François-Henry Bennahmias: “This collaboration with Travis Scott holds great symbolism for me as it marks my final project heading Audemars Piguet.”
By Cristina D’Agostino30 novembre 2023
In New York for the concluding launch of his career at Audemars Piguet before his planned departure at the end of 2023, François-Henry Bennahmias makes a significant impact by announcing a collaboration with the "Cactus Jack" label and brand founded by American hip-hop artist Travis Scott.
On November 30, in the heart of Manhattan, the media frenzy at Audemars Piguet reaches its peak as the announcement unfolds at 2 pm. The collaboration between Audemars Piguet and Travis Scott's "Cactus Jack" label once again showcases the brand's perception of the watchmaking industry: breaking free from conventions and pushing boundaries. This new partnership, blending high watchmaking with street culture, epitomizes Audemars Piguet's daring alliances with the realms of the star system, music, and art under Bennahmias' leadership in recent years. At the Audemars Piguet boutique, guests from both brands get a first look at the Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar Openworked "Cactus Jack" Limited Edition, along with an exclusive collection of clothing and accessories that will be sold exclusively on Travis Scott's website. Part of the profits will be donated to a charitable project or cause supported by the artist. Regarding this collaboration, the American artist with 51 million Instagram followers explains, "Watchmaking, to me, is the ultimate blend of engineering, fashion, technology, and design—harmonizing precision, craftsmanship, and perfect timing. I approached this collaboration like sampling or creating a rhythm, drawing inspiration from classics while introducing innovation to propel them into the future. I'm super excited about the result, marking a first for the iconic Royal Oak. And having it be my buddy François' last project as CEO of Audemars Piguet makes it even more epic—we're ending with a bang." Indeed, this project is particularly significant as it will be François-Henry Bennahmias' final endeavour at the helm of Audemars Piguet, and he exclusively shares the behind-the-scenes of this collaboration.
Can you tell us about the beginnings of this partnership with "Cactus Jack" and how the encounter with the artist unfolded?
When we began working together, Travis wanted an aesthetic that could incorporate his codes, including the colour brown. So, we developed brown ceramic for the first time, which demanded a substantial effort, as creating a new colour in ceramic often involves several years of development. The genesis of the collaboration? It's, as always, a story of meeting, connection, and sharing. Travis Scott was already a customer of the brand before this collaboration, so he aligned with our aesthetic. I immediately liked the guy from our first meeting. He's down-to-earth. We talked about everything and nothing, discussed the universe over a conversation. I noticed a depth in him that touched me a lot. The collaboration started just like that.
Between the last collaboration with Matthew Williams and this collaboration with "Cactus Jack," the language of street culture and streetwear is very prominent. A language the brand has been familiar with for over 20 years. What new audiences is this launch targeting?
I don't frame the question in those terms. In addition to the watch, we're launching a line of merchandise, not the first time Audemars Piguet has done this. The brand did it with the sailing team Alinghi during the America's Cup in Valencia in 2007. It's somewhat similar here, but we're entering a different world with street culture, music, and Travis Scott, who recently set a new record in a merchandise sale. That's one of his quirks. We still remember the drops he did with Nike; it generated so much interest that websites crashed. We wanted to give Travis Scott and his "Cactus Jack" brand the opportunity to have fun with Audemars Piguet. On this occasion, he redefined all the codes, including the AP logo, and that's great because we're a serious brand that doesn't take itself too seriously. The result is incredible, very surprising. And these items probably won't just be worn by fifteen-year-olds; some of our clients will also want to acquire them. So, it's not just about reaching a new clientele.
Will these fashion collaborations multiply in the future, and what criteria do you use to measure their success?
That remains to be seen with the person who succeeds me, and I haven't given any indications in that regard today. As for measuring success, it's always the same criterion: demand versus supply. If the success is overwhelming and everything sells out very quickly, then it's a success. It's worth noting that Audemars Piguet doesn't make a penny from these clothing and accessory sales. A portion of the profits will be donated to a charitable project or cause supported by the artist. If we can act for a good cause, if people have fun, derive pleasure from wearing the T-shirts or hoodies, and if we can associate the cool factor with it, then it's a win.
This collaboration, coupled with Travis Scott's presence at its launch in New York, is a significant move for Audemars Piguet. It's also one of your final activations at the helm of the brand. Does this event inevitably carry a more personal dimension?
Yes, it's fabulous for me to conclude my career at Audemars Piguet by celebrating a collaboration with an artist like Travis because I didn't need to work at Audemars Piguet to be a music enthusiast. It's very symbolic for me. Just like collaborating with a relatively young artist, it means the brand is forward-looking and in tune with the times.
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