Saturday, 27 December 2014

Candid Look at Aprey

Interested in a silver gorilla safe? It'll set you back £55,000
On the flight back to Vancouver, I watched a few documentaries, one of them called "Inside Asprey: Luxury by Royal Appointment".

It was released in July this year and goes behind the scenes of what it is like working for the luxury brand that is one of the oldest (1781) and prestigious jewellers that was given the royal warrant by Queen Victoria 200 years ago.

The boutique has been in the same location on New Bond Street in London for 160 years, which is actually situated within five Georgian townhouses connected by a glass canopy and stylish renovations by Sir Norman Foster.

Samuel L Jackson checks out some cufflinks
While the staff act prim and proper with sharp suits and dresses, the objects in the shop range from classic to the bizarre, like a cool silver cocktail shaker shaped like a rocket and a glittering £4.6 million yellow diamond ring to the giant solid silver safe shaped like a gorilla for £55,000.

And by the way someone who bought one of these is Hollywood actor Samuel L Jackson and he just so happens to be in town to "borrow" some cufflinks for an appearance he's making in London.

We watch him look at a few things with his wife, but only comes for the cufflinks.

Meanwhile the visual merchandising director comes up with an idea to boost sales -- create a line of 41 exclusive crocodile skin bags with details on the hardware covered in pave diamonds or solid gold from £30,000 each. He expects them to be sold within a month.

The designs of these handbags scream "nouveaux riche" rather than understated sophistication. And surprise, surprise -- hardly any of them are sold, despite arranging afternoon teas in a private room where Laduree macarons and pastries are presented on silverware and no customers show up.

Some of the gaudy handbags
The sales team gets anxious and manage rustle up a few Middle Eastern women to buy a few bags, and finally a Saudi princess requests a shopping spree in the store after hours and snaps up a dozen of them in one go.

Phew. Glad to hear the gaudy bags are gone.

Another story is jewellery director Justine Carmody who has created a new jewellery line called Chaos that features a spray of colourful stones delicately linked together as a necklace and matching earrings.

After she finishes a detailed drawing, she carefully selects the stones before handing them to the jewellery who takes a strip of platinum and puts it through a machine to make it thinner and thinner to make the necklace. He also has to make the individual claws too to hold each of the stones.

For the jeweller, it's all in a day's work, though his pieces are owned by the likes of the Queen, Prince Charles, the Beckhams and Elton John. "It's not the nicest job," he says. "But it keeps the bills at bay."

His female colleague explains her mother was a hairdresser and the young woman was determined not to follow in the same footsteps. For her making jewellery is definitely a step up, though she admits she doesn't care much for the sparkling stones.

This contrasts so well with what is happening downstairs as sales staff persuade customers, particularly a mother and daughter to buy an expensive necklace for the young woman's 21st birthday.

One of the top jewellers at Asprey working on the Chaos piece
As one TV reviewer bemoaned, "Inside Asprey: Luxury by Royal Appointment" is a disappointment because there aren't any compelling characters, or is it because they are English and too polite to be brash? And perhaps Jackson was conscious of the camera following him and didn't want to show off what he may have wanted to buy?

For one Japanese businessman, being able to buy something at Asprey meant that he had "made it" and has come back several times to build up his watch collection, and impressing his new (and young) wife.

Nevertheless the documentary is a pretty candid look at Asprey, from sales staff trying to guess how much money a potential customer would spend in the boutique, to craftsmen keeping tradition alive, though one of the former silversmith is now the building maintenance staff.

In the end it's a business -- one of enticing people to buy things they really don't need but end up coughing up the money to do so.

And then next documentary I watched?

One on why we consume so much!

One interesting fact was that about 10, 15 years ago we used to buy 33 pieces of clothing. Now it's about double that.

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