After a 20 years career producing films, in 2015 Karen Adler joined the Swiss family business, a 130 years old jewellery house that has seen four generations of Adlers taking it from a small Byzantine inspired Turkish brand to the global success it is today.
Q: What did you take with you from the 20 years working producing films?
A: Put in a few words, a firm determination for entrepreneurship; a large appetite for telling stories; and finally, a know-how in gathering different talents and making them work together.
Q: How did that experience translate into your work at Adler running Marketing?
A: My experience in the entertainment business has exposed me to issues of commercialization, in terms of knowing what pleases people and how to sell a desired vision at an international level. Producing films has also harnessed my capacity to work in teams and manage egos, big or small, including mine. If you look at the two industries closely, you will see that movie making and jewellery making are not that different from each other. In the movie business, you turn a script into a film, in the jewellery business you turn a design into a piece. The process is the same: you imagine something, you create a story, and you build it up into a piece that exists.
In the end, Jewellery is like movie making, a balancing act between money and light. If done right, both can be very profitable.
Q: How closely do you work with your cousin Allen and his wife Daisy? What is the USP that each of you bring into the company?
A: It has been over a year now that our trio has taken the helm of the family business. We share the desire to maintain the family legacy as well as our core values while rejuvenating the brand and the designs. Hopefully we are as different from each other as we are complementary, – something that is much needed in a niche family business.
Of course, according to our respective skills we oversee different aspects of the company. Whilst Allen handles business strategy and vision, Daisy looks after our operational processes in sourcing, production and design. As for myself, I look after all marketing and sales activities.
However, we act as one and agree that diversity and inclusion initiatives are core to the Adler business strategy. In all aspects of the business, any us can bring in to the discussions inspirations from what we read, discover and explore across our travels or encounters – this open dialogue is essential to us.
Harnessing strength from a variety of backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives allows the management team and all the professionals that work at Adler to bring a more diverse approach to our everyday work. It is our mutual choice to create a corporate culture that is a magnet for talent.
Q: The company is well known for its innovative designs and the pioneer use of unusual materials such as titanium, wood and carbon. How do designers and craftsmen work together over the creative process? How is a collection decided? What new materials are you currently exploring?
A: We were indeed the first to integrate innovative materials in high jewellery. When we first started working with titanium 15 years ago, we challenged the workshops to adapt tools to be able to set the stones into this extremely hard metal. Spending time and means on R&D is the source of our creativity. We constantly work with designers to develop interesting pieces to suit the needs and desires of our clients.
Above all, we stay curious about other trends in other industries. For example, we are currently speaking with a surgeon about highly innovative techniques that we could incorporate into future collections.
Creation comes from chaos and we cherish the fact that any member of our team can come up with an idea than we will explore altogether. Our main purpose is to keep open this dialogue that in the end forges energy and poetry into our creations.
Q: The world of luxury goods has become incredibly competitive. How does a family run business survive when it has to compete with the likes of Cartier and Tiffany?
A: There are many advantages to working in a family business. First, trust is much easier to build and secondly there is always someone to share the responsibility for success or failure. It also allows us to cut short the decision-making process and take more risks. This has brought us over the years to constantly push the boundaries of creativity. On the other hand, being a family run business helps to keep a truly personal connection with our clientele. They can meet and share with any family member. Similarly, we are extremely agile to respond in a very short time to any demands from them. All these advantages are assets to compete against bigger groups.
Q: You have a strong presence in the Middle East, through agents such as Istana in Dubai, or Amiri in Qatar. Is this region where Adler’s efforts concentrate? What about your presence in Asia, is this a market of expansion for Adler?
A: Over the years, the Middle East has become an important market. There is an ancestral culture of jewellery there. The ladies have a discerning eye for beauty. I must say that the taste and expertise of the Middle Eastern customers has developed immensely. The likely reason for this is the availability of high-quality media on the subject and of course, the Internet and social media. Nonetheless, our efforts are also focused in other existing markets in Asia. In addition to Tokyo, Hong-Kong and Baku we are currently exploring China and Malaysia. In order to maintain our personalised approach to our clientele, we run exclusive ‘trunk shows’ and private viewings in these territories.
Q: Product-wise, you have a very wide range of lines and collections. From the very original Shinsei line to the classic high jewellery Venise set. Where is the focus at the moment?
A: We have adopted an approach similar to the fashion industry, where brands have Haute Couture as well as affordable lines. Of course, Adler is mostly renowned for its tailor-made high-end pieces, but lately we have launched Shinsei, Strelizia, Pompon, and Mandala Soul among other existing exclusive lines that are produced in limited edition. We are now focusing on rethinking our more accessible collections aimed at women looking to complement their daily outfits.
Q: Where do you see Adler in 5 years time? Where do you see yourself?
A: Allen, Daisy and I often discuss about the future of the business. We believe that small is beautiful; we want to maintain the family atmosphere of the business; continue to respect the core values of the brand and above all, we believe that true luxury is all about human connection. As for myself, in 5 years time I will still be the fierce nomad that I am today, in search of new areas to explore, looking for diversity and surprise.
Q: This is still a men’s world despite more women coming through the ranks to reach bigger jobs. What do you think could be done in general to facilitate the raise of female professionals to board positions?
A: We are now living in a world of massive change and diversity. We can’t afford to squander the capabilities of half of our population because of ancient customs! The present and the future requires innovation and the energy of all people. Women are great at building relationships, empowering others, tuning into people’s needs, and balancing a staggering number of responsibilities — skills that are great assets, not liabilities, in the workplace. Today, at Adler and around the globe, women employers, managers and CEOs are changing the way we all do business and the businesses we do with their unique talents. I personally support every action that brings women into the mainstream of business.
To conclude I would cite Isabelle Allende, the famous Chilean novelist who said:
“If a woman is empowered, her children and her family will be better off. If families prosper, the village prospers, and eventually so does the whole country.”
Q: Last, what do you like doing in your free time?
A: Since I don’t have much free time I mostly enjoy playing around with my kids!