Lalique, the luxury goods company renowned for its beautiful intricate glasswork and jewels was founded in 1888 by one of the most innovative designers of his time René Lalique, going on to become one of the best-known Parisian jewellers. Over the years, the heritage brand has continued to make its mark in the luxury market while staying true to its roots. Starting earlier this year, Lalique embarked on a 4 city tour of their latest collaboration with British artist, Damien Hirst. The US debut of Damien Hirst’s collaboration with Lalique Art, ‘Eternal’ collection actually kicked off at Art Basel Miami Beach in December and it will land in Chicago from March 12 through April 23. I spoke with Maz Zouhairi, President and CEO of LALIQUE North America about the Damien Hirst collaboration, how the brand is connecting with the next generation of Lalique consumers and collectors and why they are re-opening a Chicago store, plus what the future holds for the brand.
“It’s amazing being able to use all the expert craftsmanship of Lalique for something new, and the results are beyond all my expectations”
– Damien Hirst
The ‘Eternal’ collection collaboration, created by Damien Hirst and crafted by Lalique’s master glassmakers, began in 2015 with the creation of a collection of glass crystal panels. The 2017 ‘Eternal’ collection expanded upon that with the addition of 12 pieces. The limited edition crystal pieces feature a selection of Hirst’s most recognizable motifs, including: the cross, dove, skull and butterfly.
Maz Zouhairi, the President and CEO of LALIQUE North America actually has a connection to the midwest having studied in Cleveland before he was named to the role 13 years ago.
“I fell in love with the midwest and anytime I go to Chicago I feel like my heart is from there because the people are incredibly warm and passionate and you really feel them from the heart.”
SociaLifeChicago: How did the initial Damien Hirst collaboration which launched in 2015 come about and why did you decide to extend it?
Maz Zouhairi: It’s actually much more than just Damien Hirst. The art division itself is an integral and important pillar today within the Lalique brand as we celebrate our 130 year anniversary this year. One of the reasons why I joined Lalique and stayed for so long is because we had embarked on this renaissance of the brand, a simple yet not so simple task of “how do you take this history and heritage and continue to make it relevant not only for today’s time but thinking of the next 20-30 years ahead.” In order to do that we had to go back to the origins of René Lalique and take directions from him on what he originally created. We embarked on the art division 5 years ago, the first collaboration was with Yves Klein. We did the Yves Klein ‘La Victoire de Samothrace’ and those were limited to 83 pieces which retails for almost $200,000. It was difficult to produce and achieve that Yves Klein blue perfection but we did it and it almost sold out within the first two years that we launched. It showed us that there’s this demand for great craftsmanship for the Lalique heritage and how we make things but also in a way that’s exciting and collectible like art pieces and that’s when we decided it would be interesting to collaborate with other artists and bring them within our design atelier so we could create shock and push boundaries again. That’s how Damien Hirst, being one of the best contemporary artist of our time, came up on the list; we approached him and he said yes.
*Did you know: To create each panel, a mold of the central image is hot-pressed into the center of the Lalique crystal glass panel, ensuring the pieces capture the light, replicating the effeect of stained-glass windows.
SLC: Lalique is definitely a heritage luxury brand. In this new age, as you look to create and cultivate this next generation of your brand’s consumers how is Lalique connecting with those people?
MM: This is a question we think about everyday. Anytime we think we’ve made great progress, we realize we’ve only scratched the surface and there’s so much more to be done. We’re working on many different fronts. We are using social media to target the next generation through sharing video content to educate our audience on how the product is made, the craftsmen and craftsmanship. We are also targeting select influencers to showcase the relevancy of our brand to their audience and the next gen.
SLC: What is Lalique implementing to keep the next generation aware of the heritage and history but yet moving it forward in a fresh manner?
MM: Besides just social media, I still believe in face to face connection. We cannot just lay back and say everything has to be done electronically. One of the examples for that is my involvement with the Luxury Education Foundation, of which I am a board member. One of the programs that we offer is a class that we teach at Columbia University Business School in collaboration with Parsons School of design. The class allows me to engage with some of the most intellectual students from all over the world that I believe will be the next leaders in our industry. To me its incredibly rewarding because we are giving back to this intellectual community and at the same time it gives great exposure to the brand. This is one of the many ways we use to continue to identify how to keep this next generation engaged with luxury, craftsmanship products that are done by hand.
SLC: Chicago, at one point Lalique did have a boutique outside of the Merchandise mart showroom but it closed, now a new one is opening up on Oak Street. Why did Lalique decide to come back?
MM: I think that Chicago is really the heartbeat of the country and all the luxury brands must be in Chicago, they have to be, if you want to be in the US and you want to have a strong representation of your brand in America, then in my opinion, Chicago is an absolute must. When we pulled out of Chicago it was the end of our lease, and it wasn’t because Chicago was not the right venue for us or due to the financial crisis going on at the time. We pulled out of many locations because that was the time we were embarking on this renaissance of the brand and when I had just joined. Part of the strategy was to pull out of our retail storefronts because the message we were giving in our retail, at that time, was very old fashioned it was very much about our past rather than the future.
When the lease was up, we pulled out knowing we would come back to Chicago and it took us a long time because we had to go back to the Lalique DNA. Today its really almost closing that chapter with the last location to open, that in my opinion is important for the brand. We are in key cities such as New York, Miami (Bal Harbour), Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and now we will be in Chicago, although we currently have presence in the design Mart; that was more for the interiors collaboration. The Lalique Chicago location opening on Oak Street brings us full circle and it completes my project for Lalique in the Americas; to really present the brand as a lifestyle brand, as a powerful brand, well positioned for the future to continue its growth and create exciting out of the box ideas true very much to its DNA and heritage, which is never ever changing. We never took any risks on the brand DNA but where we take risks now is on the story and the message and how we communicate it in a very modern way, a way that’s relevant and people can relate to and Chicago obvioulsy is a very important part of that story and where we want the message to be communicated.
SLC: You’ve been with Lalique for 13 years, a veteran in the luxury industry, what are some advice that you would give an aspiring leaders or future luxury industry executives.
MM: Passion! Its all about passion! Work from the heart, think from the heart. Of course you need to have the intellect and surround yourself with smart people that are passionate also; but you must think from the heart AND from the mind, it cannot be just from the mind. You need to be very passionate about what you do and when you have that passion, you will always find creative ways to achieve what you want. Being genuine, being passionate, and being smart, in that order.
SLC: By the end of March, you’ll be stepping down from your role, what is something that you will take away from this experience and what’s next for you?
MM: Let me tell you it was one of the most difficult decisions for me to make just like it was actually one of the most difficult decisions for me to join Lalique. When I joined Lalique, I was working for Chanel, for the Bourjois line in the US and I was exposed to Lalique through the class at Colombia University. I was very lucky that Silvio Denz, Chairman and CEO, Lalique S.A. believed in me and supported me to be able to bring his vision to life. Now it’s the most difficult decision for me to step away, but I am not going too far. I will be a member of the board and remain very close with the brand more from a passion, independent manner for me but I will continue to work on building the brand and doing what I believe is right for our strategy. Now the story for Lalique North Americas needs to be taken to a different level and I think having a set of fresh eyes come in, like new CEO James Munn; I think having him now carrying this torch and moving forward is probably one of the best steps for the brand as it will allow a set of fresh eyes to come in and see the great things that have happened and some of the things that need to be changed or adjusted and I think change is always good and I hope that everybody will give him the support he needs because Lalique is an incredible brand and thriving. For me I’ll continue to support it from the side and I’m going to put some wings on now and think of the next chapter and what the next 10 years will be for me. This was never a job honestly, this was something I did from the heart and the next role I imagine would be something similar maybe bigger maybe on the global stage, it will come to me after I take a little bit of Maz time to get re-energized but hopefully the next thing would be just as exciting and allow me to contribute in the same way and achieve success similar to what Lalique has been able to achieve.
Lalique is as a luxury lifestyle brand that caters to its consumers and collectors on five pillars: crystal jewelry, perfumes, decorative objects, interior design, and art.
During the Elton John Foundation’s annual Oscar viewing party, with guests including Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth,Billie Jean King, a one of a kind Purple Heart Cire Perdue designed and created by Elton John and LALIQUE was auctioned off by Paddle8 co-founder Alexander Gilkes raising $80,000.
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