When you hear about the brand Boucheron, your mind is transported to a grand scene of absolute luxury and craftsmanship.
But did you know that the team behind the French luxury jewelry and watch house is mostly made up of women?
We had the privilege to interview Hélène Poulit-Duquesne, the CEO of Boucheron, to get a rare insight into the french luxury brand. In this interview, we also get a rare glimpse into the creative process that goes into every Boucheron Collection and the mind of its artistic director, Claire Choisne, in the words of Hélène.
What makes you proud of being a Boucheron woman?
I would start by saying, the freedom that is key at Boucheron: is aesthetic and creative freedom, technological freedom that leads to innovation and freedom in how jewelry is worn, and the free spirit that has guided its creations for 160 years. Boucheron is client centric and not product centric. We are the only house that is focused on the individual.
I am proud to be a Boucheron woman because our pieces allow women and men to stand out and express their personalities. We will enable them to create their own style, reveal their uniqueness, and thus write their own story.
I am also proud of the empathy and generosity that differentiate us from the rest of the brands. It is not because we are an exclusive brand that we want to create distance with our customers. It is the opposite. We are a very welcoming, open, and inclusive Maison. Receiving our customers in our boutiques as our friends because we have a genuine relationship with them is a good example. Clients visit stores not only to purchase products; they come seeking the experience, emotions, and memorable moments that boutiques provide. This underscores the importance of how the flagship store in Vendôme, Paris, was renovated based on a new design concept, a relaxing place like home. We serve our clients with love and think of everyone as family. The Covid crisis has further emphasized this tendency.
What is at the heart of the story of Boucheron?
Our founder Frédéric Boucheron was super innovative, and a visionary jeweler, and it is our duty, our mission, to respect the past and follow in its footsteps. Frederic ignored
trends. In fact, he often created them. Take a look at the Point d’Interrogation necklace, which first appeared at Boucheron in 1879 and allowed him to receive an award at the Universal Exhibition of Paris. Most significantly, it was the first necklace that women could put on by themselves without the help of a maid. As Frédéric Boucheron, Claire Choisne, and I are very passionate about innovation and proud of this heritage. That’s why I always told Claire that I want Boucheron to push the boundaries of High Jewelry. I am very supportive of this approach, and we believe that our Carte Blanche High Jewelry collections are at the service of poetry as it is our duty to question the precious and create emotional pieces.
That’s why since then, the Maison Boucheron has been engaged in a constant quest for new technical, artistic, and aesthetic processes and, over the last 160 years, has been designing new forms of jewelry, by creating daring ways of wearing it and by introducing unusual materials, such as the aerogel in our Contemplation High Jewelry collection (July 2020), all of which have made an enduring impact on the history of French jewelry.
What has been your proudest moment so far while working at the jewelry house?
There are so many…
First, on the product side, I would mention the Fleurs Éternelles. The creation of this collection allowed the Maison, for the very first time to create very emotional High Jewelry starting from a scientific technique and which definitively established Boucheron as the jewelry of emotion and poetry thanks to innovation. Thus, this collection explains the uniqueness of Boucheron’s creative process.
On top of that, this collection was a philosophical quest for me: I wanted jewelry to give eternity to what is the most ephemeral: nature. I wanted to pay tribute to Frederic Boucheron, whose jewelry used to be the closest to nature. But, at that time, he used only precious metal and stones, and we said to ourselves, “What would be closest to nature than using real nature in jewelry…?”. This is how the project began.
The second one would be the complete renovation of our Place Vendôme historical address. This project has been incredible. 26 place Vendôme is more than a boutique: it is our soul, the backbone of our Maison.
You’ll find our DNA and purpose there, from the creative process in the studio of our Creative Director, Claire Choisne, to the selling of the pieces in the boutique, the manufacturing, and the know-how in the atelier. Everything is encapsulated in the same place. And I wanted to express our generosity in the way we welcome our clients. I wanted them to feel that they were part of the family. That is why we designed the “26V” apartment to accommodate them when they visit us.
From what we’ve heard, you are the majority female-run enterprise. How does this influence the creative process in the atelier, and could you share with us the intricate precision that goes behind concept development at Boucheron?
I have been working very well with Claire Choisne for the last six years. Claire is talented, and I am sure that she is the right person at the right place in the right Maison! I would have loved to be an artist, I would say that I am a ‘frustrated’ creative girl, so I believe it helps me understand and easily communicate with her. Frédéric Boucheron, Claire, and myself are very attached and passionate about innovation. I always tell Claire that I want Boucheron to push the boundaries of High Jewelry. I make sure she is free in the way she creates. She allows herself to test and play with new materials or techniques never used in High Jewelry as long as they help her express a creative dream. I am very supportive of this approach. We believe that the innovation featured in our Carte Blanche High Jewelry collections is at the service of poetry. We must question the precious and create emotional pieces.
In terms of personality, we are both very approachable, modest, spontaneous, and empathic. We love working together and are both focusing on team building and team spirit. Personally, I also feel lucky. I am happy to work every day at Boucheron, and I believe that our entire executive committee feels the same.
Another important characteristic of having women working on jewelry is that we always think of how our clients will wear the pieces if they feel comfortable if they will play with them as we do, Claire and myself. Each time a piece comes out of our workshop, we try them on to make sure its feet on the body. We are very client-centric because we are both women who love to wear jewelry ourselves.
Could you tell us a bit about Boucheron’s latest collection?
I would start by saying that our Carte Blanche, Holographique collection is astonishing. Then, I would remind you that innovation is at the service of emotion and dreams. Indeed, Claire Choisne would always begin her creative process with a dream, and then she seeks to make it a reality to capture the ephemeral. Claire and I discuss the process a lot.
The origin of this collection goes back to discussions we had three years ago. I encouraged Claire to create a collection on the theme of colors, which is very present in Boucheron’s heritage but not explored much today. Since Claire does not work in a much traditional way, and that it’s what makes her a fantastic creative director, she wanted to explore the theme of color through a new approach, avoiding an approach that would be too classical and traditional, meaning through the use of stones like ruby, emerald or sapphire.
For the first time, she worked on this theme, investigating the link between light and colors with the ambition to represent them all. That is the exact meaning of holography, from Greek “holos” as for “whole” and “graphein”, as for “to write”, which means “represent it all”.
There were two sources of inspiration: the first was the holographic effect of natural phenomena, such as rainbows or northern lights. More specifically, the feeling of wonder and joy that we get watching these natural phenomena. The second source of inspiration was the work of artists and architects Olafur Eliasson and Luis Barragan, who both work on the link between light and colors.
From the moment Claire wanted to reproduce the multi-color effect on all the pieces of the collection, we found two ways to achieve it: a classical one with the use of opals, a stone long been used in jewelry that naturally produces stunning effects of changeable tones, and also with a technique invented by Saint-Gobain, which offers a holographic effect on a different surface.
As previously mentioned, innovation is not an end in itself at Boucheron, but a means to make Claire’s dreams come true.
What is the collective vision and strategy for Boucheron’s future?
For my first five years as a CEO, I worked on pretty much all the aspects of the brand to clarify and revamp our message: product offers, a new brand platform, a new campaign, a unique retail concept, and renovation of Vendome flagship alongside the implementation of geographical expansion. We are now entering a new phase that requires catchup time on e-commerce topics which have become our priority and involve many teams.
My ongoing mission for the future of Boucheron is to maintain our positioning as the most stylish French High Jewelry House. It requires always staying one step ahead and constantly innovating. Our founder Frédéric Boucheron was super innovative, a visionary jeweler who was the first to set up a boutique at Place Vendôme, and we must respect the past and follow in its footsteps. This is what has made the personality and the uniqueness of our Maison for more than 160 years. Also, China is the priority of our business plan. It is super important for the luxury industry, and if we succeed in China, I would expect that everything will be different. We will have investment everywhere else in the world, and we will really fly!
Finally, at a regional level in the Middle East, we’ve rolled out our new boutique concept. Our local clients have the best understanding of the Maison, so it’s essential for us that they get to experience it firsthand. Our Al Faisaliah boutique in Riyadh was the first to implement it. It is also about maintaining our presence and voice in Riyadh, enhancing desirability by building awareness in the KSA and rebuilding interest in the Quatre collection there.
Why did you choose Riyadh as a city to highlight your newest collection?
The Middle East is a historic and crucial region for Boucheron business-wise, especially in High Jewelry and the Serpent Bohème collection is a local bestseller. While it is one of the regions in which we have been operating for the longest time – we are actually one of the oldest jewelers established there since the early 2000s – it still represents considerable potential. It remains to be a significant part of our customer portfolio.
From its primary influence over the Middle East to its strong dynamism, KSA is a key market for Boucheron in the region. Also, KSA citizens have now become the 2nd nationality among Boucheron’s clients locally because of a growing attractivity of the Maison and its collections in UAE. In KSA, just like everywhere in the region, Boucheron operates right at the very top of the market, selling to highly educated and savvy collectors who are buying investments and dreams, even though we did not have much activity in Saudi Arabia in the last few years. This is something I am proud of, and that is why Boucheron chose the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to host its first edition of the La Maison event in GCC. La Maison is a global concept that aims to showcase and celebrate all the facets of Maison Boucheron – style, innovation, heritage, and French art de Vivre – while balancing heritage and innovation. It is thus not only an exhibition nor just a commercial event, but a subtle mix of both.