CULTURE

Pure, simple Danish design

Forget jewelry as a reflection of your bank account. Think organic, fluid and simple pieces for the 21st century, but not ones created by yet another hot new brand tailored to the postmodern high flier but a Danish label born at the beginning of the 20th century. Designer and silversmith Georg Jensen set up his first atelier in Copenhagen back in 1904. Georg Jensen went on to become a brand; the jewelry design label conquered its home country, grew to define its Scandinavian roots and is now playing the global game. The company recently opened its first Athens store. «The Scandinavian heritage which is epitomized by Georg Jensen jewelry design is what we call elegant simplicity, understated luxury, a design tradition of being very pure, very minimalist in a way, still having a certain sensuality because of its form,» says Hans-Kristian Hoejsgaard, Georg Jensen CEO. Timeless True, there is something timeless about Georg Jensen’s pieces, both old and new. Take a look at the fresh Savannah series, for example, where warm gold engulfs earthy-colored semiprecious stones such as citrines and smoky quartz. It is the same quality that runs through all its collections, such as sterling and silver-plated homeware, for instance. «We don’t have an internal Tom Ford who designs everything,» says Hoejsgaard. Instead, the brand works with an array of designers, managed by the company’s creative director. Amid a long list of guest talent is a Greek name, the designer/jeweler Minas, who became the first non-Scandinavian designer to collaborate with the company before 2000. (He designed a wristwatch.) These days, Georg Jensen is collaborating with, among others, design guru Karim Rashid. What if an influx of foreign influences and ideas alter the (Scandinavian) essence of the brand? «By working with a Chinese or a Japanese designer, or whatever nationality they may be, we allow somebody with a different culture to interpret what this purity is to them,» says Hoejsgaard. Besides creative purity, the brand is opening up to the world. «The process, which started in 2003, is essentially to transform Georg Jensen from being a Danish silversmith, to become an international, luxury jeweler with Danish roots. It is a 180-degree change in terms of perception.» In this new chapter of Georg Jensen history, store design becomes pivotal, reflecting its philosophy and present strategy. It is a combination of jewelry outlet and gallery, what Hoejsgaard describes as «a less intimidating environment.» This is the case at the Athens store, situated in Kolonaki, as well as its Rodeo Drive sibling, which opened earlier this year and benefited from the creative touch of master architect Tadao Ando. Partnership With 114 stores around the world, the Athens flagship is only the second time the company is opening a store in conjunction with another firm. (The project was developed in partnership with Athanassopoulos AVEE.) Advertising is also part of the current agenda – though the company will fiercely maintain its low-profile character. While Georg Jensen pieces appear in films such as «Basic Instinct 2» and «The Da Vinci Code,» the company is reluctant to make any kind of publicity fuss. Though red-carpet pieces will be produced, no celebrity endorsement is in the cards. A family company which at one point went public and was subsequently delisted, Georg Jensen is nowadays owned by a private equity fund. «We come out of a silver tradition, originally a silver company. But essentially and foremost it is a design company so the fact that over the last few years we have applied this design history to diamonds, gold and other areas has made us interesting to a wider audience,» says Hoejsgaard. Over the course of three years, the brand’s business has gone from 95 percent silver, to 55 percent gold and diamonds and 45 silver. As the brand has now joined a new league of luxury brands, competition has risen. «I believe that in the jewelry business the branded jewelry is still a very small part of the overall market. So I don’t really think we have competition. There is room for all of us. And what makes us different, where we don’t have competition, is exactly on design. Everybody can make a diamond ring, the difference is the setting of that stone. That’s where it’s very clear that if you are a Georg Jensen customer, you are unlikely to be a Bulgari or a Cartier customer – beautiful brands but with a very different design history.» Market research conducted by the company points to a clientele led by executive working women. «It’s not the jewelry arriving with the woman, which is the case with certain brands,» says Hoejsgaard. Heritage Besides the new collections, Georg Jensen is also keeping the design flame alive through its exclusive Heritage collection. Based on original Georg Jensen creation from the early 1900s, these are exclusively reproduced by the firm’s expert hands and available through special orders. The past and the future come together through all the right synergies, while the brand’s DNA remains intact. «It is very clear that luxury is about authenticity. You cannot claim to be something that you’re not. The fact that we have a 100-year-old history is very important,» notes Hoejsgaard. «You should never become a prisoner of all this, however, but challenge yourself all the time.»