Since 2015, Hélène Poulit-Duquesne has brought her expertise in international development to Boucheron, opening new horizons for the French Maison while enriching the legacy of high jewelry worldwide in so many ways. Making the House’s growth her main focus is what drives Poulit-Duquesne to continuously strengthen Boucheron’s position as one of the most prestigious jewelers in the world every step of the way.
In a virtual chat, Azyaamode takes you through her successful strategy and vision, as well as the story behind Boucheron’s latest high jewelry collection, “Histoire de Style, Art Déco”.
How would you describe your journey at Boucheron?
During the past 5 years, we worked on most of the company’s fundamental elements. One of the most important tasks was aligning our work internally and making sure that every employee integrates the new brand platform. Also, we switched to digital in just 2 years, and now have dedicated 50% of our budget to our digital presence: we’re really integrating social media in our strategy, which was something totally new for the company.
In terms of retail, the most important achievements were the renovation of Place Vendôme and the creation of a new retail concept which we have been applying to nearly 70% of our boutiques worldwide. In fact, when I joined the company in 2015, I set up a 5-year plan, which also included high commercial development in China as top priority for the company. While 5 years ago we didn’t have any boutiques there, we made sure that we have the proper representation in the region by inaugurating 4 boutiques so far and we’re aiming to have 8.
In light of the challenges facing the world at the present moment, how are you adapting to the new normal when it comes to selling high jewelry?
We exploited our creativity and in a matter of few weeks, we invented many new ways of selling; and since our clients can’t travel anymore, they are buying locally, which is the major difference in the way we do business.
Approximately 60% of the luxury business was done virtually, so we designed a remote selling ceremony dedicated to high jewelry at the beginning of the lockdown in France. That’s when we discovered that this technique calls for a keen attention to details and resources: picture a cameraman and an assistant who tries on the pieces to show exactly how they fit… technical cameras and lighting to show the client the details of the pieces in high quality shots, and many other details go into this process to bring the best experience to the client. We’ve also came to realize that the meeting can’t take longer than 20 minutes in order to keep the client interested. This experience actually managed to switch our clients to digital which is now very important. That said, the difficulty today is that at some point they have to visit Place Vendôme to take their pieces and travel back, which is another delaying factor.
During the second lockdown in France, we were once again very creative when the government banned the opening of boutiques to the public, so we developed a click and collect service in just one week, which allowed clients to come to Place Vendôme and pick up their order in a little box while waiting in the car.
And that was not all, as we integrated a chat box on our website linked to our Cannes boutique, which allows the clients to request a video chat with a service person who can showcase the pieces. So I guess you can say that we totally adapted to the new normal.
Tell us about the new Boucheron high jewelry “Art Déco” collection and in which way does it represent the Maison?
For the new high jewelry collection, we created a concept called “Histoire de Style”. We decided to divide our high jewelry presentation into two important events: the first was unveiled in July representing the vision of Claire Choisne in a very innovative and creative way through new materials and poeticism, and the second, unveiled in January 2021, is more about commercial and classical pieces that are crucial to us in terms of business and tell the story of what Boucheron has in its archives. To create this collection, Claire took a look at the archives and reinvented them in order to keep this legacy alive, and add something to the future of the Maison through its Art Déco expertise reminiscent of the 2020s. This collection is our way of building the patrimony of the brand, which has always been Boucheron’s philosophy.
It comes from the passion both Claire and myself have for Art Déco, so the creative journey was very emotional and personal at the beginning. It also comes from the House’s legacy in this artistic movement, as it was the king of Art Deco in 1925 after receiving all the prizes during the Parisian Exhibition of Arts Decoratifs that took place that year.
This High Jewelry collection stands out by the transformable pieces it presents. What inspired you to create them?
As two very pragmatic women, Claire and I always play with high jewelry and we think that it would be disappointing to have a precious piece that can only be worn in one way, and our clients are actually very familiar with this idea. I remember having tea with one of our best clients almost 3 years ago, and I was presenting her with a brooch. So she took it and started wearing it in different ways, placing it in her hair, then switching it to a choker and eventually suggesting we put it on our shoes.
Therefore, I think this is our creative philosophy and we also want our high jewelry to be playful. In this collection, I think one of my favorite pieces is the Ruban Diamants because it looks stunning on a man as a belt as much as it looks magnificent on a woman as a bracelet, choker or headband. It’s all about using the High Jewelry pieces in the most creative of ways and enjoying them.
What are Boucheron’s “sweetheart” pieces in the Middle East?
It’s definitely Serpent Bohème, while around the world it’s all about Quatre. This collection really fits Middle Eastern women through the way its pieces are worn, especially the sautoirs and bracelets this line features.
Tell us about your plans for the region.
What I love about the Middle East is that it’s the part of the world where clients best understand Boucheron. It matches exactly the image I have in mind, and I have a very emotional attachment to this place. I am very proud of the work we have done in the region, and even though we still have a lot of milestones coming our way, I feel that Middle Eastern women understand that we are a high-end brand and they love it, which makes the Middle East the region of the world that, in my opinion, constitutes an example for all the other regions. For instance, in 10 years, I would like for our image in Japan to be the same as it is here. For now, Middle Easterns are buying locally, and for that we created a 2020 communication campaign called Legacy, which was emotional and captured the bond between women, especially the relationship between a mother and her daughter. This is actually what makes us at Boucheron very different, the fact that everything we do is sincere and far from being fake.
What about Saudi Arabia?
We have an exhibition scheduled in 2021, and it remains our dream plan and even though we are hopeful, I don’t think it’s going to happen because of all the challenges surrounding us due to the pandemic. On a different note, there is something culturally and socially moving about women in this region, and I think that the story that we usually tell about women is centered around them in a way or another, and this story really resonates with the changes the country is witnessing.