The Royal Jewellers S01 ep15 : Van Cleef & Arpels Jewellery [Paris]

Interview with Isabelle Guichot

PARIS - Isabelle Guichot - Van Cleef& Arpels. After 14 yearsat Cartier ,the rising Star of Richemont tackles the arch-rival VanCleef & Arpels

A family run business, is a wonderful story because it gives a lot of archives, stories to tell and basically it gives the name and the patronage. On the other side the problem is that most of the time in those families you get different branches with different goals in life, different ways, different stories and over time it freezes totally the growth of the company .

 

11.51
The whole story started with a wedding. This is very symbolic for the brand.
They were both of Belgium origin; they were diamond dealers in Antwerp at the
beginning of the century. Miss Arpels met Mr. Alfred Van Cleef and they got
married in 1896. The two families started working together and decided to
open a store in Place Vendome in 1906.

12.22
A family run business, is a wonderful story because it gives a lot of archives,
stories to tell and basically it gives the name and the patronage. On the other
side the problem is that most of the time in those families you get different
branches with different goals in life, different ways, different stories and at one
point it freezes totally the growth of the company.

Van Cleef & Arpels Jewellery

12.56
KD – What is your background?

12.58
I was working for Cartier for 14 years.

13.00
KD – In what division?

13.02
A lot of divisions - My last position was managing director of Cartier France.

13.06
KD – What was the brief?

13.08
The brief was to respect the brand, respect its history and try to understand
the brand. Try to develop what is distinctive to that brand, don’t imitate other
people or other brands and try to stay very exclusive.

Van Cleef & Arpels Jewellery

13.30
The first thing that you have to do is understand. Especially because I came
from a very long stay with another brand so it was very important for me to
understand the roots, to understand the style, to understand the identity, what
we call the DNA of the brand.

13.48
KD – Did you actually meet any of the family?

13.50
Yes.

13.51
KD – Who did you meet?

13.54
Jacque Arpels of course.

13.55
KD – And how did you find him?

13.56
He is such an impressive personality that it may have been very difficult to
cope with his personality within the company. So you feel the genius of part of
his personality but also his drawbacks.

Van Cleef & Arpels Jewellery

14.14
KD – So you’ve gone from Cartier, which has become a multi billion dollar
business and you’re back in a family company which has not changed since
the 50 and 60’s.

14.23
Sometimes I think: "I should have stayed where I was, it was so easy".

14.29
KD – How different is this from Cartier to you?

14.30
It is totally opposite

14.33
KD – In terms of brand, in terms of concept, in terms of?

Van Cleef & Arpels Jewellery

14.36
In terms of DNA of the brand, identity, of personal values it is so totally
different. You have a very Latin brand, which is Cartier, very sensual, very
erotic, very Latin, ostentation in it, all of it. Then you have Van Clef and
Arpels, not at all a Latin brand, very Anglo-Saxon never looking towards the
south. Always looking east and west. No sin, no eroticism, very much a virgin.

15.09
KD – Really?

15.10
Very Garden of Eden.

15.15
All the big codifying elements of Cartier are art deco. In Van Clef, you have
dominant styles within each period and it is circular. Even though it is not
dominated by one particular style, it is very distinctive.

15.32
Transforming a drawing into a 3 dimensional piece requires a lot of
imagination, heart, understanding and vision. Not everybody can achieve it.

15.45
KD – How do you know when somebody is really good at jewellery?

15.49
I have worked with many designers – the best have an ability to go beyond
boundaries. You can flick through pages of designs for hours and hours and
spend ten minutes on one and think "That could be interesting, if,if,if". And
then suddenly you see a design and you instinctively think "yes" - you feel it.
It is the ability to feel "ah" to click with the design. We have what we call a
stylistic chart – it is basically the essence of the brand, the philosophy of the
brand and the unconscious of the brand is this so the designers have to work
within that.

16.27
There are a lot of special words here. A slow mover, a piece that has been
here forever is called a ‘schtropp’. The first time I went to the vault to look for
pieces, the staff would say ‘That’s schtropp, don’t bother with that’, and I
thought "I’ve been in the business for 15 years and I’ve never heard of this
term. O.k… I have to ask! I cannot go forever like that not knowing what
"schtropp" means".

16.57
KD – Like being on a set of a Woody Allen movie?

16.58
Yeah, it is like, my God, I am supposed to be an expert in the business so I
am not asking but I need to know.

17.08
KD – What are some of the other crazy words they are using?

17.12
They use "club" for the toilets.
I was looking for a sales person in the store and I could not find him.
I asked "Where is he?"
and the staff replied "He went to the club".
I said "Which club? Health Club? …"
They replied: "To the club!"
They looked at me and said ‘You don’t know that word? I replied "No".
They answered "He went to the men’s room".
So that is typical family business!

OFFICIAL WEBSITE: Van Cleef & Arpels Jewellery