While he may have started his career in the mass market with Nestle, Thierry Oriez has been at the top of his game during his six years as head of French silversmith Christofle. Recently Elite Traveler Editor-in-Chief Douglas Gollan visited the CEO in his headquarters atop the Paris flagship. They discussed how the company has partnered with noted designers to keep its historic craft relevant for today’s elite travelers and how its special commissions range from cigarette holders to super yachts. From baby gifts to wall paneling, there are few boundaries under Oreiz’s vision.
Elite Traveler: Tell us about Christofle?
Thierry Oriez: Christofle is a silversmith that dates back to 1830. The company has been active in decorative arts as a whole, which is why you find traces of Christofle over Paris, including the Louvre. The company has always had a creative push working with the major artists of the time working with silver and white metal which is in the DNA of the brand, and we continue doing so bringing as much creativity as we can.
ET: What makes Christofle different from other silver companies?
TO: What makes Christofle very special is its ability in its core business to present both historical and well know patterns in flatware and decorative pieces and mix this with a contemporary approach with Marcel Wanders and Andree Putman as examples. This mix is unique. We have a certain approach with the quality that the quality reflects it environment. We collaborate with great designers. We do this in the quality of our manufacturing, the quality of our silvering and the specific shine to the product. Our core mission is to reflect your own elegance and art of living.
ET: How do you find artists to collaborate?
TO: It’s always a long story, and it’s a core of our business. The first thing is to be curious. We travel a lot and we always look at local designers and trends. The second step is we try to spot people who have done projects that are interesting. We want to work with their talents, but with respect to the brand’s DNA.
ET: Is Silversmithing becoming a lost art?
TO: I don’t think it’s a lost art. There has been a lot of evolution. On the opposite, constantly the knowhow is being reinvented. One of the interests in working with designers is they constantly push you in knowhow. The knowhow is active and evolving. In our factory they transfer the know how to the younger generation. We manufacture in workshops in Normandy. We don’t have tours although for major clients and the press from time to time we open it.
ET: Where are your main markets?
TO: The company has always been very international. We are around the world with 80 percent of our turnover from outside France. The U.S. is our second biggest country. The Middle East, England, Italy, Germany and South America with Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore.
ET: Tell us about the boutique downstairs and your retail strategy?
TO: The boutique is historical. There is a big project of renovation. We just renovated New York. The boutique shows both the very historical flatware and tableware pieces in traditional patterns, the jewelry, the gifting products. We have 50 boutiques around the world plus shop in shops in Harrods, Bloomingdales, Printemps and other top department stores. The boutiques are very special in that it highlights our lifestyle appeal.
ET: Do you do made to order?
TO: We do quite a few one-of-a kind products. We just did a cigarette holder designed to hold on two cigarettes. On a larger scale, we did the wall paneling for the InterContinental Geneva. We recently did wall paneling for a large yacht. We work both with the owners and the shipyards.
ET: Is gifting a key part of the business?
TO: You always have small objects from baby gifts to luggage tags. What’s interesting with silver it’s the diversity of how it can be applied for luxury. You remember when you receive something special and it’s something you remember your entire life.
ET: Do you do much work with luxury hotels?
TO: Yes. I find the hotel industry is amazing. It has really reinvented itself if you think of Adrian Zecha and Aman as well as Dorchester Collection and Mandarin Oriental. It’s now a combination of both service and design.
ET: Do you have any favorite hotels?
TO: In Tokyo The Okura is just so calming and soothing when you come in from such as busy city. In Japan, I also like the InterContinental Osaka, here in Paris Le Meurice, Plaza Athenee and Mandarin Oriental are incredible, in New York The Mark. Obviously there are too many to name.