A few weeks ago, Coralie Charriol-Paul, creative director for Charriol made her way to JCK’s New York office to sit with me before she caught a flight. I knew the backbone of the brand’s story but wanted to dive deeper. We talked for more than an hour, and I’m so excited to share her family’s story. Charriol is a family-run international luxury watch and jewelry brand that continues to carve out a distinct name for itself, most widely known and loved for its ability to constantly revisit the brand’s signature cable motif. Coralie was born into a family of pioneers who mastered the craft of affordable luxury. The company is headed up by her father and entrepreneurial founder, Philippe Charriol; stepmother, Marie-Olga Charriol; and works alongside her brother Alexandre Charriol, who is the artistic director. Coralie is based in New York, her brother is based in the Hong Kong office, and their parents are in Geneva. It’s hard to keep up with them all, but it’s certainly a family that knows how to succeed (even while operating from three different continents!), Coralie was not only funny, spunky, and incredibly smart, she was sweet and devoted to her craft and female empowerment. Coralie joined Charriol 15 years ago and has done everything under the sun from PR and product development to jewelry design and modeling. Charriol is very much of a part of who she is. The watch and jewelry brand has been in the U.S. for more than 30 years and it came back to JCK Las Vegas last year to debut its steel and silver collection. We’re so excited to welcome Charriol back this year and to the new Bridge neighborhood. Learn more about JCK Las Vegas or register to attend today.
The cable is synonymous with Charriol style. Where did that come about?
My father worked for Cartier for 15 years and was the president in the Asian branch in Hong Kong before he left to start his new venture. Cartier had just launched Les Must de Cartier in the 70s where all of the sudden they were making lighters, cigarette holders where they were more affordable. Dad was at the beginning of affordable luxury and wanted to embrace it but knew he had to find a very identifiable look in his products. He became inspired at the Met Museum by a Celtic bangle and found a manufacturer in Germany to make this design in stainless steel. Launched a lot in the 80s, but the staple piece was the St. Tropez watch. The watch was only designed for women and meant to embody the same characteristics of the beautiful village on the South of France: fun, feminine, and French. If the face of the St. Tropez watch was removed, you were still left with a beautiful cable bracelet, and that’s when Dad realized that’s where the jewelry can evolve, and the rest was history. Today, the cable is in every product we produce.
The first Charriol boutique was inaugurated in 1990. The brand is now present in more than 60 countries, 60 freestanding boutiques, with a large international network. To what do you attribute your success?
It was a very identifiable product, great timing, great price point, and great story. 30 percent luck, 70 percent product—it’s about timing. Are you there at the right time, are you telling the right message, are you relevant? We came out at as affordable luxury, and it was the beginning of the movement. The luxury of Charriol is with the watches, and the jewelry is ever-changing and where we stay fashion forward. Nobody can just come out and say they’re starting a watch brand. It’s all about techniques, mechanics, precision. To make a watch at this price point is like making a mini car, and that is where the luxury of Charriol remains.
What is the biggest thing that has surprised you and your family on your brand’s journey?
Different markets reacting differently to products. Sometimes something you thought was going to be a big hit may not be. Having tough skin and being able to bounce back up is important. You have the vision in your head and to translate it from a two-dimensional drawing to a three-dimensional product is difficult. There are many things you have to let go in the process, which can be frustrating. Sometimes you have to be thinking two years ahead, and the people you’re convincing aren’t there yet. From all the surprises, I’ve learned that I do know that it all comes from you, and if you don’t believe in your product, no one will.
Why are you excited for JCK Las Vegas?
JCK is fun, and it’s like the Oscars for us! You work every day around the clock and then get your one show-off moment. I’ve seen every ugly phase of a piece and when you can finally turn it into something fantastic and someone walks by and appreciates it as something beautiful, that’s so rewarding. For me, the mystery is a little bit gone in the products because I know the backend. So when someone doesn’t know the backend and sees that glorious product in the spotlight you don’t know any other story aside from perfection! JCK is where you get your glass filled up again.
You have designed more than 15 jewelry collections to date, is there a collection or piece in particular that is most special to you? Why?
I have a team of two freelance designers, and I pull from them and have my own ideas along the way. I don’t particularly draw the product, but I’m leading the team in that the whole vision, concept, and collection I choose, edit, and create. The Forever Bangle was my brainchild from the beginning and is Charriol’s No. 2 selling collection. The collection includes: Forever Thin, Forever Color, Forever Cuff, and the Forever. The Forever Color line was a collaboration with my brother, as he’s a painter. To see the collection evolve and the success story it has turned out to be has been most special for me.
How do you use trends and incorporate them into your designs? For example, was the Bangle Mania Collection adopted from the stacking bangles mix-and-match jewelry trend?
Yes, the bangles and the bracelets have been huge for us, especially in the U.S. market. It’s actually our best jewelry product. I’m happy that bracelets are something Charriol has always done, but in the past two years we’ve really showed off in the mixing and matching. I think people are lightening up with regard to mixing metals or mixing white gold with yellow gold, and when you stack you have stories! Charriol is definitely a trend setter, and although we may not have money to dictate the trends we do stay within them. I have chokers coming out this year and more gold jewelry.
What’s the biggest piece of advice you could give to an emerging bridge brand?
Try to have one message and edit down. I think a lot of brands now are doing a little bit of everything, but then what do you stand for?
What was your first trade show? What was the biggest lesson learned?
Basel in Switzerland, and I was 22 years old. I remember walking in and my jaw dropped. When you realize you’ve built something and you’re in Hall 1, not Hall 2, 3, 4,5 ,6. I couldn’t help but think, how did my dad do this and how did he get himself out of bed with all this competition?! I learned many lessons at my first trade show including managing people and their egos (because everyone is king), email and letter etiquette, the list goes on and on!
Where do you see the brand in five years?
I would love to have a freestanding store or a little pop-up, even though that’s not the direction the world is going. With a flagship store you can have events, see your customers, you have a universe. Because if not, how do you connect with customers and tell your brand’s story…all through photos? I don’t know what the future is going to hold. Even department stores I wanted to be in are now changing. I definitely would like to push more jewelry especially for the U.S., more specifically getting gold in the fine jewelry section, that’s where I was and where I want to go back to. Charriol is always been a frontiersman, we’ve always tried the new things and been avant-garde in that sense, even though our products are so classic and timeless.
Is there anything you would like to see changed in the jewelry industry?
I would like to see people use the word brand less, unless they deserve it! You need to either target x amount of products sold or x amount of dollars made or be established for at least two or three years. You can’t just launch and call it a brand, it’s too easy! There are definitely positive changes I like to keep up with in technology and advancements in jewelry. It’s only the last 10 years have they been able to set diamonds in steel. I want to keep up with these changes and embrace them.
How would you describe your brand aesthetic as an elevator pitch?
It’s an international brand that sells fine jewelry that has fashionable and affordable products. It’s feminine. It’s modern. It’s classic but yet in the trends. Elegant in a contemporary way. It’s not fussy—it’s jewelry you love to wear and forget you’re wearing it. It’s empowering.
Who is your jewelry muse and why?
My friend sells vintage jewelry, and that really inspires me. I love vintage jewelry, there’s such history and back then nobody was cutting any corners then. Now at the Oscars all that jewelry is loaned, so I can’t get inspired by that. Where are the people from our generation who open their drawers of jewelry to the world today at the level of Elizabeth Taylor? It’s very private. I would love to wear see smart women with spunk such as Rachel McAdams, Emma Stone, and Reese Witherspoon wear Charriol.
Can you tell us more about your educational program that inspires youth through documentary films, React to Film?
React to Film engages in research and curriculum development for middle and high schools, providing them with educational resources and support for courses on social issues through documentary films. Our curricular resources allow schools to educate on a spectrum of social ailments from the psychosocial effects of war to nutrition, from gun policy to gender inequity, from conflict mediation to homelessness. I’ve always been interested in film, it’s my passion. My husband and I started this nonprofit six years ago, and the Soho House had just opened, so we started screening documentaries there. The goal was to get people to react because these are social issues. In order to teach people how to care and be active and civically engaged, we have to mold them earlier. Today, we are in 28 different schools and have screened more than 30 documentaries with other schools. Through film, we inspire young people to engage in the real issues of today!
What would people be surprised to learn about you?
I was born in Hawaii, and I am a surfer.