Founder of Messika’s Vision on “Breaking Through” High Jewelry

12月 12, 2023

In the opulent history of luxury jewelry, a true “dark horse” has galloped into the spotlight.

Back in 2013, Messika made its debut on the prestigious Rue Saint-Honoré in Paris, nestled in close proximity to top luxury brands like Dior and Chanel.

Just a short decade later, Messika’s boutiques worldwide have multiplied to 90, gracing the core business districts of major cities across five continents. From New York Hudson Yards to London Covent Garden and Barcelona Passeig de Gràcia, they stand tall alongside century-old brands.

Above: The interior of Messika’s renewed flagship store on Rue Saint-Honoré, Paris

Messika, a French diamond jewelry brand born a mere 18 years ago, shows no intention of slowing down, planning to double its boutiques in the next five years. Including boutiques, Messika has extended its presence with 573 sales points across 85 countries and regions worldwide.

In an exclusive interview with Luxe.CO, Valérie Messika, the founder and creative director of the brand, encapsulates Messika’s brand identity as “Diamond”, “Cool”, and “Modern”.

Messika has rapidly ascended in the international market, winning over a substantial devoted following among the Generation Z. Entering the Chinese market with notable momentum, the brand inaugurated its first Chinese mainland store at Beijing SKP in 2020. In a mere three years, the number of boutiques has surged to an impressive tally of 10.

Valérie revealed that the sales contribution from the Chinese market stands at almost 10%. “We’re making rapid strides in China, but evidently, there’s still a lot on our plate,” she remarked.

Amidst this rapid global expansion and penetration, what forms the bedrock of Messika? Through our conversation with Valérie, it becomes evident that daring, trendsetting product design has enamored numerous young consumers. Moreover, Messika’s family-run business structure imparts exceptional flexibility in decision-making.

This marks Valérie’s first-ever visit to the Chinese mainland, and her inaugural face-to-face media interview within the country. We caught up with Valérie shortly after her arrival in Shanghai, where she had already explored several bustling local districts accompanied by her team. Despite the packed schedule, Valérie showed no signs of fatigue; instead, she enthusiastically shared the delightful discoveries of her maiden trip to the mainland. Sparkling on her ears and wrists were gems as bright and captivating as her infectious smile.

Family as the Ultimate Team

In the annals of publicized features, photographs of Valérie alongside her father, André Messika, frequently graced covers or inaugurated articles. Throughout our conversation, she repeatedly alluded to the profound influence of her father on her personal growth and entrepreneurial journey.

Messika Diamonds was founded in France. André Messika was born in Tunisia, and arrived in France at 11. He set up his own business by the age of 23 in 1972. Within 10 years, he was France’s most successful diamond merchant, supplying polished diamonds to key international clients and jewelry houses in the industry.

“My father is someone I deeply respect; he built his company from scratch into a major player in the diamond industry,” Valérie shared with Luxe.CO.

André, with years of dedication in the diamond industry, effortlessly imparted his wealth of expertise to his daughter. By the age of 10, Valérie could already classify diamonds and began delving into the analysis of each diamond’s internal structure. Her father instilled in her the belief that each diamond is unique, carrying a tapestry of rich emotions.

Above:André Messika (left) and Valérie Messika (right)

Valérie has imbibed valuable life lessons from her father: “Above all, whether in professional or personal life, uphold loyalty and authenticity. This is particularly crucial when you’re at the helm of a company. Never impose your will on others; instead, draw them in with your own energy and encourage them to challenge themselves,” she stated.

“Secondly, adapt and comprehend the swift pace of modern society. My father often relies on intuition, and so do I. I don’t formulate company plans; I follow my inner instincts.

In Valérie’s eyes, Messika is like a rapidly maturing infant nurtured under the care of the family. “The family is always my strongest pillar of support.”

Beyond her father, Valérie’s husband, Jean-Baptiste Sassine, and cousin, Didier Cherqui, have played integral roles in Messika since its inception. Initially overseeing the manufacturing and global sales of the brand’s creations, Jean-Baptiste has assumed the role of CEO since 2019. Didier, on the other hand, serves as the brand’s creative director, engaging in jewelry design alongside Valérie.

Another family member, Valérie’s brother Ilan Messika, has also joined Messika Diamonds. As an expert in rough diamonds, Ilan played a crucial role in sourcing the 110-carat rough diamond used to craft the centerpiece, Akh-Ba-Ka, featured in Messika’s 2022 Beyond the Light high jewelry collection.

“Family is where I draw my strength; it shapes the very soul of Messika. It’s like a team where no single person can wield enough power to encompass all realms. Each family member involved in steering the brand contributes their distinct expertise – that’s the key,” emphasized Valérie.

Above:Ilan Messika (left) and Valérie Messika (right)

Usher in a Fresh Jewelry Style for Women

In the mid-20th century, propelled by robust marketing efforts by diamond producers, diamonds emerged as the ultimate symbol of “romance” among a plethora of gemstones. By the ’50s and ’60s, diamond culture began to spread globally from Europe and the Americas, and gifting diamonds became a way for men to express love to women.

Stepping into the new millennium, the intertwining of diamonds and the bridal scene has become even more ingrained in our collective consciousness. However, back then, the realm of diamond design had yet to fully explore its imaginative potential. Despite the evolution from straightforward engagement rings to intricately crafted jewelry, the prevailing associations persisted – people still linked diamonds with love, eternity, and legacy.

Growing up in the diamond family, immersed in the world of diamonds from a young age, Valérie Messika finds herself rather perplexed by it all.

In the year 2000, I strolled around Place Vendôme in Paris, and not a single piece of jewelry captivated me. I was even weary of the common notion that ‘diamonds are meant for weddings’,” Valérie candidly expressed during the recent interview with Luxe.CO.

Back then, she had just joined her father, the French diamond tycoon André Messika’s company. She embarked on a global journey with him, immersing herself in the ins and outs of the diamond trade. Five years down the road, with her father’s support, Valérie founded the diamond jewelry brand Messika.

Reflecting on the initial inspiration behind her entrepreneurial journey, Valérie shared with Luxe.CO, “I didn’t create Messika to compete with the traditional brands on Place Vendôme in Paris. Instead, I wanted to usher in a fresh jewelry style for women.

Fluid Diamonds, Stacked Jewels

Venturing into the market with natural diamonds was a bold move for Messika. It implies that, to stand out in the competitive landscape of the French jewelry market, the brand must invest tenfold, if not more, in creativity.

Valérie recognized the paramount importance of design innovation from the very beginning. “Diamonds can be comfortable and fluid, and embrace the skin like a tattoo,” she revealed to Luxe.CO.

This is particularly pronounced in the brand’s best-selling Move collection.

Whether it’s a diamond ring, necklace, or earrings, the Move collection seamlessly hugs the wearer’s skin. The main diamonds move with every gesture, imparting a sense of lightness and agility. This design is inspired by Valérie’s childhood memories of playing with three diamonds on her fingertips. Brand statistics reveal that a piece from the Move collection is sold every five minutes worldwide.

Rarely will you find diamonds on our jewelry jutting out like mountains; we prefer to let them float and flow,” Valérie remarked as she took off the bracelet from her left hand, pointing to the diamonds sliding beside the clasp. This bracelet is designed for wearing alone or stacking, and the stacked look presents an entirely distinct style and charm.

While the art of stacking accessories has a rich history dating back to ancient Greece, at Messika, it has evolved into the brand’s most distinctive style and a standout way to wear jewelry. From Valérie herself to every official product promotional image, you’ll observe different pieces layered around the neck, wrist, and earlobes.

Valérie consistently views diamond jewelry as a means of personal expression; it should be versatile, playful, much akin to fashion. Just like clothing, it should allow the wearer to mix and match effortlessly. She refers to this approach as “Néo-Porté”, a term reflecting a “new way of wearing”.

Caption: All jewelry pieces of Messika use diamonds as the main element. Each collection has varying lengths and diamonds of different sizes, as well as different materials like white gold, rose gold and yellow gold. Enthusiasts can effortlessly mix and match diamond bracelets, bangles, earrings, ear cuffs, multi-finger rings, and pave set diamond rings from the same or different collections, allowing for creative and personalized styling.

In 2014, the reigning queen of American pop, Beyoncé, caused a sensation when she shared a photo on her personal Instagram account. In the photo, she sported the Messika Glam’Azone double-ring and struck a pose in front of the iconic “Mona Lisa” making peace signs. This moment instantly catapulted Messika into the limelight. Fast forward four years, and Beyoncé, alongside her husband Jay-Z, returned to the “Mona Lisa” for a music video shoot. Once again, Beyoncé chose Messika jewelry to enhance the visual narrative.

Following in the footsteps of Beyoncé, Western celebrities and fashion icons like Rihanna, Kendall Jenner, and Kate Moss have all become fans of the Messika brand. They adorn themselves with the brand’s jewelry at events, and with the sustained buzz on social platforms, the brand’s recognition has received an extra boost.

Above: Beyoncé, Rihanna, Kendall Jenner in Messika jewelries

Valérie’s vision for elevating the wearability of jewelry seamlessly extends into the design realm of Messika’s high jewelry collections. Since 2013, Messika has annually introduced a high jewelry collection, each season curated by Valérie herself. Within each collection, Valérie crafts pieces that showcase a harmonious blend of various materials, unique wearing styles, and diverse artisanal techniques.

Caption: In pursuit of elevating the artistry of high jewelry, in 2015, Messika established an upscale jewelry atelier near its flagship store on Rue Saint-Honoré in the heart of Paris, dedicated to cutting and setting jewelry pieces.

Starting in 2021, Messika made a move onto the Paris Fashion Week runway to present its high jewelry collection of the year. Prior to this, the brand typically unveiled its high jewelry creations at the annual Baselworld.

“Walking the runway at Fashion Week is a sleek and savvy move. As models strut their stuff, it’s effortless for the audience to catch every intricate detail of the jewelry on the big screens and experience firsthand that Messika’s jewels embody not only fashion but also exude dynamism, attitude, and unmistakable style – precisely the message I aim to convey,” confessed Valérie.

Above: Messika 2023 High Jewelry Fashion Show, Carla Bruni, Italian-French supermodel and former First Lady of France, as the opening model to present Midnight Sun High jewelry.

Above: Solar Diva necklace from Messika 2023 Midnight Sun High Jewelry Collection

Messika’s Chinese Journey Just Begins

Browsing through Chinese social media, numerous fashion enthusiasts have eagerly shared their own Messika layering guides. Perhaps, this is the enchanting allure of jewelry – where the precious materials play a part, but the way jewelry is worn and the occasions it graces also determine its ability to truly illuminate a woman’s radiance.

Equally captivating for Chinese consumers is Messika’s “approachable” pricing amid a plethora of natural diamond jewelry brands. Take, for instance, the Move Classique collection, with prices ranging from 19,400 yuan (pave set diamond ring) to 53,100 yuan (pave set diamond bangle). Explaining the pricing strategy for their regular jewelry collections, Valérie emphasizes that the primary consideration is the price range women can comfortably afford when buying for themselves, stating, “It’s not much different from how they approach purchasing bags and shoes.”

Above: Messika Move Link ring and Move Classique bracelets

In Valérie’s observation, Chinese consumers display a remarkable sensitivity and openness towards avant-garde brands like Messika. Many had already embraced the brand even before it set foot in China, drawn to the allure of its innovative designs. It’s this cohort of inquisitive, trendsetting consumers that now defines Messika’s core user base in China and beyond.

Above: Messika Shenzhen Bay MIXC Boutique VIP room

In 2020, Messika made its debut in the Chinese mainland with the opening of its store at Beijing SKP. Reflecting on the opportune moment that led to this store opening, Valérie said, “Asian and Chinese markets were the key of our 2020 strategy. It was then essential to set foot on this market that counts for Messika. Beijing is the capital of China, and the opening of the first store in the Chinese mainland is also an important step for the brand to enter the Chinese market.”

Noteworthy is the fact that most of Messika’s stores in China are personally designed by Valérie herself. In the interview with Luxe.CO, she revealed that when conceptualizing these spaces, she places a keen emphasis on lighting, ambiance, and the mix of diverse materials. Within each store, Valérie strategically crafts transparent and lightweight display cases, complemented by brilliant lighting, ensuring that customers can appreciate the brilliance of diamond jewelry up close from any perspective.

According to Valérie, Messika is set to unveil 4 to 5 more stores in the Chinese mainland next year. The expansion will give precedence to first-tier cities while concurrently exploring opportunities in second-tier cities.

Caption: Messika Boutique in Nanjing Deji Plaza. Over the past three years, Messika’s retail presence in China has expanded to 10 stores, with a footprint reaching cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Nanjing, Chengdu, Sanya, and Haikou. In addition to offline stores, Messika also has official flagship stores on Tmall Luxury and WeChat.

Jewelry brands are ramping up efforts to revamp existing stores or expand their network with the aim of establishing these spaces as crucial outlets for expressing brand values and image. A 2021 report from McKinsey underscored that despite the inevitable trend towards digital channels, physical stores remain pivotal for jewelry brands. It’s projected that by 2025, a whopping 80% of high jewelry sales will still take place in brick-and-mortar establishments.

Closing Remarks

Despite the uncertainties and fluctuations in the macroeconomic landscape, the luxury goods market has experienced a recent slowdown in growth. However, fueled by heightened consumer investment enthusiasm, the jewelry market, especially the luxury jewelry segment, has shown remarkable resilience. In 2022, the overall revenue of the jewelry market has surged by approximately 36% to 38%, reaching €28 billion, compared to the pre-pandemic levels of 2019.

Shifting our focus to China, over the past two decades, with the successive entry of international jewelry brands, the Chinese jewelry market has matured significantly. While displaying remarkable openness to emerging brands, it has also presented them with challenges for sustained development.

As a “newcomer”, Messika still faces a considerable journey in truly understanding Chinese consumers and establishing a deeper emotional connection. As Valérie put it as our interview came to a close, “In China, we still have a lot to accomplish.”

 | Image Credit: Courtesy of Messika

丨Reporter:Zuo Xiaoli

 | Editor: Zhu Ruoyu