In conversation with Jean-Christophe Babin
We had a delight speaking with Mr Jean-Christophe Babin, the CEO of Bvlgari.
What novelties can we expect in the coming months and for the coming season?/ What are some of the key items launched by Bvlgari in the second part of the year?
Many and immediately. We have just launched the new High Jewelry collection, Barocko. It remains one of the most important moments for the brand and we didn't want to give up. We obviously have adapted our launch with a digital approach, starting early July with top clients discovering the new 2020 Barocko collection at home with the possibility to immediately order it or get access to the masterpiece most interesting for them in order to try on them physically. The kick off will be followed by a sequence of physical events starting in Roma in September and followed by China, USA through the end of the year. Also for watches Bvlgari launches do not happen once a year as you might know. We started last January during the LVMH Dubai Watch Week with a first batch of new impacting novelties. Among them, the smallest tourbillon for ladies watches with Serpenti Seduttori and the new Octo Finissimo S which is 100m water resistant. Late August during the Geneva Watch Days, we will proceed to our second wave with a brand new, cool and smart unisex collection alongside with our 6th world record within the Finissimo collection. And last but not least, we will introduce a new Gerald Genta model. It is not ending in Geneva since on the other hand – high jewelry creations – we are usually introducing our new collections and unique pieces during the second half of the year. These stunning creations will be launched from September to November.
Therefore, despite the COVID-19 crisis, I can say that we will have covered 2020 without any disruption both commercially and media. In terms of Accessories in August we will unveil an important collaboration with a young and talented designer for a capsule collection and in September we will present the new Spring Summer 2021 collection in occasion of the Milan Fashion Week. We have just announced the Rome hotel, in the eternal city home of the brand, which will be ready in 2022 by adding an important gem to the collection of the wonderful Bvlgari hotels collection around the world. We are also continuing with our patronage activities thanks to the restoration of the Torlonia collection, the largest in the world of sculptures and as every year, we will attend the Maxxi Prize in Rome for the awarding of young international talents. We also continue our partnership with Save the Children and the fundraising we do through a dedicated collection inspired by the designs of B.Zero1 and Bugari Bulgari. These are just some of the most important projects of this year. Bvlgari does not stop and continues knowing that luxury above all plays an important role. It is a necessary symbol of rebirth and well-being and as Bvlgari we know that we can contribute significantly through the excellence of our creations and the magic they generate.
How has COVID-19 affected your way of working, and what projects in support of the cause have you started in this time being?
COVID-19 has certainly changed our way of working, but above all to face everyday life. In Bvlgari, smart working mode had already started more than a year ago, even if only one day a week, since it was an experimental phase. Today we understand that it is actually a different but extremely efficient way of working. We have learned to optimally use tools such as zoom, skype, teams, WhatsApp call. Certainly also in the future it will help us to balance the frequency of business trips that will be significantly reduced by planning meetings and business weeks digitally with a consequent greater efficiency of time and budget.
What were your beginnings like working for Bvlgari?
When I arrived in Bvlgari, I remember spending a lot of time observing and studying the history of this wonderful brand, and I still understand its importance today. I always thought that the consistency of the jeweler was born precisely from its founder, Sotirio Bulgari, who with great vision has created a brand that is still a symbol of Italian excellence in the world as the magnificent, contemporary and daring roman jeweller, master of coloured gems. I decided to give importance to iconic signs by giving them consistency across all product categories. The Snake, for example, which has its origins in the history of the Greeks and Romans, today is reinterpreted in a contemporary design that we find in the Serpenti collection in jewels, watches, in the head that closes the leather accessories or that decorates the silk products, in the neck of the bottles of our fragrances and it is often a symbol that we find inside our hotels. A single iconic sign reinterpreted consistently and transversely. I also believe in the audacity of the brand. The same that inspired Sotirio and that today we carry on in creativity, in colors, in the joie de vivre that we transmit through the product. Finally Rome. I immediately fell in love with the eternal city. The house of Bvlgari, the continuous inspiration that we draw from the eternal city, crosses its monuments, its architecture and its colors and to which we proudly demonstrate gratitude through important restorations such as the Scalinata di Trinità de Monti or the Polychrome mosaic of Caracalla. Until the restoration of the incredible Torlonia collection, the most important private collection of ancient art in the world, which represents the celebration of our cultural roots, of an aesthetic sense that still, belongs to us and distinguishes us today.
How do you think Covid-19 will affect the luxury industry both long-term and short-term? How do you see the impact of Corona crisis on the general perception of fashion?
COVID-19 certainly had an immediate impact, which made everyone a little vulnerable. It made us equal, but also made us understand how everything can change in an instant, how much the planet must be respected, how much we must observe what and whom we have around. In general, however, luxury and fashion have always proved to be great protagonists of rebirth following great crises. If we think about the second post-war period, fashion through big brands has reinvented women, given well-being through creativity and excellence in manufacturing. We talk about moments of great inventions and in which design has expressed its full potential.
Tell us more about the Bvlgari Virus Free Fund.
The fund's project was born from the desire to be able to continue to give concrete support in the fight against COVID-19 but also against any type of virus. Over the past few months, we have witnessed the shocking and detrimental effects of COVID-19 on every aspect of our society throughout the world. We can never let this happen again. Bvlgari vows not only to contribute to the fight against COVID-19, but also to work with the global leaders in Medical Sciences at Oxford University, to nurture the most talented minds of tomorrow. For this reason, Bvlgari announced the establishment of the Bvlgari Virus Free Fund, a financial program, which will support economically high-end institutions pursuing innovative research strategies to achieve remission and cure of different types of virus. In particular, the Bvlgari Virus Free Fund will help two major institutions: University of Oxford’s Jenner Institute, which brings together investigators who are designing and developing numerous vaccines as well as Rome’s Lazzaro Spallanzani National Institute for Infectious Diseases, which Bvlgari already supported at the kickoff of the COVID-19 emergency by financing the purchase of a hi-tech microscope. I am honored and proud to have the opportunity to support Oxford in this common goal of eradicating viruses and stopping future pandemics in their tracks.
Can you share with us more about the #SAVETHEFUTURE initiative.
As a response to schools’ closure due to the COVID-19 emergency, Bvlgari and Save the Children supported children and their families through distance learning initiatives of which we told through the hashtag save the future. In particular, in Italy, the Punto Luce delle Arti – the educational center dedicated to arts and crafts, co-designed by Bvlgari and Save the Children – was at the forefront in distant learning and other activities aimed to reinforce the resilience of children and youth. Save the Children has in fact adapted its programs in order to allow education to continue in remote. This has involved the provision of digital tools, online classes and dedicated support to mothers and fathers during this crisis. #Save the future is only one piece of a bigger project that started more than ten years ago, with a partnership between Bvlgari and Save the Children which allowed us to raise almost 100 million dollars and helped more than 2 million children in more than 34 countries through interventions in emergency situations, education and projects such as “youth empowerment”,which allows us to show a possible path in the world of work to teenagers who live in extremely precarious situations. “Give Hope” is our communication message, because through education it is possible to transform opportunities into reality.
Will there be any new Bvlgari hotels opening in the coming time?
We have just announced the start of works for the Bvlgari Hotel in Rome, which is slated to open in 2022. Bvlgari was founded in Rome and the city has always been a source of inspiration for the brand. The new Roman hotel will be strategically located in the central Piazza Augusto Imperatore in the very heart of the eternal city. The building was built between 1936 and 1938 to a design by architect Vittorio Ballio Morpurgo, and faces two of the most iconic Roman landmarks, the Ara Pacis and the Mausoleum of Augustus, the first Roman Imperator. The Hotel collection will continue to grow. In 2021 the Bvlgari Hotel in Paris will open which was planned for this year and has been postponed for the lockdown. Also in the forecast are the already announced openings in Moscow and Tokyo. We are also working on new openings in America between New York, Miami and Los Angeles.
What is the most exciting part of your job and what makes it exciting for you?
Considering the moment just lived, we are facing with new challenges. An ambitious goal that I want to pursue is keep my clients and teams highly motivated, aligned and determined despite their temporary physical dispersion and providing them with the best Bvlgari ever – from creativity, craftsmanship to CSR and human relationships – to turn this crisis as an accelerator in our quest for worldwide leadership in jewelry and jewelry watches.