Barely a month ago, I spent one of the best afternoons away from home at the newly refreshed Van Cleef & Arpels boutique in Pavilion Kuala Lumpur. Everything was perfect, from the lashes of creativity around the new flagship store that evoke childhood memory to the precious jewellery that was less drama, more fairytale.
Van Cleef & Arpels storied past is nothing short of a fairytale, captivating many a hearts from its first address at 22 Place Vendôme since 1906 with its fascinating jewels and exceptional craftsmanship. From day one, the brand has been steadfast in pushing the parameters of jewellery making.
The creations from this Maison have adorned many beautiful women over the decades, most notably Princess Grace of Monaco, Princess Faiza of Egypt, Elizabeth Taylor and the Duchess of Windsor, who was not just a loyal client of the brand but went on to become the driving force behind the Maison’s iconic Zip necklace.
Women will always be at the heart of a jewellery house, especially with the growing segment of modern women who purchase jewellery for themselves. Through a Zoom interview, Hugues de Pins managing director of Van Cleef & Arpels, South East Asia and Australia tells me that Malaysia has the highest share of women client at 87% compared to other countries in the region.
“Women are the key decision makers for the purchases and Malaysia too has the highest share of returning clients, which shows the attachment of our clients to the Maison,” he opines.
Also worth taking into account, the huge appetite for the Alhambra collection as well as the Lucky Spring collection. Following its April release, the latter collection was all snapped up within a couple of weeks and we hear the waitlist for the six-piece collection is growing.
The star of the collection is the ladybug, a lucky animal motif that’s very dear to the Maison, alongside plum blossoms, lily of the valley leaves and bells. The ladybug first made an appearance in 1933 and the motif on the charm is very similar to the one adorning the latest Lucky Spring collection.
“The symbolic motif has been appearing almost every decade. More recently, the Secret de Coccinelle won the jewellery watch category at the 2018 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève. The secret watch takes its inspiration from the zip necklace and flaunts a ladybug – dotted with Mystery Set onyx, rubies and diamonds – which slides upwards on the emeralds- and green tsavorite garnets-studded leaves to reveal the watch.
“We are proud to be one of the few jewellery brands that are able to leverage on a unique heritage. However, as a Maison, we constantly remain in a curiosity mode. It’s one of the six pillars of the brand,” explains Hugues. Van Cleef & Arpels embraces all types of clients, and year after year, driven by a childlike curiosity, it continues to craft jewellery line that would appeal to the young. Just like it did in the 1960s with the cute animal brooches that were even collected by Princess Grace of Monaco and Jackie Kennedy Onassis.
What is the brand doing to welcome the new generation of clients?
“We do it by nourishing the young, feminine and elegant image. Be it through our iconic creations like the Alhambra or exciting collaborations and digital acceleration. The average age of the Malaysian clientele is around 37/38 and they prefer shopping at boutiques, therefore our priority will remain to elevate the in-store experience,” he says.
For this spring season, the luxury jewellery house joined hands with French artist and winner of the Grand Prix Design Parade Toulon Van Cleef & Arpels in 2017, Alexandre Benjamin Navert. “Since the very beginning, the brand has always been inspired by nature’s beauty and we’re very fond of bringing that artistic dimension in everything that we do, including the dressing up of this store. We wanted to bring the inexhaustible joie de vivre of celebrating spring to Malaysia,” explains Hugues.
The spring in bloom rendition by the artist is very unexpected but the rich palette, naïve art drawings and the artist’s vision to give visitors the impression of walking through an open sketchbook; seem to all come together nicely to give the brand a fresher vibe.
From Place Vendôme to Pavilion KL, the flagship stores share many parallels. Particularly, the Parisian art deco style replete with dazzling chandeliers, curvy rich velvet sofas and a soft palette. The exclusive VIP suite, Poetic Salon is the perfect exemplification of this design consistency.
“We have a much bigger space now at Pavilion KL, it’s a great opportunity to showcase more Van Cleef & Arpels pieces. For the first time in Malaysia, we have the not-for-sale patrimonial collection from our private collection, like the precious minaudiere decorated with yellow gold, rubies and diamonds from 1939. This would be a great platform to continue educating our clients at large on the world of high jewellery.”
Hugues also adds on, “This new boutique allows us to offer a completely different level of experience to our Malaysian client and we want our clients to come and discover our boutique.”
The pandemic has been hard on everyone and 2020 was a year when most of us took time to reflect on lives, it was no different for the Maison. “It was a major opportunity for us to rethink how we should represent the brand and care for our people, both clients and staff. Adopting and reinforcing this heartfelt care attitude is something that has stayed with us beyond the lockdown.”
As the brand’s clients continued to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries and other milestones and achievements, it is happy to have played a part by creating these happy moments. Hugues says there were no solid strategies in place, only genuine care. And that’s what matters the most. Sales was not an objective during the pandemic, just a consequence of that relationship.
If you want to celebrate a major milestone in life, one way to do it is by acquiring a piece of meaningful jewellery to mark the occasion like an exquisitely made Van Cleef & Arpels sparkler, where love is at the heart of all its creations. Discover the different collections and immerse yourself in the splendours of the brand at Level 3, Pavilion Kuala Lumpur.
(Photos: Van Cleef & Arpels)