NEW YORK — Repossi, the Monte Carlo-based jeweler to royal families and Hollywood stars, is ready to tap deeper into the American market. The luxury brand’s first U.S. store will open in September on Madison Avenue near 58th Street, and a wholesale strategy is in the works.
“The ladies of New York have everything and have seen everything,’’ said Alberto Repossi, president and owner of Repossi Joailliers, and grandson of G. Pietro Repossi, who founded the company in 1920. “But I want to stun them with unique jewels and designs.”
Repossi said that the store will open at 609 Madison Avenue, taking over the Ciribelli jewelry site, and that he would like to wholesale the collection to one major luxury chain and possibly 30 or so small independent jewelers around the U.S. He declined to specify any retailers, but Neiman Marcus or Saks Fifth Avenue would be logical choices. Private exhibitions at homes and hotels will be organized as well, he said.
Repossi has hired Giuseppe Scavetta as president of Repossi in the U.S. Scavetta, also from Monte Carlo, which is in Monaco, operates GS Distribution, which owns the Monte Carlo-based Ciribelli in the U.S. He hoped to grow Ciribelli, which sells beautiful jewels, but lacks an entire jewelry collection, making the brand difficult to build and promote. Its Madison Avenue business has been challenging, according to market reports. Repossi, on the other hand, offers jewels and collections, and a higher, more international profile. Scavetta also owns a language school in Monaco and a construction company in France.
Repossi already has clients in the U.S., many of whom receive personal attention from the owner himself, who serves as artistic manager. On occasion, Repossi will fly to America to create jewelry for the likes of Elizabeth Taylor, Barbara Sinatra or Demi Moore. Customization accounts for about one-third of Repossi’s business, though there is a wide offering, ranging from the spectacular 101-carat diamond from a maharajah that was mounted in a necklace for Donatella Versace, to the inexpensive black gold Moon rings, curiously sculptured like the moon’s cratered surface, and priced from $500 to $600. Collections are built around themes, such as astrology, constellations or love. A signature of the jewelry is its intricate facet work, enhancing the sparkling character and depth of the jewels.
In addition, Repossi offers watches for day and evening looks and a women’s fragrance. Chokers, bows and engagement rings are considered hallmarks.
Over the next few weeks, the compact bronze marble facade of Ciribelli on Madison will be recast with the light gray, clean character of Repossi. The avenue already has a concentration of fine jewelers, with Graff, Bulgari, Chopard, Cartier, Swarovski, Fred Leighton and David Yurman just to the north. Chanel on Madison also sells jewelry.
“Madison Avenue has definitely become a destination for jewelry,” said Laura Pomerantz, co-principal, PBS Realty Advisors LLC. “I don’t think it’s overstored with jewelers right now, but I know there are certain landlords that want to diversify the product offering.”
Repossi hopes to stand out from the crowd through its emphasis on service and customization, and its distinct designs. “I find the faceted work a strong feature especially in the watches and men’s collection of cuff links and studs, which extends into women’s watches and dress or cocktail rings,” said Michele Ateyeh, president and chief executive officer of Lambertson Truex accessories and formerly president of Angela Cummings, a jewelry business that was discontinued last year. “It becomes a very recognizable signature. The multiple facets highlight the beauty and color of the stone.”
There are only three freestanding Repossi stores, in Paris, Monte Carlo and Turin, Italy. Units are planned for Shanghai and Shenzen in China, starting in 2005, and the company would like to open freestanding units in Russia and other parts of Asia.
Repossi’s top market is Japan, where the collection is sold in 23 locations through shop-in-shops at stores such as Seibu, Sogo and Takashimaya. Saudi Arabia, where there are seven in-store locations and many private clients, is the second largest market. There are shop-in-shops in other countries, including one in Harrods in London, and in-store boutiques begin to open in Lane Crawford in China this December.
There are rumblings that Repossi wants to rev up the expansion and finance it through a public offering on the London Stock Exchange. Asked if he is considering changing the ownership structure, Repossi would only say that it’s a topic he may be able to discuss in the future. He said the company’s volume is between 30 and 35 million euros, or about $40 million at current exchange.
He’s more open about his jewelry creations, like the $350,000 emerald set of earrings, rings and brooch, for a wealthy Brazilian woman, or even the engagement ring intended for the late Princess Diana. She and boyfriend Dodi Fayed selected a diamond ring at Repossi in Paris. After the ring was altered to fit Diana’s finger, Fayed picked it up just hours before their fatal car crash. Published reports at the time valued the ring at over $200,000 and catapulted Repossi into the spotlight. “It was a love story, but it was also a tragedy,” Repossi said.
They were the kind of aristocratic clients Repossi tends to serve. “Especially with private clients and private orders, we want to expand our type of haute couture jewelry. America could become number one in the world for this type of client.”