Rapaport Magazine

From Paris With Style

Playful and provocative, Mauboussin brings Parisian chic to Madison Avenue in New York City.

By Joyce Kauf
Etoile pendant
A mural of hand-painted red and black images conjuring up Paris’ Left Bank is not the typical décor of a boutique on Madison Avenue, the coveted location for prestige jewelry brands in New York City. But at Mauboussin, you almost expect to see cancan dancers swirling their skirts around the imaginatively displayed fine jewelry. “We have dusted off a venerable brand and made it completely relevant for the independent, fashion-conscious woman,” explains Thierry Chaunu, the chief executive officer (CEO) of Mauboussin USA.
   Founded in Paris in 1827, Mauboussin is the second-oldest jewelry brand in the Place Vendôme. In 2008, the company opened its U.S. flagship store in a five-story building to showcase its array of jewelry — platinum and 18-karat gold designs with diamonds or other precious and colored gemstones, as well as its popular bridal collection. Over the years, the brand has attracted style-setting film legends from Marlene Dietrich to Audrey Hepburn. However, Chaunu stresses that while Mauboussin is proud of its heritage, it is not a “museum to the past.”

Edgy and Elegant
   “Opening this boutique gave us a chance to show who we really are,” says Chaunu. Many factors came into play in determining how to effectively merchandise the different products — jewelry, watches, fragrances, writing instruments and sunglasses. For jewelry, the goal was to create “an interesting tension,” according to Chaunu, by taking a nonconformist approach to the store décor. It had to be feminine and true to its fashionable Parisian roots, but also modern to attract the woman who buys jewelry for herself. “We wanted to be a little bit shocking…a little bit edgy…but still elegant,” Chaunu notes, pointing out that the company’s target market is defined more by attitude than age.
   Red, black and white predominate on the boutique’s first floor. As soon as you enter, a chandelier of hanging crystals and red fabric roses sets the tone for the boutique’s joie de vivre — joy of living — ambience. Oversized chairs, red in the front with red-and-white polka dots on the back, paired with red shag rugs impart a sense of playful chic. Lampshades sparkle with diamond-like brilliance, casting a glow on the jewelry.
   “Amour Toujours” — French for “Love Always” — is splashed across one of the boutique’s white brick walls in large, red capital letters. The mural, created by Jay Lohmann, an American painter, also features typical Parisian images, including a black beret-clad Frenchwoman with pouting red lips. All the Mauboussin boutiques worldwide take their design cues from the company’s headquarters on the Place Vendôme to ensure a consistent brand image. However, each boutique commissions contemporary artists to interpret Parisian themes and further customizes its décor through the use of different color palettes and displays.

Treasure Boxes
   Black treasure boxes — boîtes à trésors — give the impression of being suspended from the wall but are actually supported by a single thin golden stand. They are interspersed among the traditional jewelry display cases. New collections are featured alongside many of the company’s original Art Deco designs that have been taken from Mauboussin’s archives and are now shown in this more contemporary context.
   Love is a common theme for the collections, with names ranging from Chance of Love, Dream & Love and the new Le Premier Jour collection, a reference to “the first day” of falling in love. The jewelry, displayed along with a card with the collection name written in cursive script, is often accompanied by a poem written by Alain Némarq, the president of Mauboussin worldwide. The poems are presented in Némarq’s Dictionnaire des Mots d’Amour — dictionary of words of love — which is more than a merchandising tool. “They are odes to the women who buy the jewelry,” according to Chaunu.
   In 1946, the company adopted the star — étoile — as its logo, incorporating it in jewelry design, displays and packaging in the shape of a hatbox. Representing the company’s unique style perspective, the Mauboussin star resembles a bird in flight more than the traditional star. The Etoiles collection of rings, necklaces, bracelets and earrings is prominently featured in the display cases.
   The other two selling floors in the building are dedicated to the company’s different product categories. Each floor’s décor is customized to create a unique selling environment that complements the products. The room for bridal jewelry features tufted white furniture topped by a ceiling halo of white tulle, like a billowing bridal gown. Another floor, done in sophisticated shades of gray, showcases the collection of Swiss-made watches opposite a fragrance bar for men and women.
   “Luxury does not have to be snobbish,” asserts the French-born Chaunu, who emphasizes Mauboussin’s attractive entry price points. “Women are pleasantly surprised when they come to the boutique. It is fun, sexy and very French without being intimidating.” 

Article from the Rapaport Magazine - January 2014. To subscribe click here.

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Tags: Joyce Kauf