Among the list of top-notch jewelry houses, Le Vian is definitely unique. A 250-year long family business with many celebrities as ambassadors, offering some of the most exclusive collections in the market. This brand is about to become iconic, this is why I decided to give an interview to its CEO Mr. Eddie Le Vian.
1. Le Vian was created in the 15th century by your ancestors, making it one of the oldest fine jewelry brands in the world still in activity. It is today more alive than ever, and still owned by Le Vian family. How do you explain such longevity?
That’s right – Le Vian is the New York headquartered jewelry company I run with my four siblings. Our ancestors dating back five centuries have long been jewelers. Our family hails from Persia. When in 1746, the Persian ruler Nadir Shah conquered India, he chose the LeVian family to guard the royal jewels he had plundered, including the legendary Koh-I-Noor diamond, currently owned by the Queen of England and housed under lock and key in the Tower of London. Today our fans include Hollywood royalty.
We are thrilled that this September, Grammy-award winning Fenty founder Rihanna wears Le Vian inside not one September 2020 issue, but all 26 editions of Harper’s Bazaar around the world.
At the helm of the company today are five siblings who include myself as CEO – I joined the business in 1978 – and my brother Moossa LeVian – President of Le Vian – who is best known for striking a deal to acquire half the world’s finest tanzanite in the 1980s, buying sapphires from Madagascar in the 1990s and later invested heavily in natural fancy color brown diamonds which Le Vian branded as Chocolate Diamonds® in 2000. Le Vian remains the world’s exclusive seller of Chocolate Diamonds and we are the world’s only company with the right to emit a chocolate scent in a jewelry store.
Other family members include Larry LeVian, Chairman of the Board, my sister Liz Ettesami who heads up merchandising while my son Jonathan LeVian manages marketing, digital and merchandising.
2. While Le Vian is only available in stores in selected countries, it seems very well known to the Hollywood celebrities as a niche jewelry brand that they all want to wear. How did you become known by celebrities?
Le Vian dresses hundreds of celebrities on the red carpet annually. 2020 celebrity highlights pre-lockdown include:
- Jennifer Lopez wearing Le Vian on the way to the SuperBowl and Instagramming a selfie to her 111m followers. She is a regular wearer of Le Vian and has been known to greet her stylist with the words ‘Where’s my Le Vian’ before even saying hello
- Camilla Cabello wearing a $2m Le Vian necklace to the Grammys
- Nobel Peace Prize nominee and human rights activist Amanda Nguyen at the 2020 Oscars
Also as mentioned earlier, Rihanna currently wearing Le Vian in all 26 editions of Harper’s Bazaar around the world in a fashion shoot shot by Gray Sorrenti with creative director Jen Brill is so exciting for us. The piece Rihanna wears is the Le Vian 18k Vanilla Gold Diamond Bracelet, which has 3.9 carats and retails for $8,147.
We work closely with global celebrity experts D’Orazio & Asssociates in Los Angeles for our collaboration with celebrities.
3. Do you plan to extend to a wider clientele? Possibly opening physical stores?
Well, we are proud that our jewellery collections are sold in 5,000 authorized stores in the US, Canada, Caribbean and in the UK – in large chain stores owned by Signet, the world’s largest diamond jewelry retailer, as well as in hundreds of independently owned jewelry stores. We also give our collectors the chance to buy one-off pieces in trunk shows in these regions, as well as on cruise ships.
We also host invitee-only special events where guests enjoy meeting the Le Vian family. Our annual calendar highlight is our Las Vegas Red Carpet Revue catwalk fundraiser, which takes place during North America’s largest jewellery industry event JCK, where we announce global jewelry trends for the year ahead. This September our global trend forecast event will take place virtually, due to COVID-19, and we are confident it won’t disappoint.
Being at the forefront of jewelry retail technology is something we continue to prioritise. In 2015, we launched our proprietary StyleBar, enabling sales professionals to show customers the entire Le Vian range, including thousands of one-off pieces, via tablet (also available in our independent family owned jewelry store retailers). Last year, we introduced the eight foot tall iPhone-style Le Vian Totem into 250 stores, allowing customers to tour our Virtual Vault and reserve pieces on the spot for themselves.
Our existing commitment to the future of virtual shopping has allowed us to keep sales lively during the pandemic. In recent months, we have worked closely with our retail partner Signet, owner in the US of the Jared, Kay and Zales jewelry stores, to enable comprehensive, remote interaction with customers. Our omnichannel migration to private appointments both virtually and in store has increased appointment show-up rates to 100%, and purchases in almost every case. We are also now transporting this technology to 180 of Signet’s Ernest Jones and H Samuel stores in the UK.
4. What is your most successful collection today?
Le Vian’s most successful and best known range of jewelry, and the one we are proudest of, is our Chocolate Diamonds, made from natural fancy color brown diamonds. Over 80% of Chocolate Diamonds come from the Argyle mine in Australia which is due to close soon, so these diamonds are likely to only increase in scarcity.
Over the last 20 years we have witnessed Le Vian Chocolate Diamonds grow to become one of the most recognised and desirable jewelry collections in America. We are the only company that has succeeded in legally acquiring the right to name a diamond within jewellery on a scale such that it enjoys over 40% name recognition among adult Americans.
Even the Chocolate Diamond scent has been patented – one of only 13 scents on the planet with a trademark – and we are the only jewelry brand worldwide with the right to emit a chocolate scent in a jewelry store.
5. Sustainability and ethics are becoming key in the jewelry sector, clients are increasingly demanding ethical brands. Do you work with certified stone providers? What are your actions in this field?
As a family business we are committed to philanthropy and sustainability – we have a board mandate that 10% of our pre-tax profits are donated to charity, and in 2018 we donated almost 20% of pre-tax profits.
We are one of the most proactive certified members of the Responsible Jewelry Council, and, as CEO of Le Vian. Ethical practices support our customers, suppliers, and the communities around our business. We source and mine only from conflict-free regions, and strictly adhere to the Kimberly Process.
Part of our philosophy as a family business is about integrity, responsibility and giving back, which we do by supporting diamond producing areas, in building schools and community centres. We are also a key supporter of the industry charity Jewelers for Children and the Diamonds Do Good fund and I am also a member of the JCK Industry Fund which is responsible for the Grant To Support Industry Diversity.
6. The current pandemic situation is hard for the entire luxury industry. How to you manage to keep Le Vian’s agenda on track? What about the client experience?
We have been working very hard during the pandemic and we have been accelerated our digitisation and online shopping opportunities. We actually broke a record for our largest ever online purchase – a necklace for $60,000. Of course, most of our 5,000 stores worldwide were closed for a period, so we had to adjust. We launched LE VIAN TV early this year, which has twice daily shows reaching up to 1 million viewers weekly. Other innovations are the Le Vian virtual stylist, an online game, virtual trunk shows, one to one private viewings, and Smart Stores showcasing designs which can be shipped to the collector in 24 hours.
During lockdown, we noticed a real desire for escapism and we received heartfelt messages from our fans and collectors. People who were spending on trips and restaurant experiences are now realizing the timeless value of adding unique pieces of jewelry as milestones of life’s important memories. For example, one Le Vianista, as we call our fans, recently wrote an unprompted message to our LE VIAN TV presenter Leondardo Kashi saying: “LE VIAN TV gives me a fix that helps satisfy my cravings … It’s an amazing company between the employees, products, customer service and charity work. I love Le Vian”. It’s these kind of messages that make us so proud of our loyal following.
7. What’s coming next?
This September, we will be staging our first ever virtual annual trend forecast fundraising catwalk an event we’ve produced for 21 years and for most of that time in conjunction with Harper’s Bazaar US. Details are going to be revealed soon and are still under wraps and we will be sure to keep The Luxe Insider posted in the coming week or so.
As a testament to our innovation in the jewellery industry, in September we are introducing innovative geo-fencing technology to help attract footfall to our independent family owned jewellery retail partners across the US. In the past, we have developed exclusive ranges of pieces to help support independent retailers, as well as providing them with exclusive marketing resources, but this is our most significant commitment to date to the independently owned stores we work with.
Geo-fencing means that whenever Le Vian collectors are within a specific mile radius of a participating store, they will receive a pop-up digital impression on their Smartphone. The adverts will feature exclusive designs, only available to purchase via independent family owned jewelers, from our Chocolate Diamonds 20th anniversary Jubilee collection. Also, the first 10 customers to buy a Le Vian jewel from these stores, will receive a Le Vian branded purse as a gift.
8. If you had to define Le Vian in one word, which one would it be ?
I would like to thank Mr Le Vian for his time answering my questions – Interview made by email on August 24th, 2020.