LONDON — Jewelry house Links of London, known for its cuff links and charm bracelets, is shaking up its image and setting its sights on international expansion.
Following the acquisition of the brand by the Greek fashion jewelry company Folli Follie for 45 million pounds, or $84 million, in 2006, Links' founders John Ayton and Annoushka Ducas left the 18-year-old company last year. Ducas had served as creative director, while Ayton was the company's chairman.
Since then, Andrew Marshall, a veteran of Gucci Group and Montblanc, has been appointed as the company's managing director. Marshall now plans to make the London-based firm an international brand.
"The brand is very U.K.-centric [and] Britishness is in our DNA, but I want it to be a truly global company," said Marshall.
As part of this vision, the brand will open two flagships in Japan this year, with further store openings in China scheduled for 2009. Marshall said he is now scouting for opportunities for a U.S. flagship in New York or Los Angeles.
"North America offers a lot of potential," he said. "If an opportunity came up next year, I'd take it."
The firm, with annual sales of $100 million, has 60 stores worldwide, from New York and Hong Kong to Athens and Dubai.
"We want to double our turnover within three years," Marshall said.
His focus in the immediate future is on Japan, where the company's first 2,000-square-foot flagship is due to open in August, with a second store in Osaka planned for September.
"The Japanese market is very unforgiving," he said. "We want to get it right and concentrate on that first before China."
The brand's product line is getting a makeover, too. The brand has tapped jewelry designer Elizabeth Galton as its new creative director, and Galton said she plans to update the collections and add new product categories. She will also steer the collection to widen Links of London's appeal to a younger, more trend-aware audience.
"We have a very successful business at the moment and dedicated customers who come to us again and again," she said. "One of my first steps will be to extend this to a wider audience. Also, our customers are predominantly women who buy for themselves and for their husbands. I want to get more men coming in independently and shopping for themselves."Galton's first jewelry collection for the brand will be unveiled for next spring and the designer said she plans to experiment with new materials.
"I'm looking for something that will make a statement for the brand," she said, adding Links' previous women's jewelry lines "have looked a bit like a sea of silver."
Galton said she wants to introduce some new hues with semiprecious stones and rose gold designs.
In addition, Galton will develop a leather accessories collection to launch in fall 2009. Galton said she plans to develop a comprehensive accessories collection for men and women, with men's jewelry and watches that take their cues from fashion trends.
Marshall said the brand also plans to introduce more midpriced jewelry collections. Links of London's offering is priced from 100 pounds, or $196, for a sterling silver trinket, to 9,000 pounds, or $17,762, for a diamond necklace.
"We continue to be a leader in affordable luxury, but we want to increase the spectrum and fill in the gaps in the collection, with more pieces running from 300 to 900 pounds [$591 to $1,775]," said Marshall.
Reflecting the changes in the jewelry collections, the brand's existing stores are due for an update, Galton said, and will be revamped with exposed brick walls, art installation-style window displays and purple carpets. The new look will be applied to all the brand's new stores.