Tiffany Unveils First New Engagement Line in Nearly a Decade
SITTING IN THE LIBRARY at Tiffany & Co.’s corporate headquarters in New York City’s Flatiron District, Alessandro Bogliolo is marveling at the delicate “T” in the setting of the ring that anchors the company’s upcoming jewelry collection, Tiffany True, its first new engagement line in nearly a decade.
The ring features a new cut of diamond, and its setting is designed so that its four link sides create a basket for the ring, allowing it to sit lower on the finger for a more modern feel. You don’t instantly notice the “T,” and that is just how Bogliolo wants it.
“The setting is subtle, not in your face,” the Tiffany CEO tells Fortune as he shows off various items in the Tiffany True collection, including a gold bracelet made of interwoven gold Ts. The ring can be personalized—platinum with white diamonds, for instance, or 18K yellow gold with yellow diamonds. Prices start at $7,000 and can run well into six figures.
The new collection will be a big test for Tiffany and for Bogliolo, who took the reins almost a year ago and was tasked with updating a jeweler many have come to see as stodgy. “In this little object you have so much in terms of newness,” he says, putting the ring on his pinkie to lift it in the air.
Newness has become a mantra for Bogliolo, who came to Tiffany from Diesel and was at Sephora and Bulgari before that. After stumbling for years, Tiffany seems to be getting back on track, and much of that is the faster metabolism taking hold in the company on his watch, speeding up the pace and frequency of new-product introductions.
Bogliolo became CEO at a time of some turmoil at the 181-year-old New York jeweler. His predecessor was ousted after barely 22 months, and Tiffany found itself in the crosshairs of activist investors pushing it to modernize more quickly, a need made urgent by a streak of disappointing sales results that ended last year.
The Italian admits that Tiffany needed a shake-up, saying that as with many old companies, caution had set into the culture, an assessment Wall Street analysts agree with. “This is a company that’s always held on to its heritage for dear life. Their heritage has made them a little outdated,” says Stacey Widlitz, president of SW Retail Advisors, who thinks Tiffany’s new lines are righting the ship.
Still, so much of Tiffany’s revenue comes from decades-old collections by Elsa Peretti (which alone generates 9% of sales) and Paloma Picasso. And Tiffany’s bestselling collection remains its classic namesake engagement ring with a six-prong setting, introduced in 1886.
Tiffany’s “T” collection of now 130 items has been a big success. And so far in 2018, there are signs that Tiffany is building on that momentum. Its Paper Flowers collection, the biggest launch of platinum and diamond jewelry by Tiffany since 2009, and the first by chief artistic officer Reed Krakoff—the man who helped turned Coach into an upscale handbag behemoth and joined Tiffany in early 2017—is off to a promising start. The collection, consisting of flower petals made up of diamonds and tanzanite, held together with a platinum pin, was launched with a splashy party in May that attracted the likes of model Kendall Jenner. Prices range from $2,500 to $790,000. The idea is to redefine the notion of fine jewelry, a term that can sound stuffy. “Luxury has gotten much more irreverent,” Krakoff says.
Krakoff also created a lot of buzz, with a pinch of ridicule, last year with the Everyday Objects home decor collection that featured items like a tin can for $1,000 and a $165 pizza cutter. But while such items may sound as if they’re way out of Tiffany’s wheelhouse, Krakoff saw them as crucial in reminding shoppers of Tiffany’s inventiveness.
“The tin can is craftsmanship. It’s a way to show our virtuosity in a way that’s unique to us,” he says. Besides, Krakoff adds, the item had Tiffany roots: It was inspired by Andy Warhol, a onetime collaborator with the jeweler.
And still more important, it got people talking about Tiffany again.
The duo of Bogliolo and Krakoff have also been stunned by the popularity of the new Blue Box Cafe on the fourth floor of Tiffany’s flagship on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue (the store is getting a three-year face-lift that could cost $250 million). The cafe is one of the hardest bookings to land in a city with no shortage of high-end dining options.
Bogliolo dismisses the notion of Tiffany as a stodgy, uninventive company. On the contrary, daring has always been part of its soul. He points to company founder Charles Lewis Tiffany, who made his mark in the 1800s by buying a big chunk of France’s crown jewels and making baubles out of them for the Vanderbilts. He wants today’s executives to tap that spirit.
Key to instilling inventiveness in the culture is upping the tempo. In a bid to speed up its new-product developments, the company consolidated its design and engineering teams, located in disparate offices in Rhode Island and New York, into a sleek new workshop in the Flatiron District. Its location down the street from Tiffany’s head office makes it easy for Bogliolo to pop over, which he does at least once a week.
The facility, which opened in April, is already enabling faster prototyping of jewelry and the exchange of ideas and is worth the extra expense of renting office space in Manhattan, the CEO says.
The 17,000-square-foot facility features five 3D printers that make wax or resin models for the rings and played a large role in accelerating the development process of the True collection. Tiffany gets 21% of sales from engagement rings, and at a time of declining marriage rates, it’s easy to see why it can ill afford to let this side of its business stagnate.
Not every new line Tiffany has introduced has been a runaway success. The company’s wristwatches, relaunched a few years ago, are well-regarded products, but they represent just 1% of the company’s global sales and don’t have the big Swiss players breaking a sweat.
With engagement jewelry sales on the rise again after three years of decline, Tiffany is anchoring its renaissance on what it does best and is most famous for with more frequent updates for the modern shopper. “Customers, rightfully so, want to know what is new.” Bogliolo says.
A version of this article appears in the October 1, 2018 issue of Fortune with the headline “Ring The Changes.”