Bulgari’s CEO, Jean-Christophe Babin has already pioneered the acquisition and international tour of the Bulgari Elizabeth Taylor collection. Read on as he talks of the history of Bulgari, it’s culture and all there is to know about the Elizabeth Taylor collection.
1) Having wisdom and experience in multiple industries, which include the chemical industry, fine jewelry, and of course passing through TAG Heuer with the watch industry, how has your vision changed from 1994 all the way to the present, as the CEO of Bulgari?
The most important and major transition, for me, was from consumer goods to TAG Heuer, which, as a luxury brand belonging to the watch industry, is extremely selective. However, the move from TAG Heuer to Bulgari was much more fluid in comparison. The reason for that is because Bulgari is also a watch maker, in a different price range of course and the jewelry industry is something I am very familiar with because philosophically it is still a part of the high-end accessories market.
2) How does it feel to work for a brand that is highly culturally established and rich in history such as Bulgari?
It’s a great honor. Not only do you inherit 130 years of great history, but also you get to work with amazing legends that have brought the company from where it was to where it is now. But obviously you have to take it with a lot of humility. Spending a lot of time understanding the past of why and how the success of Bulgari company was achieved is very important to try to figure out how to further evolve in the future of the company without changing its soul. This helps in portraying the soul of the company in new, different, and exciting ways. Being innovative, but still having a connection with the past is crucial to a company as successful as Bulgari. A good example would be our new Diva collection; it is inspired by the finest Roman mosaic and design, but designed in a modern, desirable, and very feminine way.
3) How was the process of actually taking in the impressive history and culture of Bulgari?
It is a time investment that, in the case Bulgari, was somewhat facilitated by the fact that the Bulgari family is still very much present. Even though Nicola and Paolo Bulgari are no longer in operation, they are still board members who are very open and very willing to spend time with me and tell me all I need to know about the company such as their personal experiences, the legends, the gems, the general history, and anything that can help me take Bulgari further. Also, a lot of books that have been written about Bulgari in the past have helped me strengthen my relationship with the company. And last but not least, the Bulgari employees have been extremely helpful because they are very loyal, many of which have worked for Bulgari for more than 25 years such as our art director Lucia Silvestri who has been working alongside Paolo for 30 years.
4) How important has it been to have the name “Elizabeth Taylor” tied up with Bulgari?
Elizabeth Taylor is the probably the name we respect most in our history. Discovering it when she came to Rome for a professional business, she was genuinely in love with our creativity and innovation, and was extremely intrigued with the brand because Bulgari did not have any boutiques in America in the sixties. After falling in love with Bulgari, Elizabeth Taylor always tried to convince her directors to wear the jewels in the movies she was in. She became an extremely loyal client to Paolo Bulgari which, in turn, made her quite emblematic of Bulgaris history.
5) How much do you think the region (Middle East) appreciates such an exhibition? How/why was the decision made to get such an exhibition here in Dubai?
Dubai has become an important destination for art, and for Bulgari jewelry is definitely art. We’ve displayed very unique pieces here in this exhibition because we feel as through the preciousness of the gems, metals, and the materials that have gone into making these jewels emphasize the artistic connotations of these pieces. I don’t think there could have been a better location than Dubai and Design District for a contemporary jeweler to showcase the art of jewelry.
6) Tell me more about the relationship that Bulgari has with art
We are coming from the city of art, Rome. Being the Roman luxury brand, it’s quite natural that the connection between art and Bulgari should be strong because we are constantly surrounded by art. We always try to take an artistic perspective to feed our creativity and innovation so it can further develop the company. If you look at many of our jewelry items, many of them are inspired by Roman art.
7) Touching now more on the subject of watches, how does Bulgari keep up and gain competitive advantage with all the advancements in men’s watches today?
Over the history of Bulagari, innovation has been and still is one of the most important aspects of our company. We invest a lot in research and development of watch making; we have retained the best watch makers and have also added new ones. Bulgari believes that creating elegant watches for men is the most logical step because men wearing jewelry is something quite difficult to achieve, so in a sense, we believe that a man’s jewels is elegance in his watches. We have quite a broad spectrum of watches that are available for men ranging from the reasonably accessible Bulgari Bulgari, which is our icon, as well as the Bulgari OCTO.