2020 may have been filled with doom and gloom as retail stores closed by the dozens. Still, French fine jeweler Messika Paris–led by Founder and Creative Director Valerie Messika and her team–successfully opened ten stores worldwide during a pandemic. During this tumultuous year, she simultaneously unveiled a new fine jewelry collaboration with Kate Moss. Similarly, in 2021 the brand plans to open at least eight more freestanding stores and countless other points of sale while continuing a 2020 digital push. Additionally, the luxury brand turnover was only -10% for the year, while jewelry market competitors generally ended at -25 or -30%. Throughout was Messikas' sense of conviction to keep moving forward. Coincidentally, Messika also graced the cover of Forbes France as her countrymen also noticed her impressive achievements.
Long before the Coronavirus's presence was known and just as it became a global crisis, the brand had set its sight on several locations and had signed several leases. Still, Valerie Messika says the process happened 'one by one' for the most part. The locations opened beginning in April through December in the following order: Abu Shakra, Jordan; Barcelona, Spain; Saint-Tropez, France; Geneva; Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; Macau, China; Beijing, mainland China; Hong Kong, China; Tokyo, Japan, and topping off with New York City at Hudson Yards and two boutiques in Mexico. Each, of course, has its own story. "With Geneva, we were looking for a while, so when the right place arose, we grabbed it, but Barcelona was signed for a while before it opened," she said as an example.
Not once did Messika say she reconsidered the plans. But two locations she could have canceled but didn't were Hong Kong and New York. "In some respects, we had some concerns about Hudson Yards. But considering this location is more affordable than Madison Avenue and we are right next to Tiffany and Piaget with Van Cleef & Arpels and Cartier nearby, we forged ahead," said Messika, noting that a Big Apple flagship was key. She also notes that the area is 'cool' and conducive to holding events as well as being home to several digital companies. The wager paid off as that store is performing in advance of Valentine's Day sales, with results indicating that non-event-related self-purchasing is driving sales too. "In the world of luxury, if you spend your money, you don't lose it," she said, noting money spent on travel and dining out is now funneled into purchases by clients.
Discovering the Chinese Market
Hong Kong is similar to New York as being in a prime location. Located in the Harbor View mall, the franchise store is a more significant risk based on the high real estate costs associated with the Chinese territory. Overall, the entry into the Chinese market has been successful, though. However, the jeweler noted without an events budget, even if possible, digital advertising campaigns have been successful, primarily due to their star. The new Kate Moss campaign showing the supermodel wearing pieces of the collaborative collection with a backdrop of iconic Parisian locations happened to be the current marketing plan and helped drive brand recognition there. "It wasn't planned this way, but it's a good coincidence."
Furthermore, Messika added, "It's just the beginning with this market," as other retailers have asked to do pop-ups with them. The classic Move collection performs well there, especially as the brand customizes pieces with red Cornelian stones for the Chinese New Year. "Men also wear more jewelry there, and they love Messika," she observed.
Middle East Expansion
The Middle East was Messika's first foreign expansion when she opened Riyadh in 2016. In addition, 2020's Riyadh and Abu Shakra openings will join several locations in the market for 2021 to include the second in Kuwait City slated for February; Abu Dhabi and Mall of Emirates, Dubai in March; Kahyyat in Jeddah in June and Qatar Vendome in Doha in September. The market has been extremely loyal to the brand. "This was our first foreign venture, and I'm very proud of this market success," Messika says, "We have a connection with them as they gift a lot during the year." The founder observes that in light of competitors in the area – mega brands Van Cleef and Cartier – the Middle Eastern customers respond to Messika's easy-to-wear jewelry for every age and price range. The jewelry ranges in price from 600 euros to up to 1 million euros.
Closer to Home
With a family who has been in the diamond business for almost fifty years, Messika grew up surrounded in diamonds, literally, in Paris. To complement the Rue Saint Honore's original store, the jeweler will also open a second store on Rue Pierre Charon by February. Like other French luxury brands such as Dior, Messika Paris had a successful run in their newly opened Saint-Tropez location that opened doors in June in time for the holiday season, which prevailed this past summer with local French tourists. Other new European boutiques include Luxembourg and an expansion of the recently opened Barcelona outpost.
Beloved by international stars such as Beyoncé, Charlize Theron, Selena Gomez, and Anne Hathaway, local celebrity clients include Isabelle Huppert, Cindy Bruna and Tina Kunakey-Cassel. French actor Vincent Cassel, married to Kunakey, is also a fan of the collection. French singer Dadju is seen frequently in a Lucky Move pendant and titanium Move bracelet. Colombian Latin singer Maluma wore his XXL Lucky Move malachite pendant to the 2020 American Music Awards in November, held virtually but staged live, where he performed with JLo. This adoption of the brand's women's' styles by men inspired the creative director to launch a unisex style and collection later this year.
Like most brands, Messika experienced a total shutdown of its stores globally roughly through mid-March and April of 2020. Despite the jewelry's modern design, Valerie Messika herself prefers old fashioned in-person luxury shopping experiences. Adapting to the new world during the Coronavirus pandemic led to a ramp-up of the collection's digital sales. "To be honest, during the first month of lockdown, people were paralyzed," explains Messika, "but by the second month, people were feeling more confident, and the boutique salespeople held Zoom appointments with clients." Still, it prompted the need for an E-comm upgrade and fast.
To start, the brand improved upon their existing concierge services, which helped the French market, for instance, get more comfortable at buying fine jewelry online. "We multiplied by 4 or 5 times the turnover on our European site," she explained.
In November, they launched a brand-new E-commerce for the US market. The pandemic definitely sped things up. "I was postponing putting an investment in my E-commerce, but the events of 2020 pushed it faster," she said, noting the improvements.
With the new year underway and in some regards resembling the events of 2020, Valerie Messika is looking forward to making up for the lost time. For starters, she will push her thrice postponed event launch for the Kate Moss collection until July 2021. She held a small press preview sans Moss in Paris in October when the City of Lights made small attempts at a premature return to normalcy. The reaction to the collection, when shown, was what the jeweler had hoped for. "Kate is really cool, and she loves jewelry. What I experienced is how she relates high fashion looks to high fashion jewelry," commenting that Moss's love of Art Deco, Indian and Boho jewelry styles mixed with Messika's modern aesthetic resulted in a unique collection. This collection hit the stores less than a month ago and retails from 5,000 Euros to 400,000 Euros.
When 2021 winds down, the brand will open the first store in Moscow in Tsum to conquer yet another market. Russians have been faithful to the brand without having a flagship point-of-sale there. With so much to celebrate, the jewelry designer said she could wait. "We can celebrate when we want and do it in a good mood," she said, adding, "I want to be optimistic; it will be joyful, and I am sure people will consume and be alive again."