From hotels to jewellery, Roberto Coin knows the secret recipe for sparkling success. The Italian maestro opens up on why elegance is something money cannot buy.
For Roberto Coin, it was a series of coincidences which sparked off his second act in life as a jeweller extraordinaire.
Having been a successful hotelier prior to starting his jewellery business – Coin owned The Duke of Richmond Hotel on the island of Guernsey at the tender age of 24 before selling it off to begin a new life in the jewellery industry – it was the glint from gemstones which sparked his interest and eventually led to his business and career transition.
“I went to a jewellery fair in Vicenza and I was blown away by all the diamonds, precious gems and jewellery that I saw,” says Coin on his recent trip to Kuala Lumpur for the official launch of his namesake boutique in Starhill Gallery. “The next day I started my own jewellery company even though I knew nothing about the jewellery industry.”
Born in Venice, Italy, Coin went to boarding school in Switzerland as a young boy and worked part time in the restaurant of a hotel in St. Moritz. “We learnt to look after ourselves from young,” says Coin, revealing that both his parents died young. Later, he studied hotel management in Lausanne, Switzerland before moving to Guernsey, a British Crown Dependency, at 18 years old and eventually buying a hotel there.
“I learnt about the hotel business from the very bottom. At first I bought a café, then a restaurant and later a hotel which nobody wanted.” The hotel in Guernsey was losing money but Coin turned it around and it became the most famous hotel on the island, boasting guests like Lord Mountbatten, Tom Jones, François Truffaut and Isabelle Adjani.
But it must be the formidable entrepreneurial DNA encoded in his genes which spurred him on his entrepreneurial journey. His father was the founder of the upmarket Coin Department Stores found in major city centres and luxury shopping precincts all over Italy. Although his mother has divested their interests in them when his father passed away, the department stores still bears his surname and is synonymous with fashion, beauty and home ware throughout Italy. “My father was an engineer and worked at Shell and was also an investor but he died when I was seven years old,” Coin recalls.
Talking about switching his career back in 1984, Coin says fashion has always been a love of his. “As an Italian, fashion is in my blood. I used to admire all these glamorous guests who came to my hotel. Like most people, I wondered what it was like being in another industry and doing a different job.” But even if hospitality and jewellery were two entirely disparate industries, high quality and service was always in the forefront of his mind. “When I started jewellery making, it was the big surprise of the industry because I was a newcomer. To be honest, I didn’t know if I had the creativity. But I brought fresh air into the jewellery industry in Italy.” Coin began by making jewellery for other famous jewellers and brand names from his factory in Vicenza.
But soon he decided he wanted to do more than just make jewellery for other people so in 1996, he launched his own eponymous brand. “Having my own brand allowed me to express my true potential,” Coin reiterates. “I had big support from my existing clients who all encouraged me to start my own brand.”
Today, Roberto Coin Jewellery is found in 62 countries and has 1,000 boutiques across the world, with the Starhill Gallery boutique in KL being the latest addition. His sparkling creations are worn by A-listers on the red carpet as well as gracing the necks, fingers, wrists and earlobes of celebrities and personalities such as Ashley Judd, Halle Berry, Reese Witherspoon, Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey. His biggest market today is the United States followed by the Middle East, Russia and Europe.
He says he doesn’t design his own jewellery and considers himself a creator. “I can sketch but I cannot design,” he confesses. “I have great knowledge of manufacturing so I focus on the technical aspect of jewellery making and ensure the designs are practical and possible to be made.” It’s after Coin’s input on the workable details, that his sketches are given to the designer to interpret into attractive and wearable pieces or “to put in good English” as he likes to say. “In a nutshell, I create the concept, then I give it to the designer who works with the model makers and then it goes into production.”
So, apart from celebrities, who is the typical Roberto Coin customer? “I’m odd … I would like to dress every woman differently,” comes his eclectic reply. This one size doesn’t fit all ideology is predicated on the individual’s personality, their wealth, their physical attributes and body type. “At the end of the day we all want to look different from others. We’d like to have something more special and unique. A limited edition.” To that end, Coin fulfils this need by producing 600 new models and five collections a year. His latest collection called “Sauvage Privé” was debuted in his new boutique in KL during his visit and a glittering gala dinner was held in his honour in the presence of KL’s beau monde. “We have jewellery for children, millennials, the super-rich as well as collectors. I never wanted to be a jeweller who only designs for kings and queens. I always thought that fashion is more appreciated by people who can’t afford it.”
Coin further illustrates this paradox by saying that in the olden days in Italy, fashion originated from the streets. “It was the people who had very little but came out of their house looking different each day with the same old clothes. They had to use their imagination with the little resources they had and this sparked their creativity.” He further adds that one cannot say something is beautiful just because it is expensive. “Beauty is not based on price. And today it is not fashionable to look ostentatious. Everything must be based on elegance and elegance is not something which you can buy.”
But what you can buy is a Roberto Coin creation, all of which have a signature trademark in the form of a little red ruby set on the inside. The reason? Just like the Pharaohs of ancient Egypt, Coin believes that if a ruby touches your skin, then it promises love, joy and everlasting health to the wearer.
Jewellery aside, the other side of Coin is one where altruism and philanthropy shows its head. He has contributed significantly to numerous international charitable organisations such as the YouthAIDS, CARE and Every Mother Counts. Of the numerous awards and accolades he and his company have won, he is particularly proud of winning the “Best Corporate Social Respon-sibility Brand” by Fiera di Vicenza during the Andrea Palladio International Jewellery Awards 2013 as well as being one of the founders of the World Diamond Council which collaborated with the United Nations to create the Kimberly Process, which guarantees that any diamond used in a piece of jewellery originate from conflict-free zones and are ethically sourced
Living between Vicenza and Venice, he says if he had a motto, it would be that the future belongs to those who truly believe in the beauty of their own dreams. “When you start with nothing as I did, you learn how to drive your own happiness. Respect and credibility are more important to me than money.”
The Sauvage Privé Collection can be found in the Robert Coin Boutique located in Starhill Gallery, Kuala Lumpur.
- For further information, visit www.robertocoin.com.