Boucheron CEO Hélène Poulit-Duquesne Shares the Lessons Learnt From 2020
In these times of economic uncertainty, some unexpectedly make gains while there are inevitably others who suffer losses. But one same thing exists no matter which circumstance a business is in—opportunity, or more precisely, the opportunity to grow and pick up a lesson or two, according to CEO of Boucheron, Hélène Poulit-Duquesne.
The biggest thing the French jeweller took away from 2020 was the importance of adaptability. The ability and willingness to change is key, whether or not during a crisis—and that is how the woman at the helm of the maison steered the company steadily through challenging conditions that have impacted everyone in the same industry.
On the occasion of the opening of the newly refurbished Boucheron boutique at The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands, we found ourselves an opportunity to have a chat with Poulit-Duquesne—over a video call, of course—and learnt what the past year was like for the brand, how customer demands are changing, as well as more about its new high jewellery collection for 2021.
What changes did the Covid-19 pandemic bring for Boucheron?
Hélène Poulit-Duquesne (HPD) We had to rethink pretty much everything. Since the beginning of 2020, we already adapted to a new way of doing business. The luxury business, before [the pandemic], used to be highly concentrated on tourism, and other companies were focusing on this type of business. Suddenly, it was only local consumption. We had to change the format [of conducting business], especially for the launch of the high jewellery collection in July last year.
Were there any surprises?
HPD What we discovered is that adapting to new circumstances made us very agile and creative, and we invented new ways of doing business and selling that will still be relevant even if the pandemic is over. I found that 2020, for us, was very interesting. There was a positive side to the pandemic—in terms of change management, we probably accomplished in the past year what we would have managed to only do in three years [during normal times]. We have become stronger in difficult times, and it’s very important to be able to see the positive side. I wanted the team to make the most of it because there are always lessons to learn when we are outside our comfort zone.
Was there a shift in demand in jewellery?
HPD Even if people didn’t really have much chances to wear jewellery because we were all staying in, we never throw away jewellery because there’s value to it. So, in a part of your mind, you always know that buying fine jewellery is a good investment—and that’s the reason why this product category is resilient during a crisis.
We are also pushing the everyday pieces—there’s a demand for them now, and they also are a [key] part of our collections. The first thing I briefed to the team was to develop colourful, small pieces that you can stack—jewellery that is very cheerful and playful. I think this type of jewellery can really become a part of your everyday look and style.
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What about sourcing for materials during a pandemic—what were the challenges of not being able to travel?
HPD The supply is not so much of a big issue, what has changed is how we buy them—it’s now less effective than going to a gemstone fair. At a fair, we can view hundreds of different stones and we can then select the best ones. Now, you have to ask the supplier to send their stocks over but they, of course, will not be able to send over hundreds of gems. They will send one or two—and you will have to make a choice between only two.
Tell us more about your latest high jewellery collection, Histoire de Style, Art Deco.
HPD Our first high jewellery collection every year is catered towards clients with a more classical taste. As you know, since 2020, we have decided have our January collection celebrate our history, while the July collection will be designed to showcase innovation. Boucheron is associated with Art Nouveau—we are not as much linked with Art Deco. But in fact, in our patrimony, we have the best archival works done in Art Deco style and I wanted to show that we are also very strong in Art Deco. In fact, Boucheron was prized above many other jewellery brands in the Art Deco era and won many awards for the pieces it showcased in the 1925 Paris World Fair.
The collection only features green emeralds, onyx, white diamonds and rock crystal set only in white gold—any reason for choosing this singular colour theme?
HPD The first reason is because it suits and is representative of the Art Deco style. In fact we could have featured many other types of coloured stones but our creative director, Claire [Choisne], decided to have only one part of Art Deco—which is largely black and white, with [architectural] lines and just a touch of colour which is brought in with emeralds. Also, green is the colour of Boucheron. If you see our boutique in Place Vendôme, the interiors are always white, black and green. Finally, it’s also simply because there’s a demand for emeralds from our clients, of course.
Finally, what is your outlook for the company this year?
HPD Because of the uncertainty, we have to continue to be adaptive. We don’t change our goals and vision because of the pandemic. We keep the same goals and vision, but we have to adapt with regards to the ways in which we achieve them.
(Related: Boucheron's Claire Choisne on the Brand's High Jewellery Collection for 2020)