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Watches & Jewellery

“Human relations are often simpler than marketing plans”

Chopard’s Happy Diamonds campaign starring Julia Roberts dancing under the demanding lead of filmmaker Xavier Dolan totaled millions of views on Instagram. A welcome success as the pandemic slowed the brand’s business, just as it did for the rest of the luxury industry. Exclusive interview with Caroline Scheufele, co-chairwoman and artistic director of Chopard.

Cristina D’Agostino

By Cristina D’Agostino29 avril 2021

Julia Roberts during the shooting of the "Happy Diamonds" advertising campaign (photo Shayne Laverdiere)

Her first creation for Chopard goes back to childhood, a clown she drew for herself and that Chopard later designed into a collection. A revelation for Caroline Scheufele and the early stages of a new activity in the jewelry sector for Chopard. Yet, it is a passion for the motion pictures and a proximity with the Cannes film festival that propelled the brand into the very exclusive sphere of high jewelry. Often described as the creator of the brand rather than as a strategic businesswoman, she is however the one to have enabled the Chopard brand with key advantages to find a second source of revenue apart from watchmaking, the first craft of the brand which dates back to 1860. Her commitment in favor of sustainability and of an ethical gold production definitely imprinted the Maison’s spirit, still in the hands of the Scheufele family for over sixty years. Interview with Caroline Scheufele during the launch of the latest advertising campaign Happy Diamonds, an opportunity to better understand the roots of her success.

Caroline Scheufele, co-chairwoman and artistic director of Chopard (Chopard)

The Happy Diamonds campaign is very visible on social media. What kind of feedback are you getting?

On Instagram only, we totaled 26 million views. And that’s without counting China with its own social media. It’s a first for Chopard, as well as for the watchmaking industry I believe… It is a phenomenal, yet unexpected, success.

How can you explain it?

I think it was simply the right time. The right time to talk about joie de vivre. The campaign’s message relies on the word “happy” for the Happy Sport collection, and more widely in the Happy Diamonds collections. We had originally scheduled to broadcast this campaign last year, but we postponed it many times because of Covid-19. Eventually, we were able to further prepare the launch and the international teams. Clearly, 2020 was not the right time. Everything was dark. Today, we are starting to notice a glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel. Also, when you see Julia Roberts’ smile, everything lights up.

How is the young generation reacting? Are they touched?

Never have I ever received this many compliments from younger generations, including my nephews, my brother Karl-Friedrich’s children (laughs). This actress is not their age, yet she is such an icon that she speaks beyond generations.

This strategic model is a bestseller. Was it also the right time to give business a strong push after the significant drop during the pandemic?

Of course, we communicated on other collections in 2020, including the Alpine Eagle. But yes, Happy Sport represents our DNA. The campaign is called « Happy Diamonds » and includes the entire line, even jewelry. The price range is also very wide, starting at 1,200 francs with a Happy Diamonds heart. It was important for us to touch a large audience.

What were the behind-the-scenes of this campaign?

When we started thinking about it internally, well before Covid-19, we had four to five actresses in mind and had to debate them during meetings. But very quickly, I stopped the conversations and said: “You are looking for the most beautiful smile in the world? Well, that’s Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman!”. Bewildered looks turned to me, as everyone knew she had never accepted to star in a watch and jewelry advertising campaign up till then. But as I was lucky enough to have met her in Cannes, I knew she was easy-going and that she truly matched with this image of happiness. And I was right. She was delighted by the proposal. Sometimes, you just need to ask. Human relations are often simpler than marketing plans. Self-censorship and locking yourself up in principles are never the right options.

Is it also something that defines your personality?

Yes, that’s my spirit. To remain free. And in my childhood, dance and music taught me to be free. I often create while listening to music.

This spirit enabled you to create Happy Sport, an icon today. But did was it successful from the beginning?

The classical Happy Diamonds already existed. But the happy Sport was unexpected, it was a blend between diamond and steel. Everyone said I was crazy. But my father accepted the challenge. The success was immediate. It was pioneering. I wanted a watch that could accompany women in their daily lives, but that could also resist sporting activities.

Chopard's Happy Sport collection, here in pink gold with diamond-set bezel (Chopard)

In the history of watchmaking, contemporary icons often didn’t work in the beginning…

That is probably because these are watches for men. And men always take more time to decide (laughs).

When you were younger, at the start of your career, did you look up to feminine role models that inspired you?

Not really. My inspiration was rather to dream by imagining women’s lives, by anticipating their future. Of course, the absolute cinema icon for me was Audrey Hepburn. But Julia Roberts is of the same caliber. I admire her for her commitments, for her career choices. There could only be her.

Was the choice of Xavier Dolan as director of this campaign also essential to you?

Xavier Dolan is a bit of the Cannes Film Festival favorite. He is young, very talented, and comprehends directing with much finesse and modernity. Strong assets and a work ethic I wanted for this campaign. And he accepted with as much excitement as Julia Roberts, though he had never directed advertising campaigns either. The chemistry between Julia Roberts and him functioned right away. That’s the secret. They had a lot of fun. Of course, the pandemic did not make it easy to shoot. I was unfortunately unable to attend it due to travel restrictions.

Canadian director, screenwriter, actor and producer Xavier Dolan has been chosen to direct the "Happy Diamonds" campaign (photo Shayne Laverdiere)

The Cannes Film Festival shoot take place in July this year. What was the impact of the 2020 edition cancellation for Chopard?

We still did present our high jewelry Red Carpet Collection around the world, and thankfully it performed well. But some big movies were not launched, such as the latest James Bond in which we have a jewelry product placement on the actresses. However, it is the impact on the movie industry that saddens me the most. The artisans, the crafts that rotate around this industry were strongly impacted. It is the same with the watchmaking industry.

CANNES, FRANCE - Caroline Scheufele and Julian Moore attend the opening ceremony and screening of "The Dead Don't Die" during the 72nd Cannes Film Festival on May 14, 2019 in Cannes, France. (Photo by Daniele Venturelli/WireImage)

How do you foresee the 2021 edition?

It will be a more intimate festival, much less focused on what gravitates around it, such as parties. We will of course organize some as we are partners. It is clear that China will not be travelling. We have several plans scheduled, depending on the situation. But we will be standing alongside the festival.

You are passionate about movies and have already produced some. Why did you not go further with this campaign and produce a mini film, like fashion brands for their latest couture collections, such as Dior with the director Matteo Garone?

I don’t really agree with you. Xavier Dolan and I directed something resembling a mini film. In the past, we directed “La légende de la Palme d’Or”, with Alexis Veller in 2015, who had competed at the Cannes Film Festival. As well as the film “The Queen of Kalahari Diamond”, a 40-minute movie. Of course, these are more educational movies, less fantastic. But we have made a few, well before the fashion world… And in this case precisely, when we talk about fashion brands that produce mini films, those are also advertising films. If I make a movie, it will not be an ad. There might be some Chopard featured, but it would be very subtle.

How did the brainstorming process between Xavier Dolan and yourself go?

When I met Xavier Dolan, we quickly got along. He is a curious and demanding director. I even had to introduce myself and present my work. He is a young man with a strong personality. It was very lively and interesting. But I had to confront my ideas on the musical choices that were very important in the film. That was a topic of heated discussion between us. Xavier had set his mind on music that I did not like. I thought that the style was not consistent with the happiness and the Happy Sport spirit. The music of younger generations is often a bit dark… I had to stand up and fight for my choice. It was quite epic. As I told you, music is very important in my life. I know its importance in each moment, each event of daily life. And in spite of the fact that my teams were telling me we could not go against the director’s choice, I held my ground. My choice turned to a young English singer whose debut is incredible. And today Xavier Dolan is very happy with this choice. Once again, freedom to think and to communicate is key in human relations.

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