The Royal Jewellers S01 ep16 : Fortunoff Jewellery [New York]
Interview with Helene Fortunoff
NEW YORK - Helene Fortunoff- JEWELLER -5th Ave Jewellery Dynasty.
I like to get to the source. I mean we call ourselves Fortunoff the Source, and I would not be happy if I were not going and being able to purchase at where I knew I was getting the right price and where I could have an active negotiation. Part of the pleasure of the jewellery business, I would say is outright negotiation and understanding the nuances of the deal There is a huge amount of merchandise and you have rejection and you are able to tailor your parcels and when you are looking at million and millions of dollars of merchandise, it takes time, but you will get what you need.
First of all Fortunoff is a family business, we are celebrating 80 years in
business, but I would say that probably we are the most well known for
jewellery, which is a division that I started approximately 44 years ago when I
was only 8 years old.
I started very simply, with 2 showcases in Brooklyn and as you know we have
large stores that are in Long Island and New Jersey so I know what it is like to
build all the way up.
KM - For you what is jewellery?
Jewellery primarily is a remembrance of the all the wonderful events that we
live through, be it the birth of a child, be it an anniversary, or a birthday. It is a
way of reward for ourselves, it is a way for a loved one to show that you are
KM - You are one of the few women in the diamond business, why did you
persevere with jewellery, why not something more practical like fashion?
I really enjoy going to all the gem centres of the world and I really loved the
product from a very early time,
KM - When you say travel to gem centres, you actually went to Bangkok?
Oh yes, of course, absolutely, I went to India, I went to Bangkok, I went to
Hong Kong. The first time I went to Eideroberstein, and went to look at
gemstones, my husband and I were together. I knew that the first few parcels,
I had to say price is too high, this is not the right merchandise, because I
realised that at that time I was being tested. It took a while and then after a
while they accepted me and I won their respect. One of the things that you
wouldn't know is that a few years ago I was a Commandatore della Republica
d'Italia - I was knighted.
KM You're kidding?
The reason being that I am a very important client and I have exposed and
advertised the Italian product and helped make it well respected in the United
States, and I think that was their way of saying thank you.
I like to get to the source. I mean we call ourselves Fortunoff the Source, and I
would not be happy if I were not going and being able to purchase at places
where I knew I was getting the right price and where I could have an active
negotiation. Part of the pleasure of the jewellery business, I would say is
outright negotiation and understanding the nuances of the deal There is a huge
amount of merchandise and you have rejection and you are able to tailor your
parcels and when you are looking at million and millions of dollars of
merchandise, it takes time, but you will get what you need.
KM - So now your daughter does all of that?
Now my daughter does that.
In our store, you can be shoulder to shoulder, shop girl and business executive
and both of them can be needing the same thing, they may be using it
KM - What has been the transition from 10 years ago to today? What has
been the major change?
Well first the major change is now that I serve as President/CEO of Fortunoff
Fine Jewellery, it was not a title that I sought and of course I have 5 children
that are assisting me in the business.
KM - Ahh because 10 years ago you were telling me that they had all gone off
and weren't too sure if they were coming back
Now they are all with us.
KM How did you manage to do that?
To corral them, because my children are all involved, very involved and all
doing different things. I have a daughter who is an architect and she is very
helpful in all of the constant changes that we are making and of course is very
involved in this new building. I spoke about my daughter Esther she serves so
ably with all of the loose goods and coloured stones, my daughter Ruth who is
involved in high end jewellery who travels all over the world as well, I have a
son who is a computer expert who does all our MYS and I have another son
Lewis who is involved in merchandising but who is also very involved in the
political and in the legal and negotiation type of things. I really do not have to
work so hard anymore.
KM - How different are American designers as compared to your experience
with say the Italian and the French designers?
I would say that American designers are perhaps are more experimental
especially when it comes to very modern and clean lines.
When we travel to Italy we really want to have the breath, not only just that
very fine line of Italian designers who are at the very cutting edge, although I
would say that they are not as cutting edge as say the Germanic Designers, so
we are really going to be exploring as many types of design workshops as
there are. We are never afraid to start out with new people and by the way we
are not afraid to have markdowns. You cannot present a lot of product without
having failures and we understand that.
KM - Jewellery is a funny thing, it is sculpture, it is architecture, and it is art....
I see it differently, I see it as wearable art and because of that it has to fit a
particular niche. It has to have a usefulness and as well as a beauty. Jewellery
is carried with you for diverse experiences, it is going to go with you when you
are at a grand ball, it is going to go with you when you are having a business
meeting, it is filling a different type of need, it is being displayed in too many
environments. It should be able to be in more than one environment so it is a
different type of art ... for me wearable art, and it has got to be capable of
fitting in and acting as a compliment to a person. It should not be that it should
stand out so much that it says look at me, look at this piece of jewellery rather
it says look at the whole person and just see it as a full entity of beauty of
accomplishment and it simply acts as an enhancement to that person and that
is how I view jewellery.
KM Are you still a crazy dancer?
Ahh better than ever,
KM - Yeah but why?
I am taking dancing lessons, I dance....
KM - Are you dancing the bamba or what?
I am doing the Salsa, I am doing the Tango, I am having a ball, I have a great
KM - Yeah, but what's with dancing and you? Jewellery and Dancing a
I think I am a dangerous woman.
OFFICIAL WEBSITE: Fortunoff Jewellery