From creating crowns for Napoleon to being the only jeweler on display in the Louvre, the French jeweler Chaumet has enjoyed over 230 years of impressive history. “But if Chaumet just belongs to the past, nobody today will be interested,” says Jean-Marc Mansvelt, CEO of Chaumet. “The brand aspires to connect with the present and tell its rich stories to the young generation.”
However, this can be a challenge in China, especially considering that Cartier entered the market in the 1990s, while Chaumet arrived nearly a decade later. While their competitors opened lots of stores and aggressively marketed in the country, Chaumet waited patiently. Then, in 2017, Chaumet mounted its first-ever exhibition at Beijing’s Forbidden City, drawing over 500,000 visitors within three months. The collaboration was lauded, but to take advantage of China’s massive millennial and Gen-Z populations, Chaumet needed to create a contemporary image that could inspire today’s Chinese women. But how?
Tell the Mulan Story
This past July, Chaumet made the global announcement that Chinese actress Liu Yifei would be the brand’s new ambassador. This was particularly surprising to many because Mansvelt said in 2018 that “Chaumet will not appoint a celebrity ambassador, because the brand’s blue blood heritage, distinctive Parisian style, the art of jewelry creation, and all the clients it has served are the [true] ambassadors.”
But Liu is special as she plays Mulan in the upcoming Disney film of the same name. Since Chaumet describes its brand spirit as “grace and character,” who better than Mulan to inspire young Chinese women to become heroes in their own fields? As the Napoleon story is impressive but distant, Mulan has offered the French brand a more natural and vivid context for Chinese can relate to.
Awaken the Princess and Queen
While many brands pay attention to how women in China like to shop and have fun, Chaumet goes beyond the surface to understand what they’d like to become. As women in China receive more education, they’re no longer satisfied with traditional roles. When they embark on a journey to find themselves, they aspire toward enlightenment. “Awaken the princess and queen within” is how Chaumet is encouraging women. Chaumet continues in the ambassador’s announcement, stating, “Be the princess who lives gracefully and enjoys life to the fullest; be the queen who tackles critical challenges with ease and takes control of her own destiny.”
This interpretation is a perfect match with Mulan, who is simultaneously a princess (the first-ever Chinese one from Disney) and a fearless fighter, providing spiritual guidance to today’s Chinese women. After all, the true influence of a luxury brand lies in its power to inspire fans to live out its spirit. Liu’s response on Weibo was also inspiring, where she wrote, “Together with Chaumet, we can crown every beautiful self.” As the original crown master, Chaumet has created over 3,000 crowns throughout its history. But today, a crown has taken on a new interpretation. A crown is no longer just for nobles or an honor bestowed by royalty. Graceful and brave women can “crown” themselves to celebrate every success in life. It is self-empowerment.
Connect with Chinese Culture
The Chinese are more subtle in expressing emotion, and that cultural difference has held sway over their jewelry preferences. One anonymous respondent wrote under the question “What is Chaumet?” on China’s knowledge-sharing platform Zhifu, “As a jewelry salesperson, I noticed some clients came to check other brands. But once they encountered Chaumet, they changed their minds. I have to agree with their choices. Some brands almost want to engrave the Chinese words ‘I love you’ on their wedding rings, which is a bit too blunt. One Chaumet design that is particularly popular among Chinese clients is a ring with a little diamond hidden inside, which is hardly noticeable to outsiders. This private and discreet design has a rich meaning too, that is, keeping you inside my heart.”
Cartier’s Trinity, on the other hand, has three rings superimposed on each other as a symbol of three kinds of love: family, friends, and partner. This concept is straightforward, yet it lacks complexity for a Chinese audience. In comparison, Chaumet’s Liens concept can be easily understood by Chinese as “Yuanfen” (beautiful connections in life), and it even fits into Chinese philosophy in a broader sense. Such invisible threads go beyond the obvious connections with loved ones and extend to other connections: the surroundings and the universe. In early 2019, when Chaumet launched its first WeChat pop-up store, The Liens were chosen as featured products, and they sold out in three days. So while Chinese millennials value independence, it’s good to remember that they also desire authentic connections.
Feel Free and Playful
Traditionally, jewelry is for serious occasions like weddings, which can be a restriction to the brand while offering a far-off feel for younger generations. But in recent years, Chaumet has been revamping its brand image. While staying with the concept of grace and character, it has also been expressing vibes of freedom, as exemplified by their recent use of elegant models on roller skates.
For this year’s Qixi (Chinese Valentine’s day), Chaumet launched a second WeChat pop-up store, allowing customers to measure their finger sizes in 360 degrees, virtually try on jewelry, and invent creative and casual styles for daily scenarios. Chaumet claims that true luxury is to “zi zai yu xin” (feel free at heart).