PARIS — In a sign of its reinvention under new owner LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, Tiffany & Co. is opening its creative team to young people from underprivileged backgrounds.
Ruba Abu-Nimah, executive creative director at the U.S. jeweler, unveiled the initiative at the Hyères International Festival of Fashion and Photography during a panel attended by the members of the fashion jury assembled by Louise Trotter, creative director of Lacoste, for the 36th edition of the annual festival held in the south of France.
Trotter was flanked by Abu-Nimah; upcycled sneaker designer Helen Kirkum; artist William Farr, known for his floral installations; stylist Suzanne Koller, and Alfredo Canducci, founder of incubator System Preferences.
Discussing the importance of community, Abu-Nimah said it was important to open the creative process to people outside the luxury industry.
“Actually, it matters very, very much. In fact, at the end of this month, we have a number of people — young kids — joining the creative department who have never set foot in a corporation in their lives. They have never worked in a creative department; they’ve never worked in an office,” she said.
“They’ve done retail jobs, they’ve skateboarded, I don’t even know what they’ve done. But there are three of them joining at the end of this month. And they have no knowledge of the structure of a corporation, they have no skills inside a corporation or in a creative team.
“And I have tasked the senior creatives in my team to mentor them and to teach them. So what we are doing at Tiffany & Co. as of this month is we are going to develop people — and they all come from neighborhoods and areas in New York that are underprivileged.
“So, for me, I feel like I’m in a position of great privilege. And it is my duty to bring forth the community and give them opportunities that they would never, ever, ever have access to. One kid is from the Bronx and he said, ‘I never imagined in my life that I would set foot in LVMH,’” she explained.
The approach is virtually unheard of in the highly codified world of high jewelry, where creative directors tend to be white and European.
Abu-Nimah did not specify whether the positions were internships or full-time jobs. She joined Tiffany in March from Revlon, where she served as senior vice president, creative director, and reports directly to Tiffany executive vice president of product and communications Alexandre Arnault.
A seasoned creative, Abu-Nimah also worked in high-ranking roles at Elle magazine, Bobbi Brown and Shiseido. Last summer, she began a collaborative project with Phillip Lim on merchandise benefiting different social causes, including the deadly explosion in Beirut in August 2020.
Though it is understood her role at Tiffany focuses more on creative vision than product development, the executive said creative direction all begins with craft.
“It takes a long time to become a creative director, and the only way to become a good creative director is to develop a craft, and to also understand other people’s craft. So what I do in my job is I actually bring experts in their field together,” she said.
“So I have a brief and I have a specific goal in mind, and then I’m required to fulfill that goal. My job as a creative director is to understand how to put the people together to make that happen,” Abu-Nimah added.
Speaking after LVMH published third-quarter results on Oct. 12, chief financial officer Jean-Jacques Guiony said the French luxury conglomerate, which finalized the acquisition of Tiffany in January for a record $15.8 billion, wants the brand to have a broader appeal to a larger scope of clients.
“It is exactly what we are implementing from a marketing viewpoint but also from a product viewpoint,” he said. “Obviously, our aim is to develop our business with young people, but we don’t have particular quantitative goals in that respect.”
The most visible change has been in the brand’s communications strategy, with a controversial guerrilla-style campaign with the slogan “Not Your Mother’s Tiffany” launched in July, and a high-profile advertising push featuring Beyoncé and Jay-Z unveiled in August.