Georgetown Convenes Top Cartier Executives to Discuss Trends in the Luxury Goods Market
Cyrille Vigneron, president and global CEO of Cartier, and Mercedes Abramo, CEO of Cartier North America, addressed the Georgetown community during an event hosted by the Georgetown Retail & Luxury Association and the Global Business Initiative to share their perspectives as leaders of a multinational luxury brand. The conversation was moderated by Jules Lee (B’22).
Vigneron began the conversation by discussing his experience working for Cartier in Japan at an early stage of his career, a city he had lived in earlier in his life, and how the global perspective shaped his understanding of business.
“I was given the opportunity to become director in Japan at 37 years of age and I took it,” he said. “I didn’t know whether I would fit in Japan quite well, and I loved it because the country had changed from the last time I had visited and I had changed too … I had to adjust all of my perceptions of what it is to be a human being, an individual, and a collective.”
After many years in Japan leading Cartier and the operations of the Richemont Group, Vigneron moved back to France where he found his additional knowledge of the Japanese culture very useful for his new position.
“It was a cultural shock for me to go back to Europe after so many years in Asia. I utilized the good things about France, thinking outside the box and being creative, and also about Japan, mutual respect and harmony, in my new role,” he said.
Both Vigneron and Abramo also discussed the concept of time as it relates to the differences between hard luxury items, such as jewelry, and soft luxury items, such as fashion, including the production time and the length of the consumer purchase decision process involved in managing and promoting luxury products.
“Time is the biggest difference between the two sectors, not only from the production side of hard luxury items, designing pieces and bringing them to market, but also from the side of the consumer when it comes to the purchasing decision of a piece of jewelry for instance, which also takes longer,” said Abramo.
Cyrille added how the COVID-19 pandemic affected both hard luxury and soft luxury differently.
“There can be some merit to being slow. With COVID-19, everything stopped; if you stayed at home you didn’t need to buy the fashion of the season so soft luxury was hit harder during the pandemic, which was not the case for hard luxury, as jewelry is timeless.”
Finally, the two Cartier executives spoke on how they view innovation from their respective positions in the company.
“We approach innovation differently, we try to tell the same story in different ways, looking at stories with fresh eyes,” said Abramo.
Vigneron added that when innovating their goal is to keep creating durable pieces that can be cherished for a long time.
“We try to innovate when it has meaning. We don’t want to come up with something high tech that looks cool but then becomes obsolete a few years later, especially because our pieces are timeless. For instance, for the relaunch of the Tank Must, the oldest watch model we have, we added a solar panel battery that can last up to 16 years to replace the quartz battery,” he said.
Lee shared her take on moderating the conversation with both accomplished business leaders:
“Cyrille’s advice, from the perspective of a businessman and parent, to fully utilize the advantage of knowing the French and Japanese culture gave all the international students in the room a clear sense of direction. Being fluent in multiple cultures serves as a great asset in global business,” said Lee.
Earlier this year, Georgetown McDonough students also had the opportunity to participate in the Cartier Challenge, where approximately 20 students worked in small groups during a six-week challenge to provide marketing and branding ideas to best address the needs of Cartier’s customers.
“Being able to hear the authentic perspective and knowledge from a global CEO of a major brand like Cartier has the power to be transformational for our students,” said Wendy Zajack, associate professor of the practice at Georgetown’s School of Continuing Studies. “These experiences shape the leaders we know our students will become by exposing them to challenges they will need to focus on as they move into the professional world.”