PERFECT CHEMISTRY: Hélène Poulit-Duquesne
Text by Kee | Photos courtesy of Boucheron
Hélène Poulit-Duquesne
Fleurs Éternelle ring in titanium and pink gold with natural petal, padparadscha sapphire, black spinels, and sapphires
Real flowers were used by Boucheron in the creation of high jewellery rings
Lierre Givré necklace in titanium with diamonds
Nuage de Fleurs necklace in pink gold with tourmaline, mother-of-pearl, and diamonds

Hélène Poulit-Duquesne has been Boucheron’s fearless leader for the last three years, bringing clout and a voice of reason to a 160-year-old jewellery house in dire need of character, consistency, and confidence. The improvements have been obvious and they possess a renewed faith to be part of the conversation again.


MANIFESTO: We last met you a decade ago at Cartier and here you are now in your third year with Boucheron. What has it been like working with Claire Choisne (creative director of Boucheron), who has been the beacon of light at the house for the last few years?

HÉLÈNE POULIT-DUQUESNE: It has never been so easy for me. We have trust. We have plenty of ideas and we’re always pushing the boundaries in trying new things. We’re connecting in the way we think. The only think I can say is that we have too many ideas. (Laughs) It’s a good problem. She never says no, and I always push for more. We never give up and that’s a trait we both have.

M: Arguably the showpieces of Boucheron’s high jewellery collection, Nature Triomphante, are the nine rings featuring preserved flower petals mounted onto titanium, which uses a proprietary method to do so. What we learnt is that six months prior to showing this collection, efforts to stabilise the petals still weren’t successful.

HPD: I remember we had a meeting and Claire said that we weren’t going to succeed. I told her, “You’re going to do it. I’m sure it is going to happen.” I said to her that even if we had one flower ring to show for, we would show it and tell the story. But we realised the dream. We discovered techniques along the way in making these rings, and we used them on other pieces of jewellery in this collection too. I’ve been in the industry for some time and I’m pretty sure that what we’re doing will be the future. I think it helps that I’ve been in watchmaking as well and acknowledging that these techniques are in our service and aren’t against us. I’m always conveying this message to the craftsmen to use new technology to help them make their workmanship better. I believe that our craftsmen would not have done the beautiful work they have done today if not for these new techniques. Now, they are very proud of the results that we have achieved. I always tell my team: We don’t innovate for the sake of innovating; innovate as a service to your dream. What I find incredible about these flower rings is that it reminds me of when I was a small girl and picking these flowers to make a flower crown. People say that nature has no value because it dies quickly, but that’s why it is so valuable. So, if you can give it eternal life, why not? It is a philosophical thought.

M: There weren’t many females in your position in luxury when you were hired to be CEO in 2015. Do you think you helped pave the way for more females to be hired in upper management roles today?

HPD: I think so. Many people told me I was the only female CEO on Place Vendôme in 2015. It is a rarity but I didn’t catch the fact before I joined them. Claire is a woman, and I’m a woman so we definitely can bring a new perspective to what women want in their jewellery. Every time we have a new piece coming out from the atelier, I want to try it to make sure it isn’t too heavy, etc. When you’re a male lead in the company, perhaps jewellery doesn’t talk to you as much as a female looking at it would. In the way I run the business side of things, I’m sure my femininity brings value and I’m sure men bring their own set of values too which are also good.

M: There have been many changes within Kering group and image overhauls to storied fashion houses under the same umbrella. Do you see Boucheron undergoing the same transformation and fortunes as them?

HPD: Yes, and I hope so. (Laughs)

M: And this is important to capture the attention of the millennials as well?

HPD: In the jewellery world, millennials are representative of the majority of the sales. When they buy their first jewellery, they come to us. When they get married, they come to us. We have a good portion of our turnover done with millennials, so that’s a group that’s not a problem with us. We’re not fighting to get them which is a good thing.

M: So, the issue for Boucheron would be to hold on to them. What’s the secret then?

HPD: To give them newness. To give tell stories and give them products that are innovative. We have a project coming at the end of the year that will appeal to them. You will see it in January.

M: So, who exactly is the Boucheron woman in your eyes?

HPD: The Boucheron woman isn’t always someone who is fighting. She knows who she is and she wants to reveal her personality. There’s nothing violent in the way a Boucheron woman behaves, just a confident woman who isn’t afraid to reveal her true self.

M: Boucheron are 160 years old this year. Do you feel a certain kind of pressure to continue the legacy?

HPD: Yes. I’m very happy that I’m leading the way. It is the reason why I love being in the jewellery line. In fashion, things happen very quickly, from one collection to another. I feel like I will be the mother of Boucheron for a long period of time. But it will still be around after I’m dead. I have no ego; I’m helping to grow the brand beyond 160 years even knowing that I would not be around forever to look after it. It fits with personality; to remain humble infront of such a big brand and be at service to it.

M: What do you admire about founder Frédéric Boucheron?

HPD: I think he was totally innovative in the way he was doing business. In the beginning, he wasn’t a jeweller; he was a businessman. But he understood women. At the beginning, at Palais-Royal, he wasn’t manufacturing pieces but he was just curating pieces for sale – like a Colette. Then, he had his own atelier and he started to manufacture. He knew how to work with people. He had the craftsmen sign off on the jewellery that they were making, which showed that he recognised the value of people. These pieces fetch a lot at auctions today.

M: Will we see craftsmen at Boucheron sign their jewellery too?

HPD: I would have to think about it, but why not? It gives a backstory and a relationship to the pieces as well.

M: How do you stay so driven?

HPD: I have a good balance between my personal life and work. I have a house in the countryside and I’m a big fan of horses so I do dressage to help me relax. I have my cats, horses, and my family. And being in the countryside affords me this calm and balance; and when I get there every Friday night I feel calmer and more energised over the weekend. That’s my secret.

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