LONDON — Ulrik Garde Due, Georg Jensen’s newly appointed chief executive, believes there’s a lot more to the Danish brand than its signature silver bangles and bracelet watches.
The Copenhagen native and former Burberry executive is tapping into the Danish brand’s heritage and broadening its product offering. He wants Jensen to be known not just for its sculptural, minimalist jewelry, but also for its objects for the home and its heritage pieces.
“Our strategy is to pull back and work more with our roots — especially in silver,” said Garde Due. “We have 104 years of history, and the beauty of the brand is its timelessness. We have pieces designed in the Forties and Fifties that look just as modern today.”
Although jewelry still represents 50 percent of sales — and there are no plans to change that — Garde Due said his overall aim is to shift from a jewelry and watch universe to one featuring the Scandinavian lifestyle.
He also wants to pump up the brand’s presence in the U.S., and has hired former Burberry executive James Crespo as president of operations there.
Garde Due is no stranger to the power of brand heritage. Before joining Jensen last November he was senior vice president, international sales at Burberry. He worked with former Burberry chief Rose Marie Bravo since 1998, and helped to resurrect that brand.
Previously, he worked for Celine in Paris, Tokyo and New York.
Among the vintage designs Garde Due plans to relaunch for fall is a silver pitcher by Henning Koppel, a Danish designer who worked with company founder Georg Jensen. Koppel is known for his curving, organic shapes and spare aesthetic.
He will also reintroduce the Daisy design for jewelry, which previously came in silver or gold and enamel. Queen Margrethe II of Denmark received the original black-and-white Daisy from her mother when she was born in 1940, and wore it as a brooch on her wedding dress in 1967.
Garde Due plans to manufacture the Daisy in the fashion colors of each season and sprinkle them with diamonds for pendants, brooches, earrings and bracelets. He unveiled the latest incarnations of the Daisy at the Baselworld watch and jewelry fair last week.
“It’s so fresh and it’s a really iconic piece,” he said, adding it was the first time Georg Jensen has attempted a major global launch.
Georg Jensen was founded in Denmark in 1904, and began as a silversmith’s workshop making jewelry, flatware and tableware. It has been owned by the Denmark-based private equity firm Axcel for the past seven years. Axcel owns 16 companies worldwide, including Royal Copenhagen.
The new chief is also revamping the look of the brand. He’s hired creative guru David Lipman to spearhead the shop concept, advertising and branding. The first new-look shop will be Jensen’s New York Madison Avenue unit, to be unveiled in October. A new ad campaign will also bow for fall.
The brand currently has eight directly operated stores in the U.S., and Garde Due is looking to forge relationships with wholesalers there, too. He launched a trial at Neiman Marcus, and will continue selling there, and is also meeting with other specialty and department stores.
Crespo, a former executive at Burberry Prorsum and Liberty of London, begins as president of U.S. operations on May 1, and his position is a new one. “James, with his experience in both wholesale and retail, will take over our road map in the U.S., implement e-commerce and work on our B2B operations,” Garde Due said.
Currently, Georg Jensen’s biggest markets are Southeast Asia, Australia and Scandinavia. “And we see big opportunities in Japan and the U.S., as well as emerging markets such as China, the Middle East and Russia,” he said.
The brand also has a new president for Japan, Kiyohiko Ikeuchi, who joined Georg Jensen from Hermès Japan, and a global marketing director, Rolf Bernson, who has worked for Motorola, Unilever and Coca Cola.
Garde Due said one of the biggest challenges he’s facing is the speed to market of his various product categories, which include silverware, stainless steel objects for the home, jewelry, watches and holiday ornaments.
He’s confident about the future, and about leveraging the brand’s Scandinavian roots. “We have so many cultural assets and a very specific niche — we’re about nature, fresh air and timeless values,” he said.