Keeping a Jeweler’s Design Vision in the Family

Valérie Samuel, vice president and artistic director of the Paris-based brand Fred, creates precious jewelry that frequently is casual enough to wear every day, even when it is adorned with copious amounts of diamonds. Unlike many designers, her goal seemingly is not to innovate, but to uphold the aesthetic that has defined the house since it was founded by her grandfather, Fred Samuel, in 1936.

“My vision is to pursue my family vision,” she said in a recent phone interview.

While Fred operates differently today than it did in the 1930s — it has been owned by LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton since 1995 — the brand’s feeling of breezy but refined luxury with a whiff of the French Riviera remains.

“Our roots and our DNA are still very much relevant today,” Ms. Samuel said. “It’s what I’m enriching, in a way.”

Along those lines, the brand offers updated collections like Force 10, which was originally created by her father, Henri Samuel, in 1966. (He worked for Fred, as did his brother Jean, who died in 1984.) Its distinctive design includes rope-inspired braiding and, often, a curved buckle, both reminiscent of items used for sailing. (Fred Samuel’s sons were championship sailors.)

Force 10’s focal point is a selection of bracelets with rugged buckle closures that suggest the shape of a marine carabiner. The buckles come in a variety of sizes and materials, including 18-karat yellow, white or pink gold, often set with diamonds or gemstones like pink or blue sapphires. The bracelets are made of everything from nylon cord to 18-karat pink gold with diamonds. (A version with a plain pink-gold buckle on a nylon strap is priced at 2,060 euros, or $2,260.)

Several other recent collections are based on the brand’s history, like the Pretty Woman line, inspired by the ruby and diamond necklace by Fred that was featured in the 1990 film that starred Julia Roberts and Richard Gere.

Prices from the Pretty Woman and Force 10 collections range from €750, for the most basic single earring to €51,700, for a necklace with more than 200 diamonds. Fred also offers pricier high jewelry, as well as sunglasses that start at €500.

For the last few years, sales in Asia have been a priority for the brand, its executives say.

Ms. Samuel spoke by telephone from Singapore, where Fred had opened a boutique in the Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands mall in December. (Fred closed a smaller store there in 2020).

Fred has about 50 boutiques in Asia, the company said. “There’s a good understanding of the brand, a very high level of acceptance of the brand’s philosophy,” Charles Leung, chief executive since 2018, said from Singapore. Asian countries — South Korea, mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Singapore — and Australia account for about two-thirds of its sales, he said.

Mr. Leung would not share sales figures, but in an earnings statement released in January, LVMH said sales for its jewelry and watch brands overall increased 40 percent last year compared with a year earlier.

“I would call Fred one of the pépites of the LVMH portfolio,” Stéphane Bianchi, the president of LVMH’s watches and jewelry division, said in an email, using a French word that essentially means gems. The brand had “significant growth over the last few years, but still has tremendous potential and an incredible story,” he added.

The brand said the Force 10 collection was its best seller. Its name comes from a term for a storm-strength wind, another nod to sailing. “It symbolizes courage, determination, to never give up,” Mr. Leung said.

It appears that Fred is hoping that Force 10 will be seen as its equivalent of a Cartier Love bracelet or the Van Cleef & Arpels Alhambra motif — a style that’s recognizable without a bold logo, quite casual and attractive to younger customers who might otherwise find jewelry from a heritage house intimidating or old-fashioned.

It may be working. “It’s really key for establishing identity and value, which are the key principles for cementing consumer trust and loyalty,” Jane Collins, a senior strategist at the trend-forecasting company WGSN, said by telephone from London.

“If a brand, and Fred have done this perfectly, can put renewed focus and communication on familiar, timeless pieces, they’re going to do well,” she added.

The style’s informal feel, along with the wide choice of colorful bracelets, is also part of its appeal. “It really plays into that playful, wearability factor, in terms of everyday jewelry,” Beth Hannaway, head of fine watches and jewelry at Harrods, which carries the brand, said by phone from London. “There’s the versatility and the customization element, which is really key.”

This year, Fred seems to be emphasizing its history even more than usual. The company said it planned to unveil a high jewelry collection in July, in homage to Fred Samuel’s creations. A museum exhibition about the brand is scheduled to open in September at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris, a couple of miles west of the brand’s flagship boutique on the Rue de la Paix in the Second Arrondissement.

In addition, Mr. Leung said, a lower-priced collection was in the works, as were new stores in Asia and the Middle East.

Fred jewelry is sold in dozens of countries, but has limited distribution in one particularly large one: the United States, where it is carried by just one retailer, Hamilton Jewelers, which has stores in New Jersey and Florida.

Hamilton said it had been selling the brand for six years.

“We felt that it was manufactured beautifully, we loved the history of the house, we loved the fact that it was modern yet traditional,” Anne Russell, the retailer’s executive vice president of merchandising and branding, said by phone from Princeton, N.J. We just hadn’t really seen anything like that in the market.”