We catch up with Chopard co-president, Caroline Scheufele, to discuss the bold moves the maison is making in the world of sustainable luxury.
Sustainable luxury has become one of the most hotly discussed topics in today’s high-end sector. With customers paying far more attention to the origin and the processes involved in manufacturing the goods they purchase, unnecessary and unethical extravagance is rightly being called out for its irresponsibility rather than its opulence. And someone who truly understands the changing perception of luxury, is Caroline Scheufele.
“Social responsibility is at the core of our maison” she says proudly. “For us it encompasses a dual objective: pursuing benefits for the business and for society. Today, the ultimate luxury is responsible luxury.”
Caroline, along with her brother Karl-Friedrich Scheufele, are co-presidents of Swiss watchmaker and jeweller Chopard. Although the brand’s watchmaking legacy dates back to 1860, it was in 1963, when the Scheufele family acquired the company from Paul-Andre Chopard, that its fortunes really changed.
“Chopard is an independent, family-owned maison, and this is clearly one of our main strengths. It is in many ways a blessing as the flexibility means we can adapt quickly to different situations,” reveals Caroline as she explains how the family dynamic works.
“I share an office with my brother Karl-Friedrich and we enjoy making decisions together and working as a team, this is why we always find a solution even at the most challenging times. And our approach is always guided by a concern for details and excellence.”
It is this united approach that Caroline insists is one of the main reasons Chopard has been able to take such an ambitious stand on the subject of sustainability.
“As a family run company, ethics have always been an important part of our philosophy. Our Journey to Sustainable Luxury project, that we launched in 2013, has a direct impact on the lives of those within the artisan mining community. Being in a profitable business and practising good stewardship of environmental and social justice is essential. And I sincerely hope that more companies from our industry will join us in this movement and effort towards sustainable luxury by putting ethics at the heart of aesthetics.”
Caroline tells us that it was a chance meeting with Livia Firth, founder and creative director of Eco Age, and wife of actor Colin Firth, at the 2012 Academy Awards that led her to further investigate the issues of sustainability. “Livia asked, where does our gold come from? I immediately replied ‘from the bank’. But her question was much deeper than that and to me it highlighted the many humanitarian concerns.
“When you learn that there are millions of men, women and children digging up gold from the valleys and hills, often working in unsafe conditions and unable to get a fair price for their work, you’d better do something about it. Personally, I was shocked. From that point on, I was determined to embark on a mission to change not only Chopard as a company and brand but also the entire industry.”
Today Chopard is the largest buyer of fairmined gold and since July 2018 the maison has committed to only use 100 percent ethical gold when it comes to producing its jewellery and timepieces. Defined as gold that has been acquired from responsible sources, this 100 percent ethical classification also meets international best practice environmental and social standards.
Alongside her quest to pioneer Chopard’s standards of sustainability, there’s plenty more the effervescent co-president has made her mark on. For example it was Caroline who was responsible for Chopard’s venture into the world of haute jewellery. In 1985, she created a sketch of the maison’s now iconic Happy Clown – a golden clown shaped pendant with a tummy full of moving diamonds, that would go on to be a precursor to Chopard’s extremely popular Happy Diamonds collection. “It was as a surprise that my father decided to produce just one piece from my sketch. It was a great success and that’s how jewellery creation began at Chopard.
“Another creation that I am proud of is the Happy Sport, which celebrated its 25th anniversary last year. Back in 1993, Happy Sport became the first watch daring enough to combine the most precious of stones, diamonds, with the most unexpected material – stainless steel. Today the combination seems totally appropriate and many sporty watches are now quite conceivably entirely gem-set.”
As a keen film enthusiast, Caroline has also been influential in bringing about Chopard’s partnership with Cannes Film Festival. In 1997 she met with Pierre Viot, the festival’s then-president, who invited her to redesign the Cannes Film Festival emblem, its famous Palme d’Or. “I instantaneously said yes. It was a challenge that I took up with great enthusiasm and the new Palme d’Or was unveiled a year later at the closing ceremony of the 1998 Cannes Film Festival. I’m happy to say since 2014, as part of our Journey to Sustainable Luxury project, the emblem has been crafted using fairmined gold.”
Chopard’s notable designs and connection with the film industry has, of course, made the brand a frontrunner for high-profile events. And when it comes to offering some of the most spectacular jewellery pieces, the Red Carpet Collection is in a league of its own. Talking us through her creative motivation for the current collection, Caroline says: “Like my dad and my grandfathers who used to crisscross the globe with trunks full of precious merchandise, I spent my year travelling around the world searching for inspiration. This collection hints toward oriental colour combinations and forms such as those found in the orchid earrings, the secret opal timepiece and the feathered choker necklace.”
While collections like this aptly hint that the Chopard woman is one who likes the finer things in life, Caroline is keen to add that she is also very versatile and multifaceted. “Women have many different personalities and preferences, and Chopard proposes creations and models for each one of them.
“Chopard is for the ‘women of the world’, not for a specific type. My jewels and watches have been worn by famous and elegant women around the globe, but I like to think that they can span generations.”
Enthusiastic about the year ahead, Caroline insists we’ll have to wait for Baselworld 2019 for a sneak peek of any new pieces although she excitedly adds: “The big reveal will be during Cannes Film Festival and I can promise you it will be colourful and full of surprises.”