its foundation is rooted in the passion of its creators. The company’s growth, significantly propelled by the second generation, stems from a successful blend of artisanal expertise and modern technology.

Berto Salotti _ from artisanal business to renowned brand - portrait
Filippo Berto, CEO at BertO, holding his book ‘Made in Meda’

In this interview, Filippo Berto, the CEO, recounts the company’s evolution, highlighting the core values and strategic choices that transformed BertO from a small workshop into a prominent brand.

This path serves as a model for other artisans, illustrating how to navigate competition and technological advancements without losing one’s essence. As Darwin noted, ‘the one who adapts best, wins.‘ Although it is challenging to maintain meaningfulness while embracing change and innovation, BertO’s success offers a valuable benchmark for others to follow.

What is the story of BertO? How was the company founded, and on what vision has it established its growth?

Filippo Berto:

“To tell you the story of BertO, I need to speak about the #Spiritof74, a somewhat mysterious expression that conveys how everything that has happened, is happening, and will happen in our company is actually the result of the energy and vision of our founders, who indeed established BertO in 1974 in Meda. Their hunger, talent, and vision: these are the elements that have shaped a process that continuously evolves year after year, decade after decade, into a value proposition capable of constantly expressing itself, always in tune with the spirit of the times, yet consistently aligned with those values.

We know what it means to work intensely to bring a passion to life—our fathers knew it, and we know it as we dedicate ourselves wholeheartedly every single day, sometimes even in unconventional ways, to bring into the world what we consider valuable products, born from a work ethic that is unparalleled, that of Italian master craftsmen (a category of which we have some excellent representatives in our company).

© BertO

With my entry into the company in the late nineties, I was fortunate to perceive this value and to communicate it through the internet. This new approach for the time allowed me to significantly let BertO grow. Through online storytelling of what I saw and felt, I built a reputation based on the unique identity of the people living it, thus contributing to what we now call a “brand.”

The internet has taught us to speak directly to our customers, without intermediaries. It has taught us to listen deeply to them, a significant value that has enabled us to build a new business model in our industry, where online and physical stores managed directly engage with people without filters. Within BertO stores, we offer a different experience in high-quality design interaction. It’s a spirit of convivial hospitality, which we call BertO LIVE, allowing people to feel at home and participate in creating their dream designs with more serenity and enthusiasm.”

© BertO

You are representatives of a craftsmanship tradition that has defined your territory, Meda, for centuries. What does it mean, today, to be a craft company? What is good to preserve and where is it necessary to innovate at the same time?

Filippo Berto:

“Meda is one of the most important cities in the world. It is even a capital: the world capital of Design. This is evidenced by a simple and incontrovertible fact: the companies that have made Italian Design famous worldwide are from Meda. I won’t mention names because I would surely forget someone, and I would never forgive myself, but it’s the history of our industry that speaks: our territory is its absolute protagonist. Once again, I must deeply thank BertO’s founders, who in 1974 chose the most important territory in the world to establish and grow their business. Here, there is a centuries-old manufacturing tradition that has seen—generation after generation—an entire territory specializing, or rather, completely devoting itself to a very specific type of work, which has gone through various phases but has never lost that peculiar drive for excellence; rather, nurturing it and continually raising the bar.

Because we also feel ourselves at BertO to be heirs of an important history that has conceived and made famous Made in Meda design creations worldwide, we have always promoted—through concrete projects capable of involving the new local generations—the evolution and growth of the youth in our region. From crowdcrafting projects in collaboration with educational institutions to BertO Live events in our showrooms, through the continuous teaching work of our master craftsmen to the new generations entering the Made in Meda design projects, at BertO, we have always promoted and will always promote the growth of local talent in Meda’s young men and women.

© BertO

Personally, I am certain that the youth will be up to the task that awaits them, perhaps even better than all of us, as they live in a more connected, more aware dimension. Our task is to prepare a favourable ground for them, a task that is anything but simple… but has anyone in Meda ever been daunted by challenging work?

What is your relationship with designers? What part do they play in creating new products and what significance do they hold in your marketing strategies?

Filippo Berto:

“It’s a very stimulating relationship based on a challenge. The challenge of designing products and spaces for a company like BertO, which is always transforming and growing, with a specific vocation towards customer relations and a distribution method created on our model. It means working side by side with designers not only on the product but often also on the design of the strategy.

In recent years, the partnership with Castello Lagravinese Studio has been very fruitful because it was built on this principle. We have also established a research and development department and a technical office capable of working on new processes and materials, fearlessly accepting the stimuli and challenges posed by designers. We have also had excellent collaborations with Giulio Iacchetti and Luca Nichetto, and we are always open to new talents.”

© BertO

You have carried out several ‘crowdcrafting’ projects, actively involving end users in the design of your products. What have you learned from these co-design moments?

Filippo Berto:

“Crowdcrafting is a milestone for us. We opened the doors of our workshops to let customers work together with the Master Craftsmen! And you know what? Those doors never closed again. But let’s go in order… In 2013, we were looking for a new idea, something that would make us known, but in a new way. Something that would also allow us to connect with others, to build value together. We asked ourselves what we could bring to the table to build something together with others?

Well, exactly this: our craft, our workshop! We said to ourselves: why don’t we let people into the heart of our activity, open the doors of the workshop and let them see—no, let them touch with their own hands—that wonderful craft that our founders taught us? And why not also involve students, young people, to involve them in the work in the company?

© BertO

Of course, it wasn’t easy, but we did it. We organized the first experiment—which then became a regular activity, serving our customers—of crowdcrafting in the Design sector: the sofaXmanagua. It was called that because the proceeds went to a charity—Terre des Hommes—that helped young people from Managua in a professional training program. Since then, crowdcrafting at BertO has been part of our catalogue. Anyone who buys an armchair or a bed can come to the workshop and literally get their hands dirty, alongside our Master Craftsmen. And it happens, it happens continuously! People love it.”

I know that one of the key elements of your success has been digital communication. When and why did it become a strategic component?

Filippo Berto:

“Twenty years ago, we chose digital communication as a strategic component by launching our blog, BertOStory, to share who we were and our passions. This opened the doors to a global audience, turning us into a digital case study recognized by Google. This step not only allowed us to share our identity and passion but also to establish a direct and meaningful connection with our customers. Thanks to this strategic choice, we were able to not only expand our reach globally but also to respond more effectively and immediately to the needs of our customers, creating a direct bond that goes beyond traditional communication channels.”

© BertO

You’ve authored a book detailing ‘Made in Meda’ design. What distinguishes it? And what motivated you to capture this narrative within a book?

Filippo Berto:

“Since I was a child, I felt like I was among superheroes: in my father’s and uncle’s workshop, all the great names came, those who study in universities all over the world, I saw them, they talked to me, giants of Design. And then there were these wizards, these masters of skill, these craftsmen who could do anything with their hands, and my father even competed in capitonné contests. Over the years, I grew up and matured, and it was my turn to join the company.

Initially, I was shy and lost, then I was pushed to seek something new and I confronted myself with digital, with blogs (we then created the first corporate blog of Italian design), but Made in Meda was always in the background. Over time, I definitively realized how little the extraordinary value represented by Meda was told or valorised in any way. In Meda, it is taken for granted, around the world, no one ever spoke of the stellar skill of the people of Meda. At some point, I said enough. The anger hit the mark. I understood, I cooled down, I transformed the anger into positive energy, and we started, with the goal of beginning to build a new awareness of Made in Meda. And the book was born.”

© BertO

What are the next steps for BertO?

Filippo Berto:

“The future of BertO aims to continue in the same direction that has brought us here. Being pioneers on new paths is the passion that drives us, and for this reason, the desire is to continue with work focused on research and development, a pillar that will allow us to continuously innovate, offering products and solutions that anticipate and satisfy the desires of our customers.

We intend to strengthen direct relationships with customers, listening to their needs and preferences to guide our innovations, thus bringing to the market a design that truly meets the needs of our clients. This approach will guide us in exploring new frontiers of design and customization, always keeping pace with market expectations and consumer changes in Meda and around the world.”


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