The Robb Reader: Pier Luigi Loro Piana
A conversation with the luxury textile manufacturer and yachtsman.
In early June, 21 yachts over 80 feet in length gathered at Porto Cervo on the coast of Sardinia to vie for victory in the Loro Piana Superyacht Regatta. Among this year’s participants was My Song, the 83-foot sailboat belonging to Pier Luigi Loro Piana, whose family founded the Italian textile manufacturer and clothier that sponsors the race. Loro Piana and his late brother, Sergio, who have been responsible for numerous technical innovations in the field of fabrics, expanded their brand’s retail business before selling 80 percent of the company to LVMH in July 2013 for $2.57 billion. Though he currently serves as a deputy chairman of the company, Loro Piana always makes time for his love of the sea, which he indulges during the competition and, afterward, on his family’s annual summer cruise among the ports of the Mediterranean.
How did the regatta come about?
I wanted to create a kind of club of people who have the same interest. Personally I like any kind of sailing. But for very big boats, there were no regattas. And so we started to sponsor the Superyacht Regatta [in 2008], and it was quite successful. In March, we also held a race at Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands, so the event is building up. I like the association between Loro Piana and sailing: It’s beautiful and elegant, but at the same time, it’s very technological, very environmentally friendly.
The environment is important to you.
I think every individual can do something for the environment. If you manage a company in industry, you must do what you can to keep the environment clean. You have a moral obligation to do it beyond complying with the law. This is one of the reasons we prefer natural fibers and try to adapt them to the new needs of consumers. We were very happy when we discovered [the Storm System fabric], which makes a lightweight wool or cashmere jacket waterproof, windproof, and warm—all of the advantages that used to be available only with man-made, synthetic fibers.
What was your first experience of quality?
The day that I first got the feeling of something
really superior was the first time I touched a vicuña, whose wool my father was using in the 1960s. To feel the difference was really amazing. I said, “Oh, wow, this is fantastic.”
You have taken measures to protect the vicuña populations in Peru.
We bought a reserve of 2,000 acres in Peru to see how we could improve the breeding of the vicuñas. In just four years, our vicuñas doubled in number. So I’m very optimistic that, in maybe 10 or 15 years, the vicuña [population] in South America can go back to what it was in the Middle Ages—one and a half million or even two million animals. When the Peruvian authorities started the repopulation program, they found 5,000 animals; now we are around 200,000.
What else do you do for the environment?
I own an electric car, a Tesla, which has made me start driving myself again. It looks like a simple sedan with a nice shape, but it has the acceleration of a Porsche. I also have a Smart car and another electrical car with four seats in the country.
Do you collect cars?
I’m not a collector, but I am a romantic. I don’t like to sell my old cars. So I have a Maggiolino—a Beetle. And I have a 1963 Cadillac convertible in New York. It’s banana colored with red upholstery inside. It was like buying a piece of America.
What is your prescription for living well?
You have to have a mission, and you have to have your health. Also, you have to enjoy the moment without always thinking, “What if I would have done this ... ?” If you are always living in the future, you can build something bigger and bigger, but for what? When the moment passes, it’s the past.