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A talk with Gannon Brousseau…

He could pass on for a French dude maybe an Italian … but although he has a French last name, he is only American. First of, he hates to compare Couture to Basel, « The show is very different. It’s not about jewelry in Basel, it’s about watches ! » he claims, « For us, it’s about jewelry and we are adding watches. We are growing the opposite way of them. »

That being said, in between the 300 brands he walks by individualy during the show and the gazillions of people (including buyers, journalistes, CEOs…) Gannon Brousseau managed to sit down 57 minutes in the middle of the alley of the Wynn Hotel to answer 10 questions… starting with…

HOW ARE YOU HANDLING INTERVIEWS AND MEETING PEOPLE ALL DAY LONG?

Actually I don’t – It’s mostly with customers. I am touring around, making sure everything is going ok and everyone is happy. I am also touring with new brands interrested in the show. The big brands like De Grisogono or Chanel are looking to see if they should be coming, if they do, where should they go. I am here for them.

JEWELRY ARE ON ONE SIDE – WATCHES ON THE OTHER – AND COUTURE TIME AT THE ENCORE. HOW COME?

We want to merchandise the show where jewelry is in one part and watches on the other. So it makes it easier for retailers to navigate. Because we have limited space. It’s small but it’s the beauty of couture : it’s intimate.

BRAND SELECTION IS BASED ON A STORY, A STYLE …

My team and I filter the brands. We get a lot of applications. Out of 10, one is right. It’s very hard to pick and we try our very best to have designers and brands with their own DNA. Sometimes you miss one… but it’s our biggest challenge. There are so many brands out-there and a lot of them look like each other. We are constantly editing the curation.

WHY HAS COUTURE BEEN MOSTLY DIRECTED TO THE US MARKET ?

We like to think that we bring the brand here in the publications and we cover it. In the chain we like to think that the designer that we find present their collections here for the press and editors to discover them. There is more US than European press though : and that is our issue. Historically, Couture has never reached out to the European press… that was before my time. I believe they did not see the potential.  I saw the energy of the press during fashion weeks in Paris … I thought that we had to do something about it to curate the jewelry.

The big push this year is to invite select editors from Europe for them to see what we do here at Couture. Because I do believe that there is an incredible group of designers that are not being seen overseas. Irene Neuwirth is an amazing brand here in the U.S. and first got into Le Bon Marché two seasons ago. Some designers dont necessarly need another exposure, but they would certainly like it. A lot of these guys know what store they would like to be in.

WHAT’S A DAY LIKE IN YOUR LIFE?

It’s a lot of looking at collections for Couture. I know nothing about jewelry but I love design. What makes me legitimate is that I have a good team ! You can learn things, sometimes not being familiar helps. I think I am a quick study. I like to think that I know what works and what does not. It’s kind of like what I would wear if I were a woman. I am a big fan of furniture, art, and design. I just love design.

HOW DID YOU GET INTO THIS ADVENTURE?

I got thrown into this world. This needed someone to run this show. It’s a difficult market – and I had to learn quickly. For me, it’s very interresting.  It’s not even just about the jewelry it’s about the designer behind it. You can learn a lot from the artist  who creates the jewelry when they talk about the process, when they talk about the process. You start to see things differently. All of a sudden it means something, it matters. Jewelry of this kind of market need to build the artist behing the product. Like in fashion. Everybody knows who Ralph Lauren or Tom Ford look like. The normal consumer should know who Stephen Webster, Roberto Coin or David Yurman look like. We need to do a better job at promoting who these artists are. When you start telling the story they want the romance. It’s the romance of it, and everybody loves romance.

TELL ME ABOUT YOURSELF

I wish I had a better story about myself.  I have no story !

YOU DO NOT CONSIDER THE LAS VEGAS COUTURE SHOW TO BE A TRADE SHOW. CAN YOU EXPLAIN WHY?

I refuse to call it a trade show and never did! I call it an event and most importantly it is a celebration of our industry. Its very function is for trade but to me its a celebration of this incredible industry. We often refer Couture as a community made up of designers, brand managers and press and retailers. We like to feel like everybody is excited about the show. They look forward to the event.

WHAT IS THE ADDED VALUE OF COUTURE COMPARED TO A SHOW LIKE JCK?

I don’t really know how JCK is doing to be honest –  it has been many years since I have but it’s really crazy out there ! As per us, we know who we are, we dont focus on what everyone else is doing, we know where we want to go. Of course, we always need to adjust and make it better. There are always things we can improve. We are never satisfied… up to the little things you may not notice. We are a very small show. We are a tight community. And I believe we all come here to celebrate an industry. And it feels like they have to be here. They enjoy coming here. I’d like to think that.

At Couture there is a very calculated- this is all about the art. No one cares about who gets the bigger booth or the bigger stand. People are here to admire, to purchase the collections or the stars. Not the walls – Unlike other shows who like to say how big they were .

WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT FEMININE AND JEWELRY TIMEPIECES?

There is jewelry on one side and watches on the other. You have to think about how you want to shop the show. Does it make sense to see feminine watches at one place and masculine watches elsewhere ? I think its better to say that timepieces are there. Your mind triggers « ok I am looking at watches now. »  – The Wynn is remodeling in a few years and there is going to be another ballroom on the side – that might open up new opportunities that could enable some adjustements to the show. There is always things in front of us to look after. Some things that we want to look at…. And then we have to ask ourselves – What do we want in 5 years and how do we want to get there ? How do we back into that ?

WHAT’S YOUR THOUGHT ABOUT THE FUTURE OF WATCHES ON A FEMININE PERSPECTIVE?

It tells me that jewelry designers and jewelry retailers are understanding that women herselves are purchasing. It’s no longer husbands or whoever buying pieces for them. Brands are starting to undersand that making pieces women want – because she is the one that is going to buy it. The brands need to start asking themselves what should they do in order to win their interest ? It’s very smart. It’s not about adding diamonds to the bezel or reducing the diameter of the case anymore. Women are buying the products.

MEN’S JEWELRY

It’s catching up for sure. There is something great about that. If I could pull off a necklace or a signet ring I would ! I cant … It doesnt work for me. Nikos Koulis can pull off a ruby and diamond set brooch – I cant ! Certain men can pull off certain things. Men’s jewelry is fantastic. I can be the client for that but it all depends on what the product is ! I am very understated. I dont like labels or flashy things. A stack of bracelets is kind of cool !

LATEST JEWELRY CRUSH?

Hard for me to pick one as all of them are creative, innovative, talented and highly-skilled. Irene Neuwirth
– Suzanne Kalan – I think her baguette style rocks
– Alex Supkis
– Aranashi is insane…
– Tom Reed did my wedding Ring – and I am a big fan of Nikos Koulis : he’s got the deco thing going on.
– Arianashi
– More Greek Designers than we have had in a while ! They are all very good.
– Lydia Courteille
– Victor Velyan – he is all about perfecting patinas, he’s incredibly talented. He does it from his bench. Obviously, he has people working for him but he can do everything. He makes everything by hand.

Gannon Brousseau calls himself “very unstated”.  I always wear jackets, jeans and red stocks; wears a Shamballa bracelet next to a Seiko and a Rolex. He loves Bell & Ross and thinks about getting a Tudor Black Bay. Donald is his middle name, he is based in New York but comes to Paris 3 times a year, tours around Europe 2 to 3 times more and says that hearing a French accent when speaking English is cute !

Merci Beaucoup et à l’année prochaine !