In China people say, the union resulting from the accord of people is the most potent force, this doesn’t sound strange to APM Monaco.
APM Monaco is a timeless, sophisticated jewellery brand inspired by Monaco and the South of France. Founded in 1982 by Ariane Prette, the brand was founded out of her love for jewellery and precious stones. After 30 years of developing and perfecting traditional handcrafted quality jewellery, the Prette family decided to venture into the design-focused jewellery business and continues to carry on Ariane’s legacy with the aim to make APM Monaco not only a household name but one that is modern yet enduring and fits perfectly with current market trends.
The jewellery industry has an inherent impression as costly and luxury. This preconception has eventually led to a gap between jewellery brands and young consumers. As Diamond Producers Association (DPA), an industry entity formed in May 2015 by seven of the world’s leading diamond companies, said, the millennials generation is broking the enduring symbolism of the prized jewellery due to their increasing distinctive preferences and self-expression.
As an industry innovator set foot in the Chinese jewellery market as early as in 1992, APM Monaco has established an iconic image of independence, smart and elegance. Nevertheless, coping with the millennials challenge, utilising high-quality materials and sophisticated craftsmanship to create an inexpensive and distinctive accessory to meet the diverse needs, is the top priority at the moment. A core idea to counter the difficulty is, creating the sense of premium does not necessarily equivalent to high pricing.
In October, APM Monaco announced the collaborated capsule collection with Yao Chen, the Chinese actress and philanthropist. Inspired by Yao’s signature red lip and her passion of life, this 24 piece collection of earrings, rings, bracelets, necklaces, and chokers brings a playful smile to any lips. After the new product launch conference, Philippe Prette, the CEO; and Kika Prette, the creative director had a joyful talk with Luxe.CO, which was the first time that the brand had been interviewed by the media in mainland China.
A family heritage
APM Monaco was founded in 1982 by Ms Ariane Prette in Monaco. The brand name is taken from her initials and Monaco. The design style and inspiration come from Monaco and South France, with a tradition of superb craftsmanship for over 30 years. Since 2011, the Prette family has decided to specialize in design-based sterling silver jewellery and continue the brand legends with new conception.
Philippe Prette is the son of Ariane Prette, who has been the CEO since 1988 and has been leading the brand to the change of sterling silver jewellery. It is worth mentioning that Philippe is also a professional racer. He has participated in 96 professional competitions since 2005 and won the Ferrari Challenge Asia-Pacific in 2017 and 2018. In addition, he also sponsors various sports all year round to provide support for young people with sporty dreams.
The creative director is Philippe’s wife Kika, who took the role after her mother-in-law retired. Kika drew every nuance of life into the design, such as the tassels of silk scarves in the 1920s and the knots of Mediterranean yachts. Kika recalls that entering the jewellery industry was entirely for family reasons. When she first met Philippe, she was just an innocent young girl. The original impression of jewellery was that the classifications and categories are numerous, it can be a luxury style, a high street style, or can be classic, or fashionable. In her perspective, although the high jewellery is glamorous, the price is quite unaffordable, on the contrary, most inexpensive choices are difficult to draw out the interest of the consumers. As a result, Kika began to explore the jewellery design, she is passionate about creating playful and affordable items, specializes in matching sterling silver-based materials with gold, gemstone, crystal, and diamond, that allows consumers from different ethnics, cultures and backgrounds to discover their own personal style. The design is not only fashionable but also has wide pricing ranging, which can be easily accepted by different levels of jewellery consumers.
Among the many collections of APM Monaco, the pearl broth from XL collection and the comet elements from the Météorites collection has become the most recognizable ones, and are regarded as the timeless classics.
As a couple and business partners, the synergy between Philippe and Kika is also a reflection of the family business. Kika said: “I am involved in all aspects of design, including monthly themes, brand image, marketing videos, etc.; and my husband is committed to making my ideas into a reality”.
Kika is a believer of the union resulting from the accord of people is the greatest advantage of family business over large companies. As a founding member, the management team is knowledgeable about everything from design to marketing and retail. In a large company, people rarely have such experience and opportunity. According to Kika, APM Monaco design team currently has about 40 members, some of whom are veterans from the luxury jewellery and some are young creative talents. Not only do members have professional experience and background knowledge will be appreciated, but they also need to have a good fit with the company’s values.
“The most important point is that team members must make progress together with the company,” Kika said. APM Monaco hopes to provide a strong growth platform for the employees, therefore, the company does not emphasize a clear division of work, but rather teamwork of mutual cooperation. Kika said: “At today’s event, 90% of our team members are here. For me, let everyone participate and let them know what we are doing is essential.”
The modernization of the jewellery
12 lookbooks per year, a new theme with 4 collections and 35-40 products per month, this data revealed by Kika amazed us about the brand’s efficiency. Take the October theme 80s Style as an example, the brand has launched four collections of Doggy, Happy Life, Love 80s and Up & Down around this theme. What is the secret to maintaining such a frequency? Kika believes it is the ability to control the entire chain from design to production and retailing. “Every step is internally responsible.”
Take Kika’s creative work as an example, the best design in her eyes is her favourite things and perspectives in daily life. “As a designer, I feel that I should follow my heart and intuition, not to cater to the market.” According to Kika, women from the teens to their 70s all may become clients of APM Monaco. Young girls prefer small earrings, and older ladies prefer more exaggerated and larger accessories. Among them, women in their 30s to 40s are regarded as the core group of the brand. Kika takes herself as a typical example: “These women are busy with daily work, but still eager to dress up in their own style. Although we don’t go too exaggerating when working or picking up the children, we pay attention to take care of ourselves. I myself is such a woman.”
Green dinosaurs, golden bees, the Wonderland collection of these animal images have become the classics of the brand, and the design inspiration is actually from Kika’s children’s toys. Kika’s daily work is to combine the life inspirations with current trends, thus, every moment of travelling or viewing an exhibition can be her source of inspiration. The diversity of inspiration also determines the variety of styles, they can either be fun and cute, or elegant and graceful. Walking into an APM Monaco store, you will find that although the display products contain a variety of elements, they can form a personality and a unified harmony under the guidance of the brand gene.
How many possibilities are there for jewellery in the minds of young consumers? In addition to its core business, APM Monaco is actively trying to expand into new categories. For example, the recently launched Yao Chen jewellery box, or Egyptian treasure clutch, or even the sneakers in the 80s Style, all these limited-edition products are matched with specially designed theme packaging. But both Kika and Philippe have said, that jewellery is always at the heart of the brand, whether or not it expands into others in the future.
The infinite possibilities of jewellery are also reflected in diverse materials. In 2017, APM Monaco and French fashion blogger Caroline Receveur launched a joint collection that tried to cater to the aesthetic preferences of young consumers with the theme of denim.
According to Luxe.CO’s China’s New Generation Fashion Consumer White Paper 2018, 20% of young consumers put personalization in the preferred store experience. APM Monaco recently launched the Customize Your Bangle service to feed the trend. Consumers can customize the interface on the official website, and then selecting the material, size, patterns and colours of the bracelet. Each of the steps has a number of options, taking all the preferences that consumers may have during the purchase into consideration.
The global market
As Kika mentioned that 90% of the creative team have come to today’s event. This detail shows the importance of the Chinese market to the global strategy of the APM Monaco. According to Philippe, their brand entered China as early as 1992 and was one of the first international jewellery brands to enter this market. From scratch, after so many years of development, Philippe believes that APM Monaco can even be called a half Chinese brand. The data shows that the brand owns around 200 stores globally, and more than half of them are in China, the direct retailing model has been used to expand the market from the beginning. According to reports, APM Monaco required a jewellery company in Guangzhou in June 2017, which currently specializes in the manufacture of the brand’s products.
In the current global market, the main layout is focusing on Europe and China. The only Asian store outside China is in Singapore. America, Africa and Oceania respectively have two stores. In terms of the setup of the Chinese market, APM Monaco covers the entire Greater China region. According to Philippe, APM Monaco currently has the highest per capita turnover in Monaco and the Côte d’Azur, Greater China market share is also very prominent, with the main contribution from Hong Kong and Beijing.
How to deal with the common problem of pricing in the international luxury goods and fashion industry? Philippe admits that APM Monaco has its own strategies to ensure that the global pricing gap is stable to a small extent. “Our brand should solve the price spreads problems instead of letting consumers take it”. Due to factors such as exchange rates, tariffs, and operating methods, the spread does exist. For example, purchase in Hong Kong is cheaper than Paris, and mainland China is 11% to 12% higher than Hong Kong. To this end, the brand is striving to reduce the price gap and ensure fairness to consumers in each market, and the losses incurred are generally compensated by correspondingly increasing of sales revenue in the store.
According to the National Bureau of Statistics, China’s total retail jewellery market in 2017 reached 297 billion RMB with an annual increase of 5.6%. Based on the huge potential of the Chinese market, APM Monaco, Pandora and Swarovski attract more young consumers with their stylish and personalized design. These overseas brands competed fiercely with local jewellery giants such as Chow Tai Fook and Lao Feng Xiang.
How to gain a foothold in the Chinese markets, Philippe mentioned three main strategies: product innovation, high quality and focus on store experience. He stressed that the stores are important to create a unique atmosphere, rather than the number of stores. In his view, whether it is online or offline, strengthening the direct connection between the brand and the consumer is the top priority, which is also the direction of the brand in the coming year.
With the online retailing, Philippe believes that the capability to successfully seize the consumer’s attention is benefited from the identification of the social media tipping points. From the early stage of relying upon the celebrity to broaden the popularity, to the joint collection, APM Monaco has a clear scheme with the Chinese online marketing. The collaboration with Chinese actress Dongyu Zhou, Ni Ni, Angelababy, Tiffany Tang and KOL collaboration such as fashion blogger Aimee Song has greatly increased the brand’s exposure and fame on Instagram, Weibo and WeChat.
As the first capsule collection of APM Monaco and the Chinese star, Kika shared the story behind the cooperation with Yao during the interview. In the entire design process, Yao was highly involved, although this is her first time participated in jewellery design. Her signature smile was designed as a red lip statement accessory, accompanied by the playful rabbit image and the heart-shaped furnishings, using the scheme colour combination of pink, red and white to demonstrate a strong feminine feature. When choosing which star to work with, Kika believes that the common beliefs and values are fundamental to ensure smooth cooperation: “In conversation with Yao, I feel that she has a strong affinity as a mother, this fits well with APM Monaco’s family business culture.”
Triple sales in triple years
After three times the sales in the past three years, Philippe is now often asked whether the company has an IPO plan. He insisted that APM Monaco is a 100% family business. “However, after the company goes public, consumers can become shareholders, this is what I find that IPO is interesting. We are always curious about consumers, trying to understand them, I would be very happy if they can become our shareholders, I hope that consumers become our partners”. Still, he stressed that the three principles of the brand are: brand image, the interests of team members, and business performance. “Putting business performance at the third of priorities, I am not sure if this can still attract investors. “.
Image courtesy of APM Monaco