New York – Garrard is arriving in Manhattan this Thursday – but unlike its big sibling Asprey, which landed with a mammoth thud on Fifth Avenue last December, the venerable British crown Jeweler is avoiding any pomp and circumstance.Instead, Garrard is taking a more subtle route with a modern, clubby and cozy jewelry salon at 133 Spring Street. That’s just how Garrard creative director Jade Jagger wanted it.”Jewelry is associated with gift-giving or celebrating one’s life,” Jagger said in a phone interview from London. “I wanted to embrace that moment with a more gentle, respectful environment, so that somebody could have fun while we are still able to offer people the one-on-one attention as we’re introducing the brand to New York.”By quietly opening a downtown salon, the A&G Group division is departing from its initial strategy that kicked off with a 9,000 square foot London flagship on Albermarle Street and a big party at the Tower of London in 2002.
Some critics say the London store is too large and cold, so it makes sense for Garrard executives to test a softer approach for New York.”When we decided to de-merge the brands, it was only fitting that Garrard had a real home and that was London,” said Robert Donofrio, president of Garrard USA. “However, one way that we plan to grow this brand, we don’t necessarily need to have such large flagships to communicate the message. That’s the reason why we are choosing a path that’s perhaps a little bit more old-fashioned. We are going to grow this brand more by work of mouth.”We feel we can control it better and we can introduce people to it in a private atmosphere. We are not trying to sell specifically, as much as we are trying to inform, and the selling will take place through the experience.”The new salon, which has about 1,500 square feet of selling space, is Garrard’s US launch pad. The 269 year old English brand may be known to jewelry cognoscenti, but Gerrard never had a stand-alone presence here and only came to New York when it was merged with Asprey in 1998 under previous owner Prince Jefri Bolkiah, the younger brother of the Sultan of Brunei. When Lawrence Stroll and Silas Chou took over Asprey & Garrard in 2000, they de-merged the two with plans to build each into lifestyle brands with global stores starting in London and New York. “It’s exceptionally important for Garrard to be in New York,” Jagger said. “I grew up (in New York) and a lot of my mentors are (in New York), from my family to the artists that I know and love, like (Ross) Bleckner and (Francesco) Clemente, and the designers that I was brought up with. Perhaps hanging out in the Factory did have some effect on my ultimate creative product.”Perhaps not entirely unlike Warhol’s legendary Factory, Jagger made sure that Garrard’s SoHo salon had the ingredients to become a place for New Yorkers from the music, fashion and art worlds to meet and chill. She recruited British architect Tom Bartlett, who also designed the London flagship and her Ibiza, Spain home, to create the salon, which comprises a sitting and a dining room separated by heavy silk and velvet curtains. The sitting room resembles a contemporary gentleman’s club with an L-shaped damask-covered sofa and two tall herringbone library chairs, while the dining room has a white lacquered table adorned with Garrard silverware, from a cork bottle stopper, priced at $265, and silver hip flasks for $795, to a candleholder for $3,355. The jewelry sells from $100 for a silver charm bracelet to $102,500 for a platinum Lotus necklace with eternal and brilliant cut diamonds, though the lion’s share of jewelry is available between $1,000 and $3,000.”The idea is to make it a little bit more like a home,” said Jagger of the salon. “It’s a modern environment but a forgiving one. I love combinations of slightly opposing concepts like classic and modern nest to each other, or rock’n’roll and avant-garde…Just incorporating the different ingredients to try and create a new recipe.”Scattered throughout the salon are pod-like stingray-covered cases that open on hydraulic mechanisms to display the jewelry, and rectangular metal cases that showcase the baubles against the backdrop of a painted Union Jack flag. To drive home Garrard’s Britishness, the dining room features a silver wall displaying the jeweler’s three royal warrants, while a large black and white photo of a young Queen Elizabeth II graces the drawing room. But don’t think that Garrard requires a stiff upper lip -Jagger likes to see the jewelry on a mix of clients. “I love to see the beautiful older ladies wearing the jewelry, the ladies that really can take these pieces and twist them again,” she said. “And I live to see the terribly young, like Paris Hilton. And in between, there’s the rock stars, I guess. In Russia, I’d love to see the 21 year olds with more jewelry than their grandmothers.”Potential customers don’t need to set up an appointment to see the collection.
That said, few things point to the store’s existence other than the doorbell. “We are making attempts to get a flag hung outside but that has to go through the landmark commission.” Donofrio said.To help build brand awareness, Garrard is initially planning to build a wholesale distribution network of 40 to 50 sales points, in upscale department and specialty stores and fine jewelry stores. The line is being launched with two main-floor cases at Bergdorf Goodman here next week.Donofrio declined to give sales information or projections for the salon, but said that before Asprey and Garrard were de-merged, Garrard had a sales volume of about $40 million in London. Now a much smaller company, industry sources estimate Garrard’s latest annual sales revenue at $5.4 million, or 3 million pounds at current exchange.
Donofrio added that the strategic plan calls for a Manhattan flagship by 2006. “It will not be a Fifth Avenue flagship like Asprey, but probably something a little more subtle.” Donofrio said. “We have been looking at Madison Avenue, where we can present the brand in its full array.”Jagger noted: “Obviously, I hope that soon we will open a big flagship, but this was a more subtle way of entering in it…the opposite of Asprey. I think this is a place I feel I can introduce people to how I see things in a very personal way.”