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CLASS ACT: Van Cleef & Arpels is bringing its school — L'Ecole Van Cleef & Arpels — here for two weeks in October, highlighting Asia's growing importance to the French jeweler.
"There has been an evolution in the last 10 to 15 years [in Asia]" with clientele becoming increasingly sophisticated and knowledgeable, Nicolas Bos, Van Cleef & Arpel's president and ceo, said Thursday at a press conference. "This is not a way to promote our brand, it's about jewelry and watchmaking in general," he added.
The school will offer 10 courses, each three to four hours long, taught by jewelers, art historians, experts, gemologists and master watchmakers from L'Ecole Van Cleef & Arpels in Paris. Courses revolve around three main themes: art history, gemstones and savoir-faire. The courses are the same as at the school's permanent Paris location at Place Vendome, but with translation as needed. There will also be special programs for Hong Kong such as one on wine and gemstones as well as classes for children. Executives from Van Cleef & Arpels emphasized that the school's curriculum is "non-technical" and designed for everyone, not professionals.
Bos said that the jeweler decided to bring L'Ecole to Hong Kong because of its importance as a center for art, design and culture in Asia. Hong Kong is also the hub of Van Cleef & Arpels' Asia operations. The company is also considering programs in New York and the Middle East as well as entertaining the possibility of other permanent locations for the school in cities such as New York, Hong Kong or Tokyo.
Van Cleef & Arpels is part of the Richemont group, which earlier this month reported flat full-year earnings amid sluggish sales in China. Sales in Asia make up 40 percent of Richemont's total sales. While sales in Asia rose, sales in mainland China declined compared with last year.
Bos said the jeweler has seen "tremendous" growth in Asia for the past two years but that changes to Asian regional sales are often "drastic." Despite concerns about slowing luxury spending in China, Bos said "long-term, I cannot see anything but a positive outcome. We believe we are here to stay for a few decades."