“American luxury is more inclusive by opposition of being exclusive.”
That was the opinion of Frederic Cumenal, chief executive officer of Tiffany & Co. Cumenal, a Frenchman heading up an American firm, was the lunchtime keynote speaker Thursday at the French-American Luxury Symposium on “Innovation and Tradition: A Paradox Rich in Opportunity.” The event was held in Manhattan at the Sofitel New York.
Cumenal, who noted that Hermès and Tiffany were started in the same year — 1837 — said the European luxury brands were built on the idea of exclusivity.
Today, the overall definition of luxury is shifting and being reset by consumers. “All of us are consumers of Amazon,” the ceo said, noting that concepts like same-day delivery is having an impact on luxury and service.
Luxury brands have to take into account how to provide service to its customers so they have a better experience with the brand. “Every touch point is essential,” Cumenal said, adding “Always give the best of yourself at every touch point.”
The ceo also discussed innovation against the backdrop of technology.
For Tiffany, heritage is important and has its roots in innovation on the creative front. As important as technology can be, constant tweets and information overload can mean that “finding respite in objects of beauty can become even more meaningful…Sometimes what matters most is not what changes, but what doesn’t,” he said.
While Cumenal touched upon sustainability as the concept applies to the environment, he also discussed sustainability from the artistic viewpoint, and how it is about supporting the “next generation of great artists.” That point is important to Tiffany because it is key to its innovation in creating beautiful objects, whether a timepiece or a piece of jewelry.
“Great art will always hold great value for all mankind,” Cumenal told the attendees.
He showed a visual of Steve Jobs in thought in a semi-dark room, with light coming from a Tiffany lamp. Cumenal said Apple’s “genius is not in computer science, but in creative design.” He used that thought to compare how Tiffany is similar, where the firm’s “niche is artisanship. The six-prong Tiffany [diamond] setting hasn’t needed an upgrade in improvement in 130 years.”
The ceo, who said Tiffany soon will be opening its first-ever store in New Zealand, said, “Innovation doesn’t always come with a cord and a microchip inside.”
In his opinion, the point of innovation is to make people’s lives better.
“There is one thing technology can learn from all of us — we create beauty for an inspired life,” Cumenal said.