NEW YORK — John Hardy has opened its first U.S. flagship, a three-level, 3,600-square-foot store at 118 Prince Street here.
The unit heralds the brand’s ongoing transformation, which includes moving from an opening-price-point silversmith to a bona-fide jeweler with pieces in gold and semiprecious stones; hiring a creative director; leveraging the company’s archives; targeting new customers, including Millennials, and planning to open 10 to 15 stores in key U.S. cities over the coming years.
A John Hardy store opened in September in the River Oaks section of Houston.
With its exotic back-story set in Bali, the brand has always been a bit of an anomaly. John Hardy, a Canadian adventurer, founded the business 40 years ago, establishing an “artisan collective with jewelers trained by the royal courts of Bali,” said Robert Hanson, chief executive officer. “We still have a workshop there, which is where all our designers are located.”
Hardy has long since retired from the company, which in 2014 was acquired by the private equity firm L Catterton.
John Hardy, the business, is trying to find a happy medium between Bali, the island where the brand’s namesake started it all and where production remains, and the desire to expand and modernize.
“The boutique opening is part of our larger brand transformation,” Hanson said. “The key to any great brand is great product. We’ve been editing and modernizing our core Bamboo collection,” which includes a hinged bangle in 18-karat gold with diamonds, $25,000 to $27,000, and Legends, which features the Cobra necklace in 18-karat gold with diamonds, $32,000, and Macan Double Head Kick cuff in 18-karat gold with diamonds, $32,000.
Cinta, a precious jewelry collection, features one-of-a-kind pieces. “It was conceived by John Hardy and his wife Cynthia,” Hanson said. “Cinta means love.” It was previously sold at creative director events and trade shows and is now sold at the Manhattan and Houston stores.”
The company introduced the Modern Chain line, the first new core collection in several years. “When I joined the company, we were challenged to articulate an edited and elevated modern brand strategy,” Hanson said. “One product in the archives hadn’t been leveraged and that was the inspiration for the modern chain.” The company spent 18 months studying how to introduce a new chain collection for men, then launched a link version for women.
“The company’s classic chain is about the weaving together of village communities in Bali,” Hanson said. “The modern chain is based on the same principle, but articulated in a more modern way. We just introduced it and it’s doing extremely well. It marks the first material step forward for John Hardy.”
At its Ubud workshop 20 minutes outside Bali’s creative hub, artisans use an eight-step jewelry-making process that includes sketching the piece and painting it with watercolors, using wax to create a mold and hand-hammering metals.
“One thing we’re trying to do is bring the essence of the brand to SoHo in an authentic way,” Hanson said. “We want our clients to experience something reminiscent of the process in Bali.”
The first is an artisan-in-residence series that will run from Dec. 10 to 23 featuring an exhibit on Hardy’s unique process. Three John Hardy master artisans will be in residence during this time, demonstrating crafts that are key to the process and unique to the brand.
Design Republic, working with the Hardy team, designed the SoHo store without behind-the-counter selling. Rather, it features a center island and series of peninsulas. The brand’s chain-weaving technique, which is used for jewelry, is etched into the floor-to-ceiling mirrors and plaster walls. Wood carvings throughout the space provide depictions of the jewelry-making technique. “There are root sculptures from Bali and a canopy where we hung root sculptures from a chandelier,” Hanson said. “We used teak wood for furniture and turned the roots into sculptures.
“We wanted to reflect warmth and hospitality and provide a sensory experience,” the ceo said, noting that sales associates wear modern Asian hospitality uniforms and offer Balinese beverages from a ceramic tea service. Lighting changes from morning to high afternoon to evening and the scent of tuberose wafts through the air. Natural sounds from the island of Bali can be heard.
Hollie Bonneville Barden, the recently appointed creative director who was previously head designer at De Beers Diamond Jewellers, is focused on continuing to modernize and elevate the jewelry. Her first full collection will be for fall 2017. “She’s really a modern muse for the brand,” Hanson said. “She studied the techniques and mechanics of John Hardy. She’ll continue the elevation of the core collection. We’re fairly famous for the naga legend, dragon figuratives. Holly’s giving it a rebirth. She’s focusing on making better progress for silver, gold and semiprecious stones and moving away from being an opening price point silversmith to becoming a jeweler. She’ll also be working a brand new collection that will be her expression.”
Hanson said Bonneville Barden will be based in New York, but will travel 40 to 50 percent of her time each year in Bali, where the open-air design workshops host visiting clients. “We take them through our archives, give them a tour of the jewelry making process, how wax is carved and chains are woven. We have lunch at a long table in the workshop.” A boutique on-site is called The Kapal Bambu. “We get from 15 to 20 clients a day,” Hanson said. “Clients who are aware of John Hardy and its origins come to visit.”
“We’d like to more than double the client base of brand over four years,” he added. “We’ll have the same psychographic profile, but will skew to a new generation, including Millennials. We believe it’s the right time to be opening flagships. Our jewelry is so unique we need a platform to share it.”
Hanson said there’s an opportunity to elevate the brand and build a wholesale business. At the same time, he envisions opening more stores in key cities such as Los Angeles, Miami, Dallas “and other large important markets for us.”
Besides opening flagships, Hanson wants to upgrade shop-in-shops at wholesale accounts by bringing a more elevated and modern aesthetic to the table. So far, John Hardy is a little over two years into its acquisition by L Catterton, which typically holds properties for four to six years. “We’re focused on gaining market share to help L Catterton do what it intends to do,” Hanson said.