WRITER: Alex Ritman
When the man behind de Grisogono, Fawaz Gruosi, introduced his striking black diamond jewellery, industry veterans called him crazy. Nevertheless, they became a resounding hit. Bespoke sat down with the designer on his latest visit to the region to find more.
If you see ever Fawaz Gruosi, the founder and president of iconic luxury brand de Grisogono, wearing a rather chunky, black and green digital watch, whatever you do, please don’t ask him how much he spent making it. “The development cost me millions,” the Italian-Lebanese painfully recalls, his thick Italian accent revealing a Florentine childhood. “I don’t want to say the exact figure because it’s embarassing.”
The watch in question, a Meccanico dG, is no ordinary digital watch. In fact, it’s not even strictly digital. Rather, it is the world’s first all-mechanical digital watch. And it comes with a distinctly un-digital 250,000 Euro (355,000 USD) price tag. “It’s like a computer, but it’s mechanical, there’s no battery.”
But while the timepiece may boast an impressive accolade and look suitably striking, Gruosi isn’t that confident in its profitability for his company. “I’m not going to make money out of it. Even if I sell them all I’ll only break even.”
Anyone who knows Gruosi, or has followed the rise of de Grisogono, will learn, this attitude is typical of the man. Developing the Meccanico dG was not a business strategy, but a labour of love, a challenge he wanted to overcome to prove that he could. “I wanted to do it to show that with love and creativity you can do anything if you really believe in your ideas.”
Thankfully for Gruosi, should he not recoup the millions spent on the Meccanico dG, he’s still got his increasingly successful business to fall back on. And his entire company was built off the back of similar risk taking and a passion for being ahead of the times.
Founded in 1993, de Grisogono made a name for itself just three years later when Gruosi decided to start making jewellery with black diamonds, a rarely used and almost unheard of gem. The resultant explosion of interest saw the price of black diamonds rocket on the precious stones market, with Gruosi inserting the gems on rings, necklaces, earrings and bracelets. The black diamond quickly became one of de Grisogono’s trademarks, and it helped catapult the company into the eyes of the world’s rich and fabulous.
“When I started this company I had the philosophy of being different,” Gruosi says. “It could have been a total disaster. The eyes of the human being are always used to the same thing, so when you see something different they tell you they don’t like it.”
While Gruosi’s designs with the black diamond might have been stunningly different, they did manage to fall on appreciative eyes, especially in the celebrity market. He counts Naomi Campbell among his close friends, and as someone who regularly wears his creations.
The success of de Grisogono has seen 17 shops open in only 17 years of existence, but Gruosi isn’t keen for this number to expand much further. “I always said there would be a maximum of 20-25 shops all over the world. The more you open, the greater quantity of stock you need. Then you need to produce in an industrial way, which is not what we want.”
Where Gruosi will steer his luxury ship next, only he knows. But you can bet that whatever he creates will be just as different as his mechanical digital watch, or a black diamond encrusted jewellery collection. “I have to keep coming up with new ideas. Our biggest asset is creativity.”