Luxury | Gucci owner revamps jeweler to Czars as branded rocks boom

gleaming necklace in Boucheron’s shop window in Paris’s Place Vendome features dozens of lifelike hydrangea blossoms made from mother-of-pearl and diamonds, framing a 43-carat pink tourmaline.

Shoppers who enter the restored 18th-century mansion, which reopened this week after a sweeping restoration by parent Kering SA, can slip out with their purchases via a secret door through the lacquered panels of a Chinese-inspired selling room. High rollers who prefer to stay might even be invited to sleep in a VIP guest suite—operated by the Paris Ritz, no less—featuring views of the Eiffel Tower from the bathtub.

“This is more than just a store opening for France,” said Boucheron Chief Executive Officer Helene Poulit-Duquesne, who joined the brand in 2015 after 17 years at Richemont’s Cartier. The Paris square is the world’s most prestigious jewelry destination—housing such names as Van Cleef & Arpels, Chaumet and Chanel—and a pilgrimage has become de rigueur for fans of top-end pieces. “This story of the Place Vendome is what we want to tell around the world.”

After a push into skateboarding wear and soccer brands like Puma fell flat, Kering is trying to diversify within luxury at a time when targets for acquisition are scarce. A rapid comeback for its flagship brand Gucci, which rebooted with a new designer’s decadent aesthetic in 2015, drove shares in the group up 85 percent last year alone. But the relentless pace of growth in Gucci’s two-year run has meant the company is more dependent on the brand than ever.

The group helmed by the French billionaire Francois-Henri Pinault is now ramping up investment in jewelry, adding stores for Boucheron and a new high-
end jewelry collection for Gucci, as well as expanding its smaller fashion brands like Balenciaga and Alexander McQueen.

Boucheron was founded soon after Cartier and is part of the elite club of French jewelers that produce haute joaillerie, or high jewelry: one-of- a-kind pieces priced from USD50,000 to several million dollars, which are handcrafted in Vendome ateliers to show off precious stones and their makers’ most advanced techniques. But while Cartier touted its meticulous craftsmanship to sell a range reaching from super- luxury products down to more modest models like $4,000 Panthere watches and “Love” bracelets in nearly 300 stores around the world, Boucheron remained a lesser-known option, under family management until a sale to Kering in 2000.

Boucheron’s accessible lines, including its best- selling $4,000 Quatre rings, entered the global spotlight more recently. Spokeswomen like the actresses Lea Seydoux of France and Zhou Dongyu of China sport the items—and Beyonce has worn them onstage.

In addition to the renovated base, Kering has opened its first two Boucheron boutiques in mainland China this year and has additional locations in Hong Kong and Macau on the way.  Bloomberg

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