Tiffany’s group vice president Florence Rollet: ‘There is always a meaning behind each piece of jewellery’

Florence Rollet, Tiffany’s group president for Europe, Middle East and Africa, is in UAE to launch the latest collection, discusses what makes the brand so popular, outlines plans for the region, and describes her signature jewellery.

Florence Rollet, Tiffany’s group president for Europe, Middle East and Africa. Vittorio Zunino Celotto / Getty Images for Tiffany & Co
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Tiffany's is synonymous with New York sophistication, from the era of Audrey Hepburn charm and Mad Men. The jewellery company has a place in the history of glamour like no other brand – as well as featuring in the iconic film Breakfast at Tiffany's, Marilyn Monroe mentioned the jewellers twice in her 1953 song Diamonds are a Girls Best Friend. Now the classic jewellery brand is changing, as its customer base increasingly spans not just the Unites States and Europe, but the rest of the world.

Florence Rollet, the group vice president in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, is currently in Dubai to launch Tiffany’s latest collection. As part of her role, the 49-year-old from France, helps to oversee the five Tiffany’s stores in the UAE – at The Dubai Mall, Mall of the Emirates, Atlantis the Palm, Abu Dhabi Mall and Marina Mall. She joined Tiffany’s in 2013, bringing with her 25 years of expertise with brands such as Christian Dior, LVMH Group and Danone.

You oversee Europe, the Middle East and Africa – in which city are you usually based?

At the headquarters for Tiffany’s Europe, Africa and the Middle East, which is in London’s Osborne Street, just above our flagship store in the British capital. I am here in Dubai to launch the new collection, but also to understand customers’ expectations when they visit the stores here. Dubai is home to our beloved Middle East flagship store, in The Dubai Mall.

How is Tiffany’s expanding?

We have powerful ambitions the world over, because our customers are now global. Last year we opened our Moscow branch, last June we opened the Champs- Élysées store in Paris, and we just opened the Riyadh store, in the Kingdom Mall last week. It spans over two floors and covers approximately 370 square metres, making it the largest Tiffany’s boutique in the Middle East. We are constantly looking for new luxury locations to open, to meet the expectations of our customers.

Tiffany & Co was founded in 1837 and in the 1880s, the company became famous for buying jewels from European Royalty and selling them to the New York bourgeoisie. How has the brand’s clientele evolved since then?

Customers are becoming global. They visit us in New York in our famous flagship store, then take a flight to Harrods, and then they might also go to Dubai. All these places have become internationally accessible. They want to be treated with care and considered as a unique customer each time they visit any of our stores. This is probably very different to 20 years ago.

Is the popularity of the Breakfast at Tiffanys film still having a positive effect on the Tiffany’s brand?

Breakfast at Tiffany's is unique to our brand and is part of our New York heritage. I think everybody loves the film, so for us it's a very nice way of sharing the values of the brand with our customers. Some customers want the Breakfast at Tiffany's experience – we just had a gentleman who wanted to propose to his beloved in one of our boutiques, so we organised a beautiful breakfast at Tiffany's for them and he made his proposal inside our store. The couple said it was a unique experience. We often create beautiful VIP surroundings for our customers to make their proposals in our stores, and they are so pleased, because it's something that nobody else offers.

Can you actually eat breakfast at Tiffany’s then?

Yes, as an activity for customers on specific occasions. It’s really something that is in our DNA but when we do it, it’s not a commercial activity. It’s really more of a unique experience for our privileged guests. And it has to be arranged in advance – we don’t have catering behind the curtains.

So Tiffany’s is a popular spot for couples to pick a wedding ring out?

Yes. We are very lucky because we get to share our customers’ happy moments. People come to us when they have ­something that they want to share – ­engagements, weddings, ­anniversaries, or births. When they join the Tiffany’s family, there is always a meaning behind each piece of jewellery. Everybody can choose ­something according to their standards and budget, to build their own style. The minimum price is US$300 (Dh1,100) and then the sky’s the limit!

In 1837 when he founded the company, Charles Lewis Tiffany used to say that a good design makes a good business. What’s the mantra for today’s modern Tiffany’s brand?

This mantra still applies. Mr Tiffany was a grand visionary because he associated craftsmanship with a beautiful story around these pieces, which are still very contemporary today. Our new collections demonstrate that this is still valid. We had enormous success, specifically in the Middle East, when we launched our T collection last year.

Which is your all-time favourite Tiffany’s piece?

I love the Victoria collection because of the craftsmanship behind the diamonds. I think we really are experts in diamonds. We reject 99.4 per cent of the world’s diamonds because we do not consider them to be of proper quality to meet our expectations. I never take off my Victoria bracelet, it is with me day and night and this is also my own ­signature. I’m very emotional when I look at the ­craftsmanship that we have behind all our pieces. You have the feeling that someone was behind it and that they build it with their hands.

What do today’s customers look for in terms of jewels?

Exceptional design, beautiful craftsmanship, and a shopping experience. In Tiffany’s boutiques, all these components come together seamlessly. The unique experience is something that is very important because you want to experience something defined as a Tiffany’s moment. The teams in each boutique are very important in making that happen.

What’s fashionable at the moment in terms of jewellery?

The contemporary customer doesn’t want to be styled by a brand, they want the brand to be able to give them the aspects to create their own style. That means that for example, I am currently wearing a Tiffany’s Victoria bracelet, as well as an Infinity bracelet and a Bow bracelet, because this is my way of stacking the jewellery. I think more people now are looking to create their own rules, and they also want to be able to break their rules. 50 years ago, women would wear just one piece of jewellery. Now you can mix as many pieces as you want, the way you want – you can even use a necklace as a bracelet. I think the new collection answers these types of needs.

This article has been amended and a photo removed to reflect that Tiffany's representatives have indicated the company is not redesigning its packaging at this time. The headline has also been amended to fix Florence Rollet's position from group president to group vice president.