Phillips Launches “Flawless” in Pivot Towards Retail Jewelry Sales
In the wake of COVID-19, auction houses large and small have expanded their online infrastructure. Most have chosen to differentiate their offerings from those of retail stores that already have a large presence online. But Phillips has taken a different approach, launching a fully retail platform for their jewelry department last week.
Phillips’ new venture, Flawless, brings luxury jewelry collectors an inquire-and-buy option. The current catalog includes several pieces by the noted jeweler Shaun Leane commissioned directly by Phillips. The asking prices range from USD 11,200 to $199,800. Well-known makers such as Van Cleef & Arpels, Tiffany & Co., and Cartier are also represented.
Phillips’ leadership sees this as an opportunity to have a commanding presence in both the retail and auction industries. “When you have the knowledge of an auction house and the commercial branding of luxury high jewelry, and you can occupy that space, that’s where the magic happens,” Phillips’ head of private jewelry sales, Paul Redmayne, told Bloomberg.
In the same article, Redmayne noted that Phillips intends to eventually open a physical store where buyers can inspect the luxury items in person. He points to Phillips’ watch department, which also has an online retail operation and in-person store, as an example of how this can be done successfully.
Among the notable Shaun Leane pieces commissioned by Phillips is a set of three Aurora rings (price: $20,800). The rings can be worn individually or together, utilizing an interlocking system. Leane’s inspiration for this piece was the aurora borealis, the impression of which he aimed to recreate with rubies, purple sapphires, and other gemstones.
Leane explores the intersection of strength and femininity with a pair of feather fan earrings, available on Flawless for $17,100. The earrings are a reimagining of a runway look he produced for Alexander McQueen in 2000.
Leane’s collaborations with McQueen are among his professional highlights. “[McQueen] knew how it was all going to come together,” Leane recalls of working with the late designer. “I would see the show come together backstage and realise ‘that’s why he did that, that works so brilliantly.’”
Collectors interested in Leane’s work will also find a quill choker (price: $17,400) on the Flawless platform. Quills inspired by porcupines are crafted in 18-karat gold with an asymmetrical design. Though commissioned by Phillips for Flawless, Leane originally developed this silhouette for a 1997 commission by the late magazine editor Isabella Blow.
Phillips’ pivot to retail comes as the auction house tries to make adjustments during the COVID-19 pandemic. “Business as usual went right out the window,” Phillips’ chairman of the Americas, David Norman, recently told Artnet. The same article noted that Phillips, along with Sotheby’s and Christie’s, earned a combined $825 million during their tentpole May 2020 sales. This was down over 50% from the same auctions a year prior, which collectively earned them $2 billion.