There are no short cuts to authenticity. This should be obvious. But authenticity and luxury are words that are thrown around blithely in business. New brands talk about themselves in terms of luxury and business owners claim their product is authentic with little thought for what this requires of them and their business.
Last week, Paspaley opened their Collins St boutique for a celebration of music and pearls. It was a beautiful example of the approach that true luxury brands take to their creative process and reminded me again of why luxury brands- and authentic businesses- take decades to grow.
Pearl Notes, a composition by The New Palm Court Orchestra, was inspired by the South Sea pearls that Paspaley have been celebrating through their creations for 85 years.
Artistic director and composer, Gemma Turvey spoke about her use of improvisation when composing new works and the many iterations some pieces require before the moment they become perfectly what they were meant to be.
Christine Salter is Paspaley’s creative director. She spoke about the 2 year creative process that is behind each Paspaley collection: from design brief to idea generation and then collaboration between designers and jewellers.
We sipped champagne and nibbled on canapes and listened to gorgeous orchestrations while viewing stunning heirloom jewellery. It was a beautiful night.
But nights like these don’t just happen. They require creative, hard work from talents who have honed their craft over years.
And brands like Paspaley don’t just happen.
Paspaley Pearls are farmed off the Kimberley coast, in far north-western Australia. Unlike fresh water pearls, the minerals and nutrients of the sea move through the oysters’ shells creating a pearl with more lustre and a beautiful natural colour. If you know anything much about pearls, you know that South Sea pearls are the pinnacle.
Of the South Sea pearls that are harvested by Paspaley each year, only 2-3% will make it into their jewellery collections. Pause and think about that. Imagine harvesting pearls every year for over 80 years and using only 3%. How large would be the temptation to use 10% or even just 5% of a harvest? How tempting to make more jewellery and sell to more people? That is how businesses grow, isn’t it? More product, more customers, more reach.
Pearls are the only gemstone in nature that require no processing. A high quality pearl needs no faceting or cutting, it doesn’t need to be coloured or bleached. And this is at the core of the Paspaley brand DNA. Throughout the night I heard the phrase, “as they came out of the ocean,” numerous times.
Paspaley are so passionate about the natural world that fosters and yields their pearls, that many of the jewellery collections are inspired by nature in all its guises- land, sea or sky.
But creating jewellery from pearls that come out of the ocean as they are to be sold does not come easily. It is for this reason that Paspaley use only 2-3% of their harvest.
I can imagine there may have been times when it was tempting to temporarily adjust their quality thresholds for the sake of output and business goals.
Paspaley understand however, that while you can be flexible in business, you must be unwavering when it comes to the soul of your brand. Mess with that and your customers will sense it. Brand authenticity grows out of this unwavering position. You cannot be a luxury brand without authenticity and authenticity must be hard won in those moments when you are tempted to compromise on what your brand stands for.
You may not be interested in selling jewellery for the price of a small apartment but that doesn’t mean you can’t learn from the Paspaley approach.
As any business owner knows, you won’t get through the early days of starting business without a huge dose of passion.
But equally, you won’t build a business your children can inherit without authenticity. And you can’t fake that.
This blog post is not sponsored by Paspaley and I did not receive payment or payment-in-kind for my writing. All opinions are my own.