Fabrizio Zonca inherited a retail business. He runs a relationships one. Perhaps that's an unusual way to think about lighting, but love at first sight never happened in a pitch-black room. "I don't work for money," he stresses. "I work for passion, and I prefer to work with people over selling lighting to a store. I hate ecommerce - I want to see my client's face."
That's understandable. Providing the world's leading hotels with glorious custom lighting, he makes sure people look their best.
That might be on the stairs of London's Hotel L'Oscar, where a seven-storey chandelier suspends Murano-glass birds of paradise in dawn chorus; under the cascading stars of the spa in Turin's Hotel Principi Di Piedmonte; or among the resinous fish and dolphins exploring the glowing coral of the Hotel Atlantis in Dubai.
"We aren't limited to one style," explains Zonca. "We are tailor-made producers; we follow owner and designer, and work with any kind of material."
Appropriately, the constant mantra at Zonca International is 'flexibility and passion'. It's an approach that has enabled designers as diverse and renowned as Jacques Garcia, Anouska Hempel, and Celeste Dell'Anna to create some of their most defining work and, correspondingly, some of the world's most beautiful hotel interiors. "What they want we will produce," shrugs Zonca. "Our technical officers are always at the disposal of the client and the designer.
"The designers come to me and I have my people produce lighting for them. When I have got a project, my people work for the client and for the designer," insists Zonca.
Indeed, architect Marco Piva comments that his "yearning for experimentation has always been supported by Fabrizio Zonca and his team" and that, "combined with the technical skills and high-quality standards that distinguish the company", this support has allowed him to create "iconic items that are disconnected from the fashions of the moment".
Beyond this, Piva believes his studio's collaborations with Zonca International are contributions to a "future that is more and more attentive to the quality of light, from a technical and emotional point of view".
Like his long-standing partners, Zonca is always attentive to the future. As he puts it, "My job is to understand what a client likes and loves so I can produce something that he will want forever."
Forever starts quickly. "Our clients always need something, whether it's replacing shades or fixing glass broken by their guests, so we are always with them," Zonca continues. This is more than your typical aftersales service, too. "When we work in a hotel," he ventures, "we don't see it as a client. It becomes something like our hotel."
In working so closely with hotels and designers, Zonca International makes lighting that unmistakably captures and contributes to each interior's atmosphere and identity. There can be no doubt about where a Zonca creation belongs, and the transfigurative magic that makes such specificity possible goes both ways.
"I am something like a leader in hotel projects' lighting because I see each hotel as my hotel," explains Zonca. "I feel I have to do as I would for my private home. I spend time as if it was my own, and I continue to care for hotels as if they were my own. That's passion. If you don't work with passion, forget it - do something else."
The pay-off for all that passionate effort is all in people's faces. "I love when we produce a wonderful light and I show the first prototype to a client," Zonca thrills.
"I get to see their reaction. Then maybe we change something, and we work until we achieve the best results possible and I can see the client is happy and the designer is happy. Then I'm happy."