Hubert Burda Media

Jean-Marc Mansvelt: Chaumet's priority is women

The jeweller's chief executive talks about the Maison’s new high jewellery collection and the brand's future.

Having assumed stewardship of Parisian high jewellery Maison Chaumet in January 2015, Jean-Marc Mansvelt has — in less than two years — spearheaded several successful initiatives that have helped increase Chaumet’s visibility. One of which was championing the opening of the Musée Ephémère, a series of temporary exhibits that sheds light on the brand’s heritage. The most recent installation, Une Éducation Sentimentale, a retrospective of the brand’s legacy in sentimental jewellery ran from February to September.

In addition to building the brand’s image in the minds of the public, Mansvelt has also shifted the brand’s priorities to focusing entirely on women. This means putting its watchmaking ambitions on hold for the time being, and channeling all its efforts to jewellery making. While Chaumet has, in the past, presented itself as both a jeweller and watchmaker, “we won’t pretend to be a watchmaker anymore”, he says emphatically. “By being less all over the place, and being more focused, I think we’ve become more visible,” he shares.

Growing a wider and more varied customer base is also on the agenda. In addition to its high jewellery collection, La Nature de Chaumet, that was launched earlier in June, other collections like Hortensia Voie Lactée, Joséphine Eclat Floral, Hortensia Aube Rosée and Jeux de Liens Collection, offer entry to mid-tier jewellery that appeal to a younger target audience. “We want to find the right balance between the different markets and categories. We want to improve and increase the visibility in our high jewellery segment, yet, at the same time, we also want to be loved by the young generation and be accessible. Surely, what we do not want is to be so far removed from people that they just look at us, but never enter our shops. Finding this fine balance is really important for us.”

When you first assumed your position at Chaumet at the start of 2015, what were your initial thoughts about the brand? 
I was intrigued by its history. My initial thoughts were: How do I make this Maison visible and understood by the public? Although I don’t think it has to be a popular brand, I feel that it has to be understood by key people, just like it was 200 years ago when it was the jeweller of choice by the most aristocratic and distinctive people. I thought it was important for a brand like Chaumet to achieve a kind of visibility that is truly respectful of its heritage.

How do you think your past roles at L'Oréal and Louis Vuitton have helped prepare you for this position?
Louis Vuitton and Chaumet share many things in common: The heritage, sense of exclusivity, level of excellence in every single detail, the importance of creativity and the fact that you have to be audacious. That being said, jewellery is a very specific business. The synergy among the creative team is different and jewellery is also an object of investment. When people buy high jewellery, they buy the piece that they love but there’s also a sense of investment. This investment makes you consider how the item’s value is going to be in a few years — this is very different from fashion.

What inspired La Nature de Chaumet?
We were inspired by three aspects: First, our relationship with nature and how it remains one of the most enduring themes in the Maison’s history. It is also about our heritage and signature, which is this feeling of being there, the sense of lightness, this idea of elevation and this idea of movement and life. Last but not least, we were also inspired by the gemstones.

Will nature and history be the twin pillars of Chaumet’s creative universe?
No, it will include other influences. Nature is one of these themes but it is not the only story. We develop around three universes: Nature is where the Hortensia, the little animals and bugs, garden life and the different seasons exist. The second story revolves around Josephine and the tiara, and is more about royal courts and status. The third is centred on Liens and is more about links, love, attachment and sentiment. It is similar to Josephine but focused on the woman: Her heart and her links to her husband and family. We try to come up with a different theme each year that will surprise our clients and we cannot repeat the theme.

Were there any new and interesting manufacturing techniques that were employed in this collection?
There were various techniques used…but I think what is important to note is that we are not focused on just one technique. There are techniques that are a little bit more specific to Chaumet, such as the fil-couteau that makes the stones appear as if they are miraculously suspended. However, we only employ techniques to achieve an intended effect. We don’t concentrate on one thing that could be emblematic and that could potentially summarise our expertise.

Is the Chaumet workshop entirely responsible for the whole collection?
We use different workshops because of time and support. However, they are all Parisian workshops that work for the key players. When you have several workshops, it is very important to also be clear of your style because at the end, both the different pieces have to come together to bear the same signature. You need to be sure of yourself and what you want.

How would you differentiate Chaumet's watch and jewellery identity?
It’s very simple: We are a jeweller. And we want to be a jeweller. If we do watches, it’s only and purely from the perspective of a jeweller. Maybe we have done so in the past but we won’t pretend to be a watchmaker anymore. Using La Nature de Chaumet as an example, we created a high jewellery collection; sometimes, some objects can give time. We won’t compete in the watch business — it’s already a lot to do having to perfect our craft as an incredible jeweller.

What does this mean for the Dandy collection?
We are pragmatic about what we want to do with Dandy. There will be no new launches because we are very much focused on women and jewellery — we are in love with women. The Dandy collection will exist as part of the bridal universe but nothing more than this.