Charif Debs (Gemmyo) deciphers the contemporary challenges of high-end jewelry

Charif Debs (Gemmyo) deciphers the contemporary challenges of high-end jewelry
Charif Debs (Gemmyo) deciphers the contemporary challenges of high-end jewelry

Charif Debs is the new guest on the LuxurynsightXFashionNetwork podcast. With Olivier Guyot, the editor-in-chief of France at FashionNetwork.com, the co-founder of Parisian jeweler Gemmyo retraces his entrepreneurial journey with his wife Pauline Laigneau at the helm of this Parisian house as well as the challenges they face on a daily basis to dust off the world of high-end jewelry.

Contrary to the traditional model of the jewelry industry “in which, in most cases, companies are sometimes dynastic family sagas”, Charif Debs (graduated from Centrale and Harvard Business School) and Pauline Laigneau (graduate of HEC and Normale Sup) accompanied by his younger brother Malek Debs (polytechnician) and Fanny Boucher (Gemological Institute of America), launched in June 2011, after an initial fundraising from business angels, with a business model based on “lean manufacturing and exclusively in-house distribution”.

Promoting uninhibited jewelry

Bringing a fresh look at traditions, this jewelry house offers pieces via its website Made in Francewith a touch of audacity and at affordable entry-level prices (from 340 euros for a classic wedding ring, and from 725 euros for a gold engagement ring to 18,585 euros for a diamond solitaire) and timepieces since last year. Today, the brand’s “bridal” category represents half of sales. For Charif Debs, the hard luxury (watch and jewelry sales segment, editor’s note) is a market where “everything is a little slower” because “purchase cycles are very long, and behaviors are much more stable than in other categories.”

If she presents herself today as “a pioneer of smart luxury”, Gemmyo had a “rough first summer” and faced a number of rejections before finding its partner workshop (which prefers to remain anonymous). “We started with this notion of ‘jewelry and disruption’, then we realized that it was too harsh a word for something so precious, so we settled for a slogan that was ‘young and jeweler’ with an irreverent and pop approach, but we almost became schoolboys […] Our brand platform has evolved a lot over time. It’s like a beautiful cooking recipe that takes decades to make,” smiles Charif Debs.

Opening stores “to adapt to the reality of the clientele”

The brand digital native opened its first store in 2015 in the Saint-Germain-des-Prés district: “we had to force ourselves and adapt to the reality of our customers by opening points of sale, now we have nine and we will continue to open them […] but taking orders in store represents less than a third of our sales,” confides the entrepreneur.

Gemmyo, which has opened branches in Brussels, Geneva, Tokyo and recently Zurich, employs 80 people and makes 20% of its sales from exports. The house has ten boutiques in total where it claims “a personalized and warm customer experience, in contrast to the codes of traditional luxury”, designed “for a clientele that does not like to feel forced to buy immediately [ni] the feeling of having a knife at your throat”. In this episode, the entrepreneur also looks at trends in the jewelry sector since the Covid pandemic and how Gemmyo is positioning itself to maintain its competitiveness.

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