New York Times

Sakis Lala

Not everyone is pessimistic about Italy’s future. Emanuele Bertoli, the owner of a company that makes mother-of-pearl buttons for clothing designers like Giorgio Armani and Stefano Ricci, has thrived by putting most of his production in Vietnam and China, near the hatcheries for his pearls.

Back home, where he keeps a design studio, Mr. Bertoli, 38, said he was inspired by the sun-dappled landscape east of Milan — a region known as button valley for its many local button makers. “You are surrounded by beauty in this country,” he said. “It permeates you.”

Capturing this beauty, he said, and selling it to the rest of the world — whether in the form of Ferragamo shoes or Fiat cars — is how Italy can reclaim its export franchise and revive its economy.

© photographer Sakis Lalas for The New York Times

Emanuele Bertoli’s button plants in Vietnam and China are thriving.