PARIS — Jewelry houses have been broadcasting the need to better serve women buying for themselves — but what about men buying high jewelry pieces to wear themselves?
With its expansive Art Deco-flavored high jewelry collection, revealed this week, Boucheron addresses the question, and offers some answers with a campaign that makes a compelling case for pushing high jewelry into gender-neutral territory.
“My convictions are deep — I don’t understand why the maharajah, the kings of France — they all wore jewelry but with the arrival of the bourgeoisie, men were no longer allowed to wear it. What’s that all about?” asked Hélène Poulit-Duquesne, chief executive officer of Boucheron.
The Plastron Émeraudes necklace, with more than 1,000 carats of Zambian emerald beads, was drawn up with such eras in mind — times when powerful men wore high jewelry as a symbol of their positions.
Inspired by jewelry the historic Place Vendôme house had drawn up for the Maharaja of Patiala, the necklace is a central piece of the collection, which is called “A History of Style, Art Deco.”
Boucheron creative director Claire Choisne cast her eye on the archives, drawing from that rich period, to create updated pieces for today’s consumer.
The house custom is to focus on archives for the first collection of the year, while the second one, released in July, concentrates on innovation — drawing up new materials and methods.
“I dug around in the archives — they’re rich when it comes to the Art Deco period; there’s almost too much,” Choisne enthused.
The collection captures the glamour of that period, the extravagance of the pieces tempered by clean lines, delineated with mostly black and white and a touch of color, primarily emeralds. The photo campaign was shot at the art deco specialist Galerie Marcilhac, where models posed on a René Drouet sofa.
Built around an 8.02 carat emerald, the Cravate Émeraude necklace is worn like a tie, with an elaborate geometric pattern in onyx and black lacquer, worked around the center stone. The center can be detached and worn as a brooch. Recalling flapper style, the house also offered a white gold ribbon set in baguette diamonds forming a chevron pattern — to be worn as a belt with a tuxedo, a headband or two bracelets. Bow-shaped pieces were streamlined for a genderless look, especially attractive as a wide ring with a 1.5 carat diamond at the center.
The company invested more in stones for this collection than any other during her time at the house, noted Poulit-Duquesne.
The executive anticipates a surge in consumption when the coronavirus pandemic clears up, pointing to the number of reserved pieces that haven’t been collected by clients, who are grounded from traveling.
“When COVID-19 is over, high jewelry will take off — figures will double from one day to the next,” she predicted.
Unlike many other luxury jewelry houses, Boucheron last year did not skip a beat when it came to launching its collection. But clients couldn’t come to see the jewelry, so the house sent it to them.
“It was the first time our high jewelry collection made a big tour of Asia,” said Poulit-Duquesne, ticking off the list of destinations, which included Tiawan, Beijing, Shanghai, Tokyo and Hong Kong.
“The crisis has forced us to leave our comfort zone and do things differently,” she added.
The house has launched remote selling services, click and collect, and a chatbot on the website that directs clients to staff in stores — including the boutique in Cannes, France. The store, which saw traffic dry up as tourism ground to a halt, has now enjoyed a 200 percent increase in sale.
Boucheron also drew up a remote selling service for high jewelry — in a tight, 20-minute session — and the Vendôme flagship has the capacity to serve three different clients at once.
“I didn’t realize how technical it would be,” noted Poulit-Duquesne, drawing a parallel with television studios.
But even for internal meetings, the investment is worth it, she added, stressing the importance of the quality of image, especially for luxury brands.
Offering evidence of the lasting effect of change brought on by the current disruptions, Boucheron executives expect to maintain these selling services in the long term, as part of a multi-channel retail offer.
The brand opened its fourth store in mainland China last summer, at the SKP mall in Beijing, drawing on the architecture and service of its Place Vendôme flagship. It includes a tea salon fashioned after the winter garden space on Place Vendôme, highlighting French art de vivre, serving tea and pastries.