F.I.L.A. Portrait of a great Italian group worldwide.
The origins of F.I.L.A. Fabbrica Italiana Lapis ed Affini date back to 1920. In almost a century of history, a combination of real innovation coupled with a passion for creativity and commitment have given birth to one of the leading world groups dedicated to creative expression, with a broad range of brands and thousands of products on the markets of every continent.
F.I.L.A. Fabbrica Italiana Lapis ed Affini came into existence in Florence; it was the radicle initiative of two noblemen, descendants of the Antinori and the Gherardesca families, who wanted to create an Italian industrial alternative in the writing and drawing sector, against a market was monopolized at that time by the Germans manufacturing. The choice of the lily that Severo Pozzati – known professionally as Sebo – was commissioned to stylize was justified on two counts: it was, and had always been, the symbol of Florence, but it was also the emblem and the link between art and history.
In all its decisions, the proprietors always showed their preferences for symbols and typical references to the Renaissance and Italian art history. From the historic term Lapis, so beloved of Leonardo da Vinci, in the company acronym, to the birth of the first brand dedicated to colour and creative expression – the Giotto range, synonymous with immortal art, which would, in just a few years, contribute to liberating the creative expression of Italians in schools and in daily life.
In 1956, a group of employees headed by Renato Candela took over the company and began to transform it into a production firm with a solid base in Italy. This enterprising and pioneering growth strategy based on innovation in technologies, products and tools, led F.I.L.A. progressively to conquer leading positions on the market.
In 1959, the company chose Milan as the headquarters for its business and then started producing the Lyretta ball-point pen, in collaboration with the German conglomerate, Lyra.
The new management focused on marketing and promoted the products through techniques and materials that were innovative for the times. Some examples of these were: the paper displays for shop windows and the very first counter display cases. Promotional items such as the series of bookmarks that became cult objects and highly collectable. Sponsoring events devoted to art and the creative expression of children, young people and adults, with competitions and educational exhibitions.
Alberto Candela succeeded his father Renato.
Under his leadership the company started up a production path that concentrated on new products, images and styles: this saw the birth of Giotto Fibra, a forerunner of coloured felt-tip pens and the Tiziano range, devoted to professional and amateur artists.
In the early 1970s F.I.L.A. also began to produce cosmetic pencil-leads and pencils at the Florence factory (production was subsequently moved to a new factory in Limbiate).
Tratto-Pen, the “writing felt-tip” came into being. Previewed at the Milan “Chibi Cart” trade fair, it was so successful that in 1979 it was awarded the prestigious Compasso d’Oro prize which celebrated its originality and the innovative functionality of the design, a quality that would also guarantee it a place in the New York MoMA.
The innovation policy continued and F.I.L.A. introduced onto the market roller-balls, highlighters, correctors, propelling pencils and the new Giotto Turbo felt tips, to open up new markets and acquire the leading position in the sector of creative expression.
Massimo Candela, Alberto’s son, succeeded his father and became Managing Director. His ideas were clear: the future required them to go beyond the borders of Italy and Europe and so the Group focused on internationalizing, starting from strong development and a new policy of strategic acquisitions.
Colour and innovation continued to be keywords in their industrial policy: any individual could always count on crayons, pens and felt-tips to express their own ideas and their own talent.
1994. The acquisitions.
In 1994, F.I.L.A. acquired Adica Pongo, the historic leading company in the sector of modelling pastes with the brand-names Didò, Pongo and Das. The growth and diversification process continued into 2000 with the acquisition of the French firm Omyacolor, one of the main companies producing chalks and a major French company in the area of products for drawing, colouring and modelling.
During the same year, Compania de Lapices y Afines Ltda. (the current F.I.L.A. Chile Ltda), a Chilean company specializing in the production of drawing items, was set up.
A summary of the more recent years is contained in a few statements made by CEO Massimo Candela.
“We are an Italian brand full of Italian talents”, he declared in a recent interview, “but thinking one can create wealth by producing and selling in Italy alone is an illusion”. And his project for internationalizing the company is taking shape with the opening of new markets, with direct sales subsidiaries, production sites and the acquisition of businesses with brand names that are already leaders on the markets in which F.I.L.A. is intent on operating. The philosophy behind the expansion process is again to be found in the words of Candela himself, who states: ”We prefer to buy other strong local brands to which we can apply our philosophy and our production standardization. We are positive that people will go on drawing and painting even as the digital era evolves”.
Pursuing a great initiative for growth and expansion.
2002: F.I.L.A. acquires the Spanish firm Papeleria Mediterranea SL., formerly its exclusive distributor, since 1997, for the area of Spain.
2004: with Giotto be-bè, it launches the range dedicated to very young children.
2005: it acquires the US group Dixon Ticonderoga, also present in Canada, China and Mexico, as well as the owner of the historic Ticonderoga brand, the market leader in the sector of graphite pencils for writing and drawing.
2008: the German firm Lyra, one of the main manufacturers of pencils, instruments and accessories for drawing in Germany, becomes part of F.I.L.A. The acquisition of Lyra, a company founded in Nuremberg in 1806, along with its subsidiaries, enables the F.I.L.A. Group’s geographical penetration to increase with entry into the markets of Germany, Scandinavia and South-east Asia.
2010-2011: it acquires Lapicera Mexicana, one of the major players on the Mexican domestic market with regard to coloured crayons and graphite pencils, the Brazilian Lycin, founded in 1988 in Saõ Paulo and dealing with the production and marketing of products for modelling and painting. In India, a minority share in the Indian company Writefine Products Private Limited (2011), a leader in the development, production and distribution of high-quality products for school stationery, as well as the owner of the Doms brand.
Also in 2011, the Turkey subsidiary was set up to expand the presence of F.I.L.A. Group brand-names on the local market.
F.I.L.A. becomes a fully-fledged multinational and, in 2012, Massimo Candela receives Ernst & Young’s “Entrepreneur of the Year” Award for the Consumer Products category.
2013-2014: branches are opened in Russia, Greece and South Africa, further contributing to the development and reinforcement of the Group’s commercial presence in new geographical areas.
Again in 2014, F.I.L.A. and Maimeri, the historic Italian company active since 1923 in the sector of production and sales of colours, paints and items and accessories for fine arts, set up Industria Maimeri. The joint venture marks a decisive step for the Group’s growth in the fine arts market and a further important stage in the “colour” strategy.
In 2015 the Polish branch is set up in Krakow.
In October, F.I.L.A. Group acquires a majority stake of India-based Writefine Products Private Limited, an organisation specialising in the production, marketing, distribution and sales of stationery and creativity tools for children, predominantly in the domestic Indian market.
2016: F.I.L.A. Group continues its international growth strategy by acquiring the historic British group Daler-Rowney Lukas, one of the leading world brands in the art & craft industry. With a direct presence in the UK, the Dominican Republic (production), Germany and the USA (distribution), Daler appeals to a broad consumer base and offers a perfectly complementary product range to that of F.I.L.A. The success of which is evident with Daler in the USA being the principal supplier of art products and supplies to Walmart since 2009.
In September 2016, F.I.L.A. acquires 100% of St Cuthberts Holding Limited and the operating company St Cuthberts Mill Limited. Prominent realities in paper mill, specialized in the production and sale of high quality drawing paper.
Moreover, in October 2016, F.I.L.A. continues in its growth strategy, pointing to international realities. It acquires French CANSON, the world’s most prestigious company in the production and distribution of high-value cards for the fine arts, school and leisure time. The Canson Group, founded in 1557 by the Montgolfier family, based in France in Annonay, owns a production facility in France and conversion and distribution sites in Italy, France, USA, China, Australia and Brazil.
F.I.L.A. firmly believes in the world of colour and individual creative expression. For this reason, in order to become the key international group in the sector, it aims to offer an ever wider and more innovative range of products and brands. Achieving this position through the strongest, most beneficial and long term positive partnerships with all of its stakeholders. From suppliers to employees, and from distributors to the end customer, because they are all fundamental to its development.
Day by day, to turn its vision into a solid reality. F.I.L.A. will direct its focus to developing sustainable long term solutions for production, distribution and sales for its growing family of Brands. Achieving these aims will give each and every one of us the opportunity and pleasure of expressing ourselves creatively at any time in our lives. F.I.L.A. will ensure the quality, safety, ease of use and ready availability for all of its products.
Creating and sharing value for children on all continents.
Ever since 1920, the prime aim of F.I.L.A. Fabbrica Italiana Lapis ed Affini has consisted in offering children and young people the best tools to express their creativity, and guaranteeing parents and teachers excellent, safe products. They are the first company “shareholders” and stakeholders and so are the institutes and organizations that work for the well-being and the growth “in colour” of the younger generations. This is why, for several years now, F.I.L.A. and the companies in the Group have been expressing their social commitment by collaborating with the Institutions and alongside operators, and supporting educational and cultural projects
that share the common objective of promoting creativity and the expressive capacity of individuals and making culture an opportunity that can be accessed by everyone.
F.I.L.A. is likewise convinced that each country in which it operates must have the chance to contribute to the innovation and common growth through its own heritage and its own “diversities”: in the process of acquiring the companies that today make up the Group and represent it on all continents, protecting multiculturalism – respecting people and local identities – represents a guiding value and an invaluable growth opportunity.
There are almost 5000 people directly employed in the Group, not counting the supply business generated for suppliers all over the globe by the 19 branches and 11 production sites. There are dozens of cultures and ethnic groups represented and in Lyra Germany alone, 40% of employees are from 14 different nationalities (Algeria, Brazil, Cameroon, France, Holland, Italy, Macedonia, Moldavia, Nigeria, Poland, Romania, Turkey, Tajikistan and United States). The Group’s policy towards the managing of human resources, anywhere in the world, tends to favour people’s internal growth, developing their professional abilities and stimulating their sense of belonging.
Actively participating in children’s and young people’s harmonic growth and artistic education is one of the mainstays of the Group’s mission, and it translates into the creation of schools programmes, teaching workshops, editorial projects for teachers and creativity competitions, in line with the culture and the special needs of the territory and in collaboration with expert educators and organizations. In some countries, the Group earmarks large quantities of product each year for foundations that safeguard the rights to education of disadvantaged children; one of these is the KINF – the Kids in Need Foundation – which reaches out to 4 million children a year in the United States. In Mexico, collaborations with non-profit organizations such as Sanando Heridas, Dibujando un Mañana and Fundacion Azteca have been in place for many years.
The growth of the F.I.L.A. Group, which increased from a turnover of 20 million Euro in 1993 to over 230 million in 2014, is based on three main levers: the acquisition of excellent brands with great traditions in the sector of instruments for writing, drawing, modelling and graphic arts; the opening of sales branches in markets with high potential; and product innovation.
On this last front, F.I.L.A. Italia alone can be credited with historic innovations, such as the invention in the early 1970s of the TrattoPen, winner of the Compasso d’Oro in 1979 and displayed in the New York MoMa, and revolutionary intuitions like Giotto be-bè, the first complete and safe range of colours dedicated to children from 2 years upwards – it was introduced in 2003 to develop creativity through play and colour and in no time at all it became a favourite of mums and nursery schools. And again, because of its strong innovative component, the Lyra Color Stripe range of crayons was honoured in 2009 with the prestigious ““Red Dot Best of the Best” award for design and Lyra Groove received the “Red Dot Honourable Mention” for its unique and unusual design details.
As well as complying with the numerous regulations in force concerning the environment, urban planning, safeguarding the territory and managing energy resources in all the countries it operates in, the F.I.L.A. Group voluntarily subscribes to some of the non-compulsory international standards, such as PEFC™ and FSC®, for the production and marketing of products created in wood, such as pencils and coloured crayons.
PEFC™ certification (Programme for Endorsement of Forest Certification Scheme™), is a programme for acknowledging national forest certification schemes that enables both the forest/plantation to be certified, according to internationally-recognized criteria of sustainable forest management, and also the finished product thanks to action on two levels: forest certification and certification of the chain of custody.
FSC® (Forest Stewardship Council®) certification is a guarantee for the consumer that the wood used in manufacturing pencils complies with high standards for safeguarding the environmental, social and economic characteristics of the forests, and certifies its production and distribution chain. In addition, for the past few years in the United States, the Group has been implementing the “Prang Power Recycling Program”, an innovative programme to recycle, free-of-charge, used plastic-based products – mainly felt-tip pens – in all schools subscribing to the initiative.
The presence of the F.I.L.A. Group’s brands, most often with the “Educational Partner” or “Official Colour” formula, is strong and rooted in the main sites and events that play an innovative and proactive role in the cultural fabric of the countries, with particular attention being given to children and young people. For many years now, in Italy, F.I.L.A. has been working alongside big international events like Giffoni Film Festival, the Mantua Festivaletteratura, Lucca Comics, the Venice Biennale, and with permanent institutions such as the Museo degli Innocenti and the MUSE in Florence and the MUBA – Museo del Bambino – in Milan.