Mind Your Business: Boucheron’s CEO Hélène Poulit-Duquesne on the courage to innovate

By Alvin Wong 2 January, 2024
Helene-Poulit-Duquesne standing

In Mind Your Business, we speak with business leaders and thinkers who inspire their respective companies and industries. Here, Boucheron’s CEO Hélène Poulit-Duquesne shares her thoughts on evolving the historic French high-jewellery house

Nothing escapes the attention of Boucheron CEO Hélène Poulit-Duquesne. Not even the shade of aquamarine moiré wallpaper that sheathes the VIP room of the brand’s newly refurbished boutique at Marina Bay Sands. “I try my best to make our boutiques in each city unique,” she explains. “I even select the fabrics myself.”

Ever since Poulit-Duquesne joined the French high-jewellery marque since 2015, she has made it her mission to honour the legacy of its founder Frédéric Boucheron. A fastidious, bold and inventive jeweller with a keen sense of style, Frédéric Boucheron was the toast of the Parisian high-society in the mid-19th century, revered for his experimental and extravagant creations.

Boucheron CEO Hélène Poulit-Duquesne. Photo by Boucheron

Armed with a similar eye for detail and penchant for innovation, Poulit-Duquesne has proven to be a catalyst for change at Boucheron. From reaffirming that company’s position as a cutting-edge high jewellery brand and expanding its presence in the Asian markets, to forming a research and development team to march out forward-thinking creations together with creative director Claire Choisne, Poulit-Duquesne believes that change should be the only constant—especially for a brand as steeped in history as Boucheron.

Why is it important for you to be so involved with every single boutique’s refurbishment?

The manner in which we welcome our clients reflects a lot about who we are. I visit luxury boutiques from around the world and they all look the same. It is a terrible thing for when you don’t even remember what it is you saw in Tokyo or Beijing. That’s why I try my best to make our boutiques in each city unique, to the point I select the fabric for the furniture myself and see to it that I validate every aspect of the renovation.

What does the Singapore boutique represent from a business perspective?

Previously, the boutique in Singapore was operated with an external partner. One of the first decisions I made was to have it run by ourselves. It was a statement of intent, of being serious about wanting to thrive in this market. With the reopening of the boutique, it solidifies our mission to further expand in Southeast Asia; the revamp is timely.

You have been at the helm of Boucheron for eight years. How have you grown the company?

One of the first initiatives I had was to place Boucheron at the forefront of things. By that, I mean having greater visibility in our clients’ eyes. I jumped on the marketing aspects, and also ensured that we were properly aligned to the brand’s legacy in terms of product offerings.

Boucheron has a great history and amazing products, but the awareness then wasn’t where it ought to be. Some people perceive us as a big brand from the past, so we needed to correct that and be very precise about the message and image we want to convey.

What is this image?

That Boucheron is the most stylish and cutting-edge high jewellery Maison. The spirit of innovation has been very strong since the founding of the company and, today, we continue to push the boundaries.

Another important point is that our jewellery is ‘alive’; it is meant to be worn. Our founder, Frédéric Boucheron, was the son of a draper. Before he started designing his own jewellery, he was a curator of sorts, selecting jewellery pieces for his client to pair with their outfits. This sensibility is what we want to keep today.

That explains why an iconic creation like the Question Mark remains fresh and relevant even today.

Can you believe that the Question Mark was designed in 1879? It is still super modern, and it was a creation that was ahead of its time. When Frédéric Boucheron designed it, he had wanted to ‘free’ women in that one didn’t need the help of two other people to put on a high jewellery necklace.

How do you balance the need to push forward while maintaining the legacy of a centuries-old brand?

It’s not difficult, because it’s part of who we are. There is no opposition between both. At the atelier, our craftsmen, too, love working on both aspects. They have such a rich history to draw on and, at the same time, they are excited by new techniques and technologies that advance their work and creativity.

Boucheron has been embarking on a drive towards sustainability. Care to elaborate?

We started around seven years ago, with an eye on having accountability on raw materials that we use. The first area we worked on was gold. In 2020, we achieved our objective of using 100 per cent sustainable gold. Next, we focused on diamonds. We launched a traceability and certification programme that allows us and the customers to have trust in the stones that we use. In 2022, we launched a full collection that incorporated this traceable technology. Now, we are in the process of having it implemented fully in our collections. The next big challenge is to do the same with coloured stones.

This drive for sustainability is not about marketing. No client has yet come to us asking for a traceable diamond. Instead, what we are making sure is that we do right for the future. We have to do it for the future generations and educate our clients that this is the right way forward.