We catch up with Pascal Mouawad at his boutique in The Dubai Mall to learn about the jewelry and watch brand’s expansion in the Middle Eastern market and what currently sells well.
You and your brothers have become the co-guardians of the brand just over three years ago. How has that been and what has changed?
My father decided to retire in 2010 which prompted my brothers and me to take over the business. We are now entering our fifth year since the takeover and a lot has changed. Under my father’s reign of the company he had the philosophy of selling other brands in our store. When we stepped in we decided that Mouawad would be a full mono-brand concept. We then went ahead and changed the look and feel of each of our boutiques to cater to our new mono-brand focus. Our Dubai Mall boutique is the first boutique to have this new look. While this pivotal change was made, we are still known as an inspirational brand. When people think of Mouawad they think of the multi-million dollar pieces and the royalty and celebrities that buy pieces from us. We are keeping this image of ours but want to become more of an affordable jewelry brand as well. People never thought that by walking through our store they could find a 1000 USD piece of jewelry. This is now possible.
You are not the first luxury brand to want to create “affordable luxury” products. Why do you think that is important now?
There is definitely very little loyalty when it comes to high-end pieces. There may be a customer today and one tomorrow but you can’t really build a business based on the number of customers who happen to buy or not to buy. These high-end purchases are based on a special occasion and if there is no special occasion then they are not going to buy it. So in order to build your business you need to have a wide range of products. Today we’ve noticed that price points have gone down a bit so in order to capture the market you need to have a greater price range. We now have several jewelry and watch ranges starting with the boutique range from USD 1000-50,000; the high jewelry range from 50-100,000 USD; the watch range and then the million dollar pieces that are the masterpieces.
How do you divide the leadership roles at Mouawad between you and your brothers during this “Renaissance” period for the brand?
I think it’s a great question because for many families it is hard for people to come to a resolution of what they want each person to do. In a family business you always have to separate ownership and from management from the whole shareholding of the business. We were able to find the right structure for the business. One today is Alain, who was always a watch collector, who is now heading the watch division out of Switzerland. He makes the watches and sells them to my division which is retail. Fred, on the other hand, has always been a stone collector and lover and is heading the diamond division. We are now a DTC site holder so he is out there and will go to South Africa and also to Russian for the tenders and buy the rough diamonds and cut and polish them. I myself love retail. I love marketing and the whole PR aspect of the brand. I am doing much more of the representing of the brand. We have found happy means for all of us to be involved and also responsible and held accountable for what we do. This keeps us from having two to three presidents because in the end there can only be one leader. So we have a board and an advisory committee and we sit down and come up with a strategy for company. Each of us is then responsible for building that strategy in his particular division for the whole group.
You’ve moved your headquarters to Dubai and opened up several boutiques around the Middle East. How would you define your current presence in the region?
We are undoubtedly an international firm. Our biggest market today is the Middle East so our goal when we took over was to have a really strong market in the region before we continue our international expansion in different territories. The Middle East is the third largest market in the world and it is a market that is very receptive to jewelry and timepieces. We are also an originally Middle Eastern company and it was important for us to have a strong foothold in this market. We wanted to have a boutique in each key city in the GCC which will be realized by the end of this year. We are also looking to have a third boutique in Dubai and have signed a lease to open in the Palm Mall, which is our fourth coming project. We will be opening our Abu Dhabi boutique in April in Nation’s Tower mall. We are also looking to eventually enter into China and Hong Kong.
How would you compare the Middle East and American markets for jewelry right now? Where do you see the most business coming from?
In the USA we predominantly decided to do wholesale. We have recently taken the decision to do less of this and will be eventually be opening stores in Beverley Hills and in New York. Right now in the USA it a pure wholesale operation, we don’t have a boutique in the country but do sell one-to-one. We have a boutique in Kuala Lumpur and also in Singapore, among other places in Asia. The only thing we do differently in the Middle East is to provide wedding sets. When people get married in the Middle East they like to buy wedding sets. However, when it comes to our boutique range, we don’t do anything specific for one market. It has to have an international appeal. What we sell in the Middle East we will sell anywhere in the world. For example, the Hilal collection caters to the Muslim community. We will also sometimes do a capsul collection for a certain demographic.
In terms of publicity, you have just selected your first Middle Eastern celebrity, Najla Karam, to be the face of Mouawad. Why did you pick her and how has it been to work with her?
Yes, and we recently signed a deal with a male celebrity with whom we will soon be working with to launch our Grand Elipse watch. We will do a big press conference in Dubai next month for the launch. We used the same criteria for Najla that we use to select every celebrity which we work with. They have to have a good reputation and one that is in-line with ours. They also have to appeal to wide audience. Najla is established just as we are established.
Tell us about your latest collections.
La Grife is our latest ladies’ watch and it is the one that Najla is endorsing. We are pushing the watch because it has done well in the market. We also have La Eternity – a collection that we have had for three years. Mouawad also recently launched Love M, which is doing very well. Later this year we will be introducing a collection called Silhouette. We are essentially looking at launching one new collection per year as well as some novelties for existing lines. We’re pretty innovative for a jewelry company considering that most brands take a long time to launch a new collection. We are bringing in one new collection per year plus a novelty but if you do it too fast you lose the customer. It is important to continue doing just as we are doing: innovate while also maintaining the essence of the brand.
Mouawad is located in The Dubai Mall. Tel: +971 4