SHANGHAI — It is becoming increasingly common in China for the country’s rich to look for safe places to invest their money, because despite the stunning economic prosperity here, people do not necessarily trust that the masses of wealth they have accumulated on the Mainland are secure.
This story first appeared in the March 26, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Van Cleef & Arpels is aware of that fact and is trying to capitalize on it.
In May, the French jeweler will open an exhibition at Shanghai’s Museum of Contemporary Art called “Timeless Beauty.” It will showcase 370 pieces of jewelry, watches and accessories to, in part, educate Chinese consumers about the brand’s legacy and to convey why, as a result, its jewelry is an investment that will not go down in value for years to come.
“They [Chinese] are looking for jewelry as a safe haven. Something they can hand over from generations,” said Van Cleef & Arpels’ worldwide chief executive officer and president Stanislas de Quercize, who was in town for a press conference to unveil the upcoming exhibition. “More than probably a lot of other places in the world.”
The jeweler is still relatively new to the Chinese market, which is another reason for having the exhibit.
Though Van Cleef opened its first store in Beijing in 2005 and now has eight locations in the country, including boutiques in Harbin, a city in the north; Hangzhou, which is outside of Shanghai, and Shenzhen, a coastal city in the south, it is clear that the brand is not that well known in China.
“It is a market that is basically unbranded,” de Quercize said. “So basically 90 percent [of Chinese consumers] are buying jewelry with no name, which is not the best choice. It is a mistake. We need to explain the value of provenance, creativity; reassure that this comes from the Maison. That is what we have to do, and for that, this is the land of opportunity.”
There are plans to open more stores in China, possibly even one of Van Cleef’s signature Maison flagships, in the future. However de Quercize said Van Cleef is not in any hurry to open a set number of boutiques on the Mainland: “We are not committing to numbers because we want to find the best location,” he said. “We are after quality.”
The executive said the brand is also considering opening a jewelry school in China similar to L’Ecole Van Cleef & Arpels, which was launched earlier this year at Place Vendôme in Paris and offers classes on the art of jewelry making.
“People here are very demanding,” de Quercize said. “The Chinese have a very good eye for designs, stones, quality and craftsmanship. They are really focused on the best, and they are interested in long-term value because they are always interested in the ability to transmit to another generation. Van Cleef is a perfect match because that is what we stand for.”