28 Aug, 2018
Hélène Poulit-Duquesne: We are paying tribute to the beauty of nature
Boucheron CEO Hélène Poulit-Duquesne talks about her vision, plans and the house’s latest high jewellery collection “Nature Triomphant”. The Collection celebrates Boucheron’s 160th anniversary and peruse the founder’s dream in integrating real nature into jewellery.
You have been CEO of Boucheron for 3 years now. What changes have you brought about?
I think the most important one was to have a vision as to where we are going, so I set up a plan to let the rest of the company know where we are going, which makes things easier, and secondly, I think I brought the idea to share a lot, to share that vision, with the employees, to encourage them to work as a team, which was something that did not exist so much before, in terms of organization. The company was not organized to work transversally, so I think that was the most important.
And in terms of product development for the brand? Coming from LVMH and the Richemont Group, I imagine you had interesting ideas about that too.
I think that in terms of product design, we work very well with Claire Choisne who is the Creative Director, so Claire and I discuss together, particularly on the theme. And for this collection, which celebrates the 160th anniversary of Boucheron, we decided in about 2 minutes on “Nature” – a theme very important for Boucheron, and probably the most legitimate in the history and patrimony of the brand.
So I imagine you decided upon this almost immediately after your arrival in the company, as it takes several years to put together a collection like this.
In fact, during my first year here, Claire worked on 3 collections in 1 year: she was finalizing one, working on the next one, and thinking about this theme of the 3rd one. We worked on the pace, got it right, and now we are working on the 2020 collection. We need 2 years to work properly.
Tell us about the anniversary celebrations this year.
The first one was a big exhibition in Paris in January, called Vendorama. The purpose of it was not to just recount the history of the brand, but also to explain who we are today. That’s why we decided to not show historical pieces; but to tell the story of the company, including how we create. So it was divided into themes: our archives, how we design, how we manufacture, our novelties of the year, and our icons.
Where is your high jewellery pieces actually made?
Our atelier is under works right now above the original Boucheron boutique on the Place Vendôme, but when it will re-open, it will all reintegrate the site, with Claire’s design studio just one floor away from the workshop. It will make communication between them so easy!
Is everything made at the atelier?
Some high jewellery pieces are entirely made in our own workshop. Sometimes, if technically we do not have the capacity to manufacture everything because we do not have the enough people, then we can outsource. And sometimes we outsource when we require elements that are very specialized, such as mother-of-pearl elements. We work with partners who are specialized in these things.
Please tell us more about the theme of Nature in today’s collection.
Claire was thinking about Frederic Boucheron who loved nature, and who tried, in his work, to be as close to it as he could – to copy it. And what is closer to Nature than real nature? So then we went further, to pursue his dream, and to say: “We are going to integrate real nature into high jewellery.” And what was interesting was the idea that a piece of high jewellery has a very long life—when you buy a piece of jewellery in precious metal and stones, you never throw it away. And we need to think about pieces that will be here for at least the next 160 years. On the other hand, nature is ephemeral. So for me, it was my personal philosophy conquest: to give a long time to what I like most in my life which is the ephemerality of Nature. And I think the shock between the two time periods is incredibly inspiring. Also, I was thinking about how many little girls love to pick flowers and put them behind their ears, in their hair, around their fingers as rings, etc.
So how did you do it? How did you harness Nature into High Jewellery?
We needed the real volumes of the flowers, so Claire and her team did not draw one single thing. No pencils, nothing. They just worked with flowers. We scanned them, but the scans we use in high jewellery was not powerful or precise enough to capture them; the scan went through the material, there was nothing to see. So then we decided to study medical scans that can capture everything including the liquid parts. So we used a medial scan that we rented at night, when the lab was closed, to scan the flowers. Once you have the scan of the flower in your computer, you can print it in 3D. (We have been using 3D printing for the last 20 years in jewellery.) Then you have your volume, and you can make it in the traditional way with gold, platinum, titanium whatever, and you have the real flower in metal. Then we needed to work on the petals. An artist who is also an environmentalist works on ways to stabilize petals for her art; the longer the petals last, the longer her artworks last. She has been working on a stabilization process that includes no chemicals, so it’s totally natural. . (The big surprise is when you touch one of the stabilized petals, when it comes into contact with humidity – it wakes up, and takes on volume. I try, hold it delicately in my hand for a minute, and watch the shape gradually plumpen!!)
She has her secrets on how she does this – I think she may be heating, or pressing – we worked with her on stabilizing many petals to come on our metal flowers. And then we put the petals on the metal. It is a very delicate operation because the petals are so fragile, but the atelier found a solution; and then we worked on the coating to protect them.
Please tell us about your markets.
In the Middle East, business is doing very well, the market is good. In terms of geographic expansion, our priority is Asia right now, because we really need to develop our footprint there, and have already opened 2 stores, with plans for 2 more. In the rest of the world, we are well-represented in Europe, and In Japan, for example, where our image is more “bridal”. In the Middle East I think our image is the right one – it’s the real image of Boucheron with a big percentage in high jewellery. We are with partners in Qatar, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Lebanon.
As a final word, I would like to thank you for telling our story about the flowers because if you see just a picture of the jewellery piece, you cannot understand everything that has gone into them. Only nine have been made so far, but now that we know the process, we can surely make other ones.