As Boucheron launches its new High Jewellery collection “Contemplation” A&E talks to CEO Helene Poulit-Duquesne.
While much of the world is still in lockdown due to coronavirus, French Jewellery Maison Boucheron is allowing women to dream with the recent unveiling of its latest High Jewellery collection; Contemplation. This exquisite offering is inspired by the sky and the magic that it brings.
Hélène Poulit-Duquesne joined Boucheron as CEO in 2015. She had the vision to continue to push the boundaries in high jewellery making and bring innovation to the brand something we have seen in particular with this new collection. She was tasked with pursuing the growth of the jeweller on an international scale and strengthening its position among the most prestigious jewellers in the world.
For the past three months, Poulit-Duquesne has been in lockdown in her house in France, but she has learnt to adapt due to the global crisis, allowing the company to move forward with the High Jewellery launch via digital methods.
A&E Editor in Chief Lara Mansour Sawaya spoke with Hélène Poulit-Duquesne from her home in France to discover more about the high jewellery offering and what Boucheron is doing as a brand to move forward after these testing times.
What is a life lesson you have learnt from this difficult period?
I think the most important thing for me is to take half a day per week to brainstorm on what will change with COVID-19 and think about the future. This is something I have tried to do with my team throughout this time. One thing we have noticed is that the lockdown has pushed us to think about the reality of life and most importantly human feelings. Taking care of our family and friends have become key and we have become much more centred on caring for others. At the beginning of the lockdown, my priority was to take care of my employees. I think this time has put the human touch at the centre of our strategy and for me, this is super positive.
We have discussed a lot about how Boucheron is different from other brands on the market and one thing that we all agreed is that we are genuinely sincere and that we’re very human-centric. We said to ourselves maybe we don’t share this enough. So at the beginning of the lockdown, I got in touch with our closest clients to ensure that they were safe and find out how they were spending their time in lockdown, not for any commercial reason but because we really care and I think this is something that is special for the brand.
What is your vision and direction for Boucheron moving forward after this time?
In terms of business, I think the crisis has accelerated trends that already existed but they have now become top of the agenda. The first thing that has been accelerated in terms of business is digital. At Boucheron, we have been super agile. We managed to invent a new way of launching the High Jewellery collection and we have changed things from the way we were doing them before and I love that, it’s super exciting. We know how to sell online now and I think in the future it will be about “phygital” – meaning that we will always mix the digital and physical experience. My theory is that the digital world won’t replace the physical experience. I think on the contrary, that it will increase the importance of physical.
What can you tell us about the inspiration behind the High Jewellery “Contemplation” collection and the pillar pieces of the collection?
We actually decided on the theme of Contemplation three years ago. But now it is launching just after the lockdown and it’s really telling a story about what we have all been going through. So it’s super lucky that we are talking about this collection now.
I love innovation and my brief to Claire when I joined the company was that I want Boucheron to push the boundaries in High Jewellery. So I told her to be free in the way she creates and I will support that. When she showed me the first sketches I fell in love with Aerogel and the way it is capturing a piece of sky. It is very poetic. The second piece I loved is Nuage En Apesanteur – a cloud of diamonds around the neck. I was so excited to see the final piece and I truly believe that when it comes to that point, High Jewellery belongs to decorative arts. I think that Claire is mixing decorative arts with contemporary art and this kind of object is even more than a jewel, it is something that should be seen in a museum. I’m very proud of the collection and the team has been working incredibly hard on it.
What challenges do you face today in the High Jewellery industry?
The biggest challenge at the moment in our industry is to sell to the clients when they cannot travel. Even if we are selling digitally when customers are buying very high-end pieces they want to touch and feel the jewellery. One thing we have decided to do is that for the first year, the collection is going to travel. So if the client cannot come to us we need to go to them. The collection is leaving Paris in mid-August. It’s going to Taiwan, China, Japan and so on. We are opening a very big flagship store in Beijing so we really wanted to collection to be there.
How are you keeping close to your clients when most of them cannot travel?
I think it’s even easier because we want to keep in touch with our best clients and to share our news with them. So with the clients that we know well, we are becoming even closer to them. We are calling them every so often to get their news and I have been really worried about clients in the US or the Middle East because of the situation so we want to keep in touch with them. For the rest that we may not know as well, we can only keep in touch with them through our digital communication and we are doing a lot of CRM as well.
In your opinion what sets Boucheron apart from other brands and what makes an object of desire?
I think that to make an object of desire for a Maison like us, you must respect the past, but push the boundaries. Boucheron has always been a super innovative brand and I think we must continue to innovate today. If we want to respect the legacy of Frédéric Boucheron, we need to continue to innovate to achieve his dream. Innovate in terms of technique and aesthetic and also have a human approach. I think if we push on these three pillars then we know that we are creating a Boucheron product.
Which part of Boucheron’s legacy is a period that has a sentimental impact on you or has impressed you the most?
There are so many. This coming January we are launching a collection inspired by Art Deco. Boucheron has been manufacturing extraordinary Art Deco pieces for many years but I don’t think it is well known enough. So that’s which I want to bring this into the forefront again with this collection. Art Deco at Boucheron is very strong but we have always been more famous for our Art Nouveaux collections – particularly related to nature so it will be good to shine a light on this.
What is it that you haven’t achieved at Boucheron that you would still like to achieve?
China is the first priority of our plan. It is super important for the luxury world and if we succeed in China then I would expect that everything will be different. If we succeed in China we will have investment for everywhere else in the world and we will really fly.
How would you assess Boucheron and the Middle East?
I think that the Middle East is probably the region that I am most proud of because I truly believe that we have the right image there. It is exactly the same as the image we have in France and this is not the case for all areas around the world. In other regions, we are still working on our image, but I think Middle Eastern people really understand who we are. A top-end high jewellery brand and an exquisite company. I would love really that the image that we have in the Middle East could be the same in all countries in the world. That’s why when entering China we must have a full offering so they can understand who we really are.
If you had to choose between elegance and extravagance when it comes to your own taste in jewellery which direction would be the one you would favour more?
I think on a personal level I’m not extravagant so I would probably go for elegance but I always have a twist of extravagance in the way I wear things. When I was very young I decided I would wear two watches. I don’t know why, but I always used to do it. So in a way, the way I used to wear the watches was extravagant but the watches weren’t extravagant in themselves.
What would be a message you would like to send to your Middle Eastern fans and clients?
I would like to thank them for being themselves and understanding so well who we are and what we want to be.
If you had to highlight something that you think has been done wrong in the industry in the ways that brands are communicating what would it be?
Something that’s not right is that many high jewellery Maisons consider that they have to be distant and I don’t understand why I think it’s historical. So when a customer goes to Place Vendome they feel frightened or stressed and I don’t understand why you would need to make your clients afraid to ensure you have the right level of image. This is not the right thing to do. That’s why I always want us to be so close to our clients – we are client-centric and woman-centric, we want our clients to be part of our lives, we are generous, we are close to people, we are open. We want anyone to come into our store for a cup of coffee. You don’t have to be distant or too exclusive to have an attraction.
Will you be taking a vacation soon and if there was somewhere you would visit where would it be?
I have to stay in France because of the lockdown but I will be going on vacation in August and then I’ll come back to my house in the countryside where I have been locked down for three months. Before COVID-19 I used to travel a lot and I miss many countries. Just this morning I was talking with Japanese people saying I miss Japan, I miss China, I miss the Middle East. There are so many countries that I love so I can’t chose one specifically.
If you had three wishes, what would you wish for?
Peace on Earth would be the priority. What I wish for myself is peace for the rest of my life and a lot of fun!
What is the motto that you are living by this year?
Since the lockdown started I have begun every meeting with my team saying “never spoil a good crisis”. You have to stay positive.
What is your favourite piece from the Contemplation High Jewellery collection?
Nuage En Apesanteur. It’s not just a High Jewellery piece it’s an object.
Who would you like to see wearing this piece?
A princess or a Queen. I would love that.
Who is the Boucheron woman today?
Someone who likes to be free and a strong woman who knows what she wants. She doesn’t need others to be sure of herself or what she’s doing.
How would you describe Boucheron in one word?