If Boucheron chief executive Hélène Poulit-Duquesne had her way, more men would be decked in jewellery.
“It was during the end of the 19th century that it suddenly became inappropriate for men in the West to wear jewellery. The practice was seen as an attribute of a king and people at that time didn’t want to be associated with royalty and the bourgeoisie. I don’t understand why. Look at the maharajas, the tsars and the pharaohs — all throughout history, men have always worn jewellery because it was a show of power. I am always for the idea that men should wear jewellery and, in particular, high jewellery,” she shares.
The notion that men should also have a bit of fun with diamonds gives new impetus to the brand’s creative endeavours. In 2019, Boucheron launched a new house pillar, Jack de Boucheron, a collection inspired by audio cables and jack plugs. New this year is a set of limited-edition brooches that can be worn as earrings or pinned onto collars and vests. “It embodies what we want to tell at Boucheron: something playful, unisex and very creative,” she says.
Earlier in the year, the brand launched Histoire de Style — Art Déco, a high jewellery collection inspired by the house’s art-deco heritage. Intended for both men and women, one of the collection’s highlights is the Ruban Diamants that is designed to be worn in multiple ways, whether as a choker, headband, as two bracelets or even as a belt strapped across a tuxedo cummerbund, as demonstrated on a male model in one of the styled photographs. Others show him with brooches as well as a signet ring featuring a large emerald surrounded by diamonds.
“It’s quite funny how Claire (Choisne, Boucheron’s creative director) and I both arrived at the same conclusion about men and jewellery. We didn’t set out to embrace gender fluidity as a goal. Although I’ve always wanted men to wear jewellery, Claire’s creative process was very intuitive. She felt that the jewellery would also look beautiful on a man,” she says.
Poulit-Duquesne thinks that the main difference between Boucheron and the other Place Vendôme jewellers is that the brand is more “human-centric and client-centric whereas the rest are more product-centric.” Keeping abreast of societal trends, anticipating the needs of clients and catering to their differing tastes are priorities.
“Other brands look at jewellery like a piece of decorative art, but we see it as something that wants to be worn,” she adds. Knowing that her client can be “a woman, man, child or even an animal” also keeps her and her team on their toes. “My team always laughs at me when I say this, but I would love to do a collection for pets,” she adds.
Understanding the link between jewellery and self-expression is another key driver behind the way she conducts business. “We have very creative clients and they come to Boucheron to buy jewellery that would express their personality. It’s not about showing power, wealth and status,” she discloses. She relates an incident where she spent three hours with a client at the Boucheron flagship boutique at Place Vendôme.
“I watched her try on a brooch, which she later wore as a choker, a hair ornament and eventually, a buckle on her shoe,” she recounts.
Other significant changes introduced since her appointment in 2015 include matters pertaining to the brand’s operations as well as brand visibility. Instead of an annual high jewellery collection, Boucheron now has two — one in January and the other in July — to coincide with the Paris Haute Couture shows.
Both collections bear very distinct personalities: The Histoire de Style collections in January is where “you can expect big stones and more traditional designs that reflect our history and patrimony”; the collections in July, which the brand refers to as Carte Blanche, are “super creative, very personal and the most important collection for us each year because it really embodies what we want to do,” says the 25-year industry veteran, who previously spent more than two decades at Cartier, including as a member of its executive committee.
Implementing a single communications strategy on a global platform for all new Boucheron launches was another area she channelled her efforts, which inevitably led to a re-examination of the brand’s marketing efforts. To that end, Boucheron embarked on a new campaign and engaged brand ambassadors from the Middle East, Europe, Japan, Korea and China.
“Our idea was to think global but act local. There are cultural differences in different parts of the world so it’s important that we adapt. It’s important to note there isn’t only one Boucheron woman; there are many Boucheron women,” she says.
For now, Poulit-Duquesne has her hands full with new initiatives put in place to tackle a Covid-19-battered world transitioning to a new normal. Despite the challenges, she remains unfazed.
“The jewellery industry has always been very resilient. We survived wars and crises because the intrinsic value of jewels remains even during times of crises. People will always prefer to buy a jewel over something that will lose its value.”