Paris jeweller Boucheron fêtes 160th anniversary, invests for international expansion
In 1893, when Frédéric Boucheron installed his business in the Hôtel de Nocé building, a stone’s throw from rue de la Paix, a hub for jewellers and goldsmiths, he did it “for the light, as the building has a southern exposure and is sunlit from morning to evening,” said Hélène Poulit-Duquesne, CEO of Boucheron.
On Wednesday, the jeweller now owned by the Kering group will reopen, after 18 months of renovation work, the store on the Place Vendôme, a venue that is a by-word for exceptional jewellery.
“Number 26 Place Vendôme is more than a store, it’s Boucheron’s nerve centre, home to our high jewellery production workshops and our design studio. The goal was to give back to the building its former glory and original capacity,” said Poulit-Duquesne talking to the AFP agency.
The interiors once again feature seven-metre-high ceilings and sculpted oak wall-panelling, lending a warm glow to the ambience rich in white alabaster and rock crystal. Various styles and eras blend harmoniously within the store’s halls and salons, where contemporary furniture sits alongside objects “unearthed at the Saint-Ouen [flea market], lending an authentic feel.”
Upstairs, the glittering gemstones of the Serpent Bohème, Quatre and Nature Triomphante collections, in their glass showcases next to the generous windows, "seem to be flying, levitating above Place Vendôme,” said Poulit-Duquesne, who has led Boucheron since 2015.
She is the only woman currently at the helm of a leading French jeweller, and with the creative director Claire Choisne, she forms “a duo of leading ladies after four generations of men at Boucheron.”
“Being a woman is an advantage, since we wear the jewels ourselves, we try on all the pieces which leave the atelier. A piece of jewellery must be comfortable to wear and have a kind of lightness and freedom, it mustn’t be a burden you have to carry,” added Poulit-Duquesne, 48, formerly with LVMH and Cartier.
"Jewels are no longer stowed away in safes"
Besides, Boucheron’s clientèle is increasingly made up of women, and of “customers who are younger and younger, and don’t necessarily need their husbands’ agreement to buy a jewel. In the past, jewels were an investment; nowadays, they are mostly worn, and are no longer stowed away in safes,” said Poulit-Duquesne.
Boucheron’s clientèle, with an appetite for the jeweller's diamond sets and rings with coloured gemstones inspired by nature, is also becoming increasingly international. France is still Boucheron’s main market, but the second is Japan and the third is China.
Boucheron was a pioneer, opening a store in Moscow in 1897, and wants to keep on expanding into new territory. “Our current priority is Asia,” said Poulit-Duquesne. “We are chiefly focusing on China, where we opened our first two directly owned stores in early 2018, and where there is a significant growth potential.”
Boucheron’s expansion drive, together with the renovation of the Hôtel de Nocé building and the new retail concept which is about to be deployed in the label’s forty directly owned stores, is weighing on Boucheron’s finances at the moment, causing “profitability to be currently lower, as we are going through an investment phase,” said François-Henri Pinault, CEO of Kering, in a recent interview to French daily paper Le Figaro.
However, Boucheron tripled its business since it was bought by Kering in 2000, “and these investments are for the future of the maison, and for its international expansion,” said Poulit-Duquesne.
To enhance the “family spirit” sought by Boucheron in the renovation, the Hôtel de Nocé’s second floor now hosts a flat reserved for the use of the jeweller’s top customers. The final flourish of sophistication is the flat's bathtub, offering a view of Place Vendôme’s iconic column, with the Eiffel Tower in the background.
Translated by Nicola Mira
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