Luxos interviews Stanislas de Quercize, the Chief Executive Officer of Van Cleef & Arpels
Globally, how does Van Cleef & Arpels incorporate romance into its collections?
As a maison, the romance started from day one when Estelle Arpels and Alfred Van Cleef fell in love. So we're full of love, and this is quite exceptional for a jeweller and watchmaker. When you're in love, you want everybody to know. Estelle and Alfred set off on a mission of offering beautiful creations to the world. They were Dutch, and came to Paris in 1906, when the French capital was the centre of the world. They chose Place Vendome, a prestigious area where all the best hotels were located.
In 1939, Van Cleef & Arpels opened the New York flagship as the Big Apple became the capital of the world, then Tokyo and so forth. Today, the world is much more global. We're in Beijing, Shanghai, Moscow, Dubai, Jeddah, Riyadh, Doa, Abu Dhabi, London, Milan… One third of our clients are Asians, one third Europeans, one third Americans.
What is the Van Cleef & Arpels vision?
We create a better world than the one in which we live. So we create visions of a paradise, where rose have no thorns, where butterflies and dragonflies bring good luck, and where the clover leaves bring health, wealth and good luck. There can be many brands in the world, but a maison is different. It distinguishes itself with long-lasting values and generations of history.
Who are the Van Cleef & Arpels customers today?
Besides being people in love, they are very demanding. They are connoisseurs. They recognize art, design, our quality of the stones and craftsmanship. They are interested in long-lasting values. They are proud of their acquisitions not just today, but also for generations down the road. So, we are creating for lovers, who come from all walks of life, from around the world. Universal symbols and themes inspire us. Our collections have drawn inspirations from great writers such as Jules Verne and Shakespeare, whose works have been translated in all the languages in the world. Longitutdes, latitudes, currencies do not divide us up. Our customers are interested in the arts, the best quality, recognisable designs, top quality stones, and superb craftsmanship.
What is the Chinese market's phenomenon today?
The Chinese have always had a discerning eye for quality and craftsmanship. This discernment has always been there. For many generations, the Asians, the Chinese in particular, have always had an eye for design, craftsmanship and materials. This is not new. What has changed is the speed of knowledge acquisition, thanks to the Chinese population's eagerness, and the new access and means of information. This is important for our maison, because our savoir-faire is very important in our jewellery and watch. But the faire-savoir takes time, because you need to explain. It's certainly very fascinating for us to tell Chinese customers what our creations are about.
Can you tell us about Van Cleef & Arpels' special orders?
It's part of our raison d'etre as we are jewellers who create unique objects. With the economic crisis, people are asking questions. "What's is the meaning of the Van Cleef & Arpels creations?" Our watch and jewellery collections tell a story. People also ask about value. "What is the real value of what we buy?" We can assure them with our quality, creativity, exclusive distribution, and the fact that worldclass museums exhibit our pieces. This is proof that our creations have long-lasting values. Van Cleef & Arpels pieces are admired, acquired and sought after 50, 100, 150 years. And in February 2011, our exhibition will open at the Cooper-Hewitt Museum in New York. It's called "Set in Style: The Jewellery of Van Cleef & Arpels." We will also be at the Louvre at the Musées des Arts Decoratifs. This is how we explain our heritage.
Where are the Van Cleef & Arpels maisons around the world?
The first one is Paris, established in 1906. The second one is New York in 1939. And the third one will be 2011, in Hong Kong, in the Prince's Building. This is a sign of the world's evolution, and the global focus of Van Cleef & Arpels.
What's the relationship between price and exclusivity?
Prices can simply go up because of appreciation with time, but this is not linked to exclusivity. Rather, it is a reflect of the design, the quality of the stones and craftsmanship. For example, Alhambra, which is a day jewellery collection, might be considered less "exclusive" than evening jewellery. But it has increased sales by more than 30% in our boutiques. Though you'd wear a piece of daytime jewellery for more number of hours than night time jewellery - and although Alhambra offers more selections - it is one of the most sought-after collections, and it consists of engraved and individually numbered pieces.