As part of our ongoing series of exclusive interview dedicated to high-jewellery, CPP-LUXURY.COM has recently interviewed Mr Jean-Christophe Babin, CEO of BVLGARI one of the most respected top luxury executives in the world – a relentless visionary leader with an innate talent driven by a unique understanding of luxury – which has also earned the ultimate trust by owners (LVMH). Every single Bulgari product or service (hotels, Spas, restaurants) did not dilute the brand in any way, but, has instead, reinforced the already powerful lifestyle of the DNA of the brand.
How would you define the DNA of the Bvlgari brand? What is the percentage of jewellery products versus all other product categories? Are there any particular markets your jewellery is the lead product category?
Bvlgari is the magnificent, daring and contemporary Roman High Jeweller, Master of Colours. This has enabled, beyond Jewellery, us to celebrate the joy of crafting and sharing the most precious gems of nature such as rare essences in fragrances, savoury ingredients in our hotels and resorts, precious skins on our leather goods rather than fine gems in our jewellery watches. And Rome is not only artistic and architectural inspiration but also our should, Dolce Vita 4.0.
We are competing neck to neck in most markets with the other two major global jewellers with relative sizes varying market to market but very strong for us in China, Japan or Middle East.
Your Italian origins are subtly included in most communications, regardless of the product category. Is ‘Made in Italy’ a major branding asset for jewellery? What makes an Italian jewellery piece different than a French one, for instance?
Il Bello Benfatto is deeply rooted in Italian artisanal culture and passion for beauty, and its expression in jewellery is probably one of the oldest of the world as already 3000 years ago Etruscan goldsmith gave birth to extraordinary pieces. Versus French jewellery, we surely mirror our magnificent and larger than life city of Rome from its contrasts, volumes and colours to its joyful spirit making our jewellery a real daily personal pleasure mixing irreverence with sophistication.
To what extent Bvlgari jewellery customers are aware of the exceptional craftsmanship? It is widely known that in many emerging markets some customers ask about the weight of the gold in a particular piece – this is valid for watches too.
We communicate a lot on our authenticity and integrity as much as our excellence, often taking visitors to our Aurelia High Jewelry workshop in Roma or our Valenza Jewelry Manufacture in Piemonte, also hosting the Bvlgari Academy. A jewellery internal school, unique in its kind, and training every year close to 100 young new jewellers. We don’t specify the weight of gold, but our bold and generous constructions and designs immediately suggest that in a Bvlgari ring or necklace you’ve a lot of preciousness and value, beyond the timeless beauty and wearability.
Some of your jewellery collections are easily recognisable from a distance (shape, colours or even the overt logo). Is the target audience for such collections seeking to show-off? / status symbol
There’s always pride in wearing symbols of craftsmanship excellence from a reputable Brand, especially when these symbols are themselves reminiscent of 27 centuries of arts and culture. Bzero1 is inspired from Colosseo, Diva from Caracalla Mosaics, Monete from our imperial coins and Serpenti from the jewelry brought to Roma by Queen Cleopatra. So yes, wearing Bvlgari is a distinguished signed of culture which many of our clients are proud of showing and sharing. Not necessarily for the how much but for the how smart.
Your B-Zero ring and the Bvlgari Bvlgari collections are probably the most counterfeited products. What is your take on this?
We are actively working against counterfeits both at the source, together with our sister brands of LVMH, as much as at street level with local authorities and our subsidiaries. Frankly speaking it’s quite working, and availability is quite marginal, when compared say to fake watches or bags that you can find even Piazza de Duomo or in China Town is the heart of Milano or NYC. But obviously we keep fighting.
Your Wild Pop Jewellery Collection re-writes the codes of advertising for a jewellery brand. Is this about audacity or more of a way to show that one should not take himself / herself too seriously?
Wild Pop is primarily a tribute to epochal rebellion and colourful and ultimate indulgences life celebration. Also times when Bvlgari further evolved its style with the great friendship between Nicola Bulgari and Andy Warhol in NYC. It has been for us the opportunity to celebrate some symbols of this glorious period of creativity and audacity
Some of the features of your jewellery collections have been sensibly included in your haute-parfumerie line, your handbags and even in your hotels. Tell us more.
I believe we owe clients a vision, authenticity and a clarity about what we are and what we aren’t. For Bvlgari this means focusing our craftsmanship and creativity on some eternal symbols born out of our environmental architectural surrounding s and history. That’s why we dream all, our symbols as cross categorial as Bvlgari is primarily an irresistible narrative and not isolated products. Serpenti or Diva are perfect examples: Brand codes consistent and complementary, and supporting jewellery, watches as much as leather goods in their unmistakable identity, relevance and differentiation.
Is the Bvlgari lifestyle about ‘effortless luxury’ or rather ‘hard luxury’?
It’s more about joyful luxury ie an authentic, creative, precious and ethic emotional pleasure you can enjoy everyday and which participates to your well being, by its worshipping and crafting of gems of nature.
To celebrate the launch of your Wild Pop Jewellery Collection you hosted a catwalk show – not a usual launch of a jewellery collection. Tell us more.
We just invented it a few years ago and it has ever since been copied by many of our competitors (smile). Doesn’t matter. Our catwalks have progressively evolved and further gained in desirability and creativity. In particular changing totally fashion catwalks pace far too fast for jewellery, bringing in themes and broadcasting in macro videos the beautiful jewels presented by our catwalk artists.
What are the most effective communications channels with your jewellery customers?
The best remains bespoke, close, intimate and individual, which is not easy when you’re global and sell to hundred of thousands clients. However thanks to our local teams and to digital we manage to create real emotional connections with many of our clients and keep alive the Bvlgari spirit which prevailed at the end of the 19th century in our small shop of Via Sistina à Roma.
Which are the novelties we should be expecting this year?
We shall present Cinemagia soon in HJ and big Watchmaking news as of next Thursday at Baselworld.
Charlize Theron was among the most highly admired presence at this year’ Oscars. However, she is a brand ambassador of Dior, a Maison which also has a high-jewellery line. Yet, she wore a statement Bvlgari Serpenti diamond studded necklace. Tell us more about these opportunities that being part of LVMH may generate.
As a Group (LVMH), we often pool our expertises, learning and connections so that we manage smartly external partners. These last two years we have had the privilege to share with Louis Vuitton Alicia Vikander. Likewise but on a different level, Jacques Cavallier the famous nose in high end fragrances works exclusively for LV and Bvlgari. And often we meet together before deciding to join a new mall project or not. Clearly it’s a huge advantage but not a mandatory or centralized process. It’s for smart people.
Lesser known facts about Jean-Christophe Babin
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