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Going back to my roots

Updated: Jul 13, 2020

Francesca started at Alfred Dunhill in 2016 as Junior Mens Leather Goods Designer in London after working in Paris.

Change is a given

I got an offer from Dunhill and the basic idea was to move to London and start as a junior designer. Dunhill is a superb British brand, so getting to live in London whilst working for a brand with such a notorious English heritage was very exciting! During that time Dunhill was undergoing a big process of change, which was a challenge in of itself. I knew that it was part of the Richemont group which in some way made me feel more safe and secure within my job. This helped put the wind into my sails in the midst of the uncertainty of moving to a new city and what the company might bring.

Growing as a designer

I joined as junior designer for Mens Leather Goods in London. That was my first job where I was given responsibility as I was an assistant designer at my previous job. It was really cool, because from the start I had been given the freedom of working independently on the projects whilst still having the support of the senior designer and creative director. Dunhill really gives you space to experiment and to make your own mistakes in order to achieve greater successes. One year after working in London, Dunhill told us that Richemont was relocating the accessories team to Florence with the idea to create a real hub for accessories. So, this led to me receiving a promotional offer as designer in Florence, working alongside R&D and the manufacturers. It was again another big change for me. I had just gotten used to the London life and I hadn’t lived in Italy for 5 years. So finally, I was going back to my roots and jumped on the opportunity to move to Florence where I currently reside.

From A to Z

I’ve learnt everything! I think for me, moving to Florence was really a turning point in my career, because here you really work alongside artisans, tanneries and you gain a complete understanding of the accessories on a much deeper level. Especially at the beginning I felt like I was learning something new every day. I have been very lucky to get the opportunity to travel back and forth between Florence and the HQ in London, which has been an incredible push forward for my skills in terms of communicating ideas, because you have to be super effective. I love the fact that every designer in the team participates in the meetings with the creative director, where I get the chance to showcase my research and mood boards: this makes me feel valued. As a designer it’s quite unusual to even be in the same meeting as the creative director, let alone participate in a meaningful way, so this has been amazing for me. Dunhill’s philosophy is teamwork whilst having your own voice.

Learning from one another

Being a designer based in Florence really meant for the R&D team and I the opportunity to change the modus operandi. I wasn’t used to working side-by-side with the manufacturers, so we changed the process, the way we share ideas and work from the first step to the last leap. It was exciting and motivating, but also challenging since it is quite tough to learn how to work with people who think differently to you. You have to challenge one another to try new things and push each others’ boundaries in order to come together and create masterpieces.

Future me...

I can only see myself in design. I’ve always known that I wanted to become a fashion designer. I was so motivated to open the design door and happy I convinced my parents to trust me. Maybe I can see myself not only working with leather goods but expanding my areas of interests into jewelry. When you’re a creative it’s exciting to broaden your expertise into other fields too.

Becoming a full on grown-up

I became more of a complete professional. Richemont and the way it’s organised gave me the tools to be a complete 360 degree all-round creative person, alongside great teamwork and seeing the behind the scenes of the work needed for a single bag. In 2020 you can’t just be an accessories designer you have to immerse yourself into everything, being involved in every aspect. Moving to Florence made me realise my job is not only to design bags but also to take part in all the different levels.

My advice to an aspiring young designer

If you have a strong passion towards this field, you have to push your boundaries and don’t let anyone put you down. Focus on becoming the best in what you do, feed your creative needs and the rest will happen on its own.


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