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Gaia Repossi's Five Tips to Building a Jewellery Business

The Italian designer took on the weighty task of leading her family's jewellery house at the age of 21, bringing modernity — and an investment from LVMH — to the business. How did she do it?
Gaia Repossi in her office | Photo: Antoine Doyen for BoF
By
  • Kati Chitrakorn

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PARIS, France — It was never Gaia Repossi's intention to become a jewellery designer, but in 2007, she assumed the role of artistic director of her family business, which was founded in Italy in 1920. Under the designer's leadership, Repossi has emerged as an important player in the market for fashion-led fine jewellery, first gaining global recognition in 2011 for its Berbere collection of minimalist rings and ear cuffs, which has been worn by celebrities from Emma Stone to Diane Kruger.

The brand — which sold a minority stake to LVMH in 2015 — now operates retail stores in Paris and Monte Carlo, and has global stockists in the UK, Milan, Saudi Arabia, Switzerland, Russia, Japan and Korea. Still producing pieces out of the original atelier that her great-grandfather worked in nearly a century before her, Repossi looks to the past while keeping her ornate designs contemporary, and has teamed up with designers like Alexander Wang and Joseph Altuzarra.

Below, the entrepreneur shares five tips for running a successful jewellery business.

1. Seize every opportunity

Repossi in Paris | Source: Courtesy

Gaia Repossi: My father always taught me that I shouldn't be scared. Since I was young, I've been driven by a desire to express something different and change things. You need to seize every opportunity, especially when you have the opportunity to try something new. Coming from a family of people who were experts in this field allowed me to gain a lot of knowledge and instinct for the business, whether it’s the knowledge of the stones, how to recognise them, understanding their properties, learning how to achieve a high quality of craftsmanship and understanding different jewellery techniques. Throughout the years, I've developed a certain eye and knowledge.

2. Begin every project with a clean state

GR: We are trying to push boundaries, more so than we have in the past, but we want to keep our unique identity in the industry. I regularly strive to create a tabula rasa — the idea of a clean state; an absence of preconceived ideas — redrafting and questioning the vision of our designs. I am never completely satisfied with an object that requires perfection, so I keep pushing myself. I always want to surprise and bring something new.

3. Find a balance between commercial and creative

GR: The key to remain relevant and successful is to keep the balance between creativity and business. I don't think that has already been achieved — or it will never be achieved well enough, because both, in a way, are incompatible. It’s important that Repossi remains desirable. The brand needs to have a true identity and a specific point of view, while commercial input helps with the distribution and visibility of the brand. Both are equally important.

There is no point if you have nothing new to say.

4. Broaden your horizons

GR: I shared a very creative passion for jewellery with my father. We used to draw things together and I would watch him create these collections, so I've always been artistic since childhood. Drawing and painting became my interests although I did not think to pursue my passions straight away. Later on, I studied fine art. When something belongs to your family and it's upheld so much tradition, with so much respect, I couldn't just let it [disappear], and so, I slowly integrated myself more and more in the business. Having a broader interest in fine art helps inform my jewellery designs today.

5. Have a clear point of view

GR: The turning point came about five or six years ago, when more people started to recognise Repossi’s codes and language, and that we were trying to offer new designs and ways of wearing jewellery. You need to propose a message, otherwise there is no point if you have nothing new to say. We have managed to develop an awareness around the fundamentals of jewellery. For many years, body adornment has been loud and recognisable but business targets have compromised many designs. My desire is to focus on quality design, while making sure we have a clear identity.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

For industry advice or more jobs like this, visit BoF Careers, the global marketplace for fashion talent.

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