Messika is growing — fast. The opening of its first standalone UK boutique in London’s Covent Garden, this month, is among 16 store launches by the jeweller this year.

This follows the opening of 20 boutiques last year. The French diamond specialist plans to double its current total of 75 stores in the next five years, contributing to its target to double turnover by 2027.

“It is quite a brave move to invest so much in new locations and retail outlets,” says Fflur Roberts, head of luxury goods at market research company Euromonitor International, although she says it comes at a time when, despite the cost of living crisis, consumers are investing in fine jewellery because they feel it will hold its value. So what gives Messika the confidence to pursue such expansion?

Having cut her teeth working with her diamond trader father André, Valérie Messika launched her eponymous brand in Paris in 2005 with a fashion approach to jewellery. She found the offerings on Place Vendôme — the city’s flagship retail location for big luxury brands — not to her taste and established a reputation for what she calls “disrupting diamonds” — creating versatile pieces that can be worn every day, rather than only on special occasions.

Messika opened its first boutique in 2013, in Paris. This year’s launches include stores in St Mark’s Square, Venice, and Sydney — its first boutique in Australia. “We have had big development of stores all over the world in the past four years,” says chief executive Jean-Baptiste Sassine, Messika’s husband, whom she met when both were working for her father.

Revenue grew by 2.5 times between 2019 and the end of 2022, he says, with the “second semester” of 2021 onwards and 2022 “really booming”. Messika says they were “very surprised” by post-Covid growth — something Roberts says the industry has seen more widely — and that people wanted to “consume luxury even more”.

Man and woman looking at photographs of jewellery
Husband-and-wife team Jean-Baptiste Sassine and Valérie Messika © Messika
The Messika flagship store on Rue Saint Honore in Paris © Messika

The brand’s largest market is still France, accounting for about 30 per cent of sales. Europe, as a whole, accounts for half. But, despite only launching in Asia in 2020, revenue from that region now represents 12 per cent of the total, while the US, where Messika has had a presence since 2016, makes up 10 per cent.

“We know that, if we want to be in the logical way of luxury, we have still . . . big work to do in the US and Asia,” says Sassine. The global luxury fine jewellery market is valued at $51bn in real terms this year, with the US accounting for $14.4bn (28 per cent) of that total and Asia-Pacific $21bn (40 per cent), according to Euromonitor.

In addition to boutique openings, the growth in ecommerce will also help increase sales. It is “usually triple-digit”, says Sassine. He is keen to boost Messika’s performance in its 500-plus global points of sale with retailers.

“We don’t want to open many more multi-brands in the world, but the ones we have today, I think we can double and triple the turnover we are doing together,” he says, suggesting it will be down to “space and visibility”.

In January, Messika will move from a counter in the Paris flagship of department store group Galeries Lafayette to a new 45 sq m space between Louis Vuitton and Cartier.

But there needs to be product to support expansion. So, the brand, which employs 350 people, will continue to innovate with designs, says Messika — aware that her company exists in an industry with large players, including LVMH, Kering and Richemont, and needs to be “different”. Messika broke the mould by holding a catwalk show during Paris Fashion Week in 2021 to celebrate a collaboration with the model Kate Moss. It now stages an annual show to present its high jewellery, which the couple says helps build brand awareness and sales.

Messika wants to explore co-branding opportunities to show that her company has a vision in other creative fields. A collaboration with cosmetics giant Estée Lauder will launch in January.

Carla Bruni walks the runway during the 2023 Messika High Jewelry Show as part of the Paris Fashion Week © Pietro S. D’Aprano/Getty Images
Alton Mason walks the runway during the 2023 Messika High Jewelry Show as part of Paris Fashion Week © Pietro S. D’Aprano/Getty Images

One aspect unlikely to change is her use of natural diamonds. While Messika, who sources stones through her father, mostly from Africa, has respect for lab-grown alternatives, she says “the magic of diamond is that it comes from [the] earth”.

Her brand does not currently explain the provenance of its stones on its website but is working on doing so. Sassine says there is a long-term target to give customers a certificate showing the traceability of their diamonds from mine to jewellery. Meanwhile, 100 per cent of the metal it uses will be recycled gold by the end of this year.

Messika partly attributes her brand’s success to the freedom afforded by its structure. “It’s a strength when you are a family company that you can take decisions very quickly and then you become very opportunistic, very fast when you drive the car,” she says. “You can stop things also very quickly.”

Is there a danger to expanding so quickly? Sassine says he and Messika are “quite cautious”, but there is a danger that head office and boutiques teams take on too much. He says it is sometimes necessary to accept that a project will not be done, to protect the team, and explain that he and Messika “need to sometimes put the brake [on]” to control their enthusiasm. For now, though, it seems the brakes are off.

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