Evoking the colours of an Italian sunset, a lush display of flowers that deck the Author's Lounge at Mandarin Oriental set the stage for Bulgari's first event of the year in Thailand. This trunk showcased over 100 pieces of extraordinary high jewellery pieces from various collections, 20 of which were exclusive one-of-a-kind. A handful of timepieces for gents were on display too, and the brand's full-scale presentation is an indication that the Roman jeweller is doing well and emerging from the pandemic in strength.
Amanda Obdam wearing a one-of-a-kind necklace with a pear cabochon sapphire of 40 carats.
"Thailand has surpassed the recovery stage and is really on a trajectory now," says Jeffrey Hang, Bulgari's South Asia Pacific regional managing director, who flew in for the event from Singapore. "We're continuing to give what the market needs and to fuel the momentum. Thailand had come out of recovery at the end of 2020. So 2021 was a new dawn for us as a brand."
For clients of luxury brands, now may just be the best time to be a customer. "It took a pandemic for us to realise that we have a fantastic client potential in our own backyard," Hang goes on to share Bulgari's business strategy for the region. "Until the beginning of 2020, we were a tourist market and reliant on tourists. For many decades, there was an emphasis on the Japanese, Chinese and Koreans. When Covid stopped the tourism, we came to see that local clients are just as eager to purchase. We have built on that to give more education and relationship building with locals. Going forward, we will still welcome tourists but strategy-wise, all our actions, communication and story-telling will be about relationship building with local clients, in all countries in the world."
Lovers of jewellery would fare well to have a close relationship with the brand if they have their eye on rare pieces. From the showcase, there is sure to be a reliable amount of iconic Serpenti pieces, whether as necklaces, bracelets or earrings. One of the highlights was a Serpenti Romani Secret Watch -- a stunning cuff boldly embedded with corals and diamonds, with a head of a snake that reveals a hidden watch underneath. Other motifs intertwined with the brand, such as the fan-shaped Divas' Dream, were on display too, but other colourful masterpieces in a class of their own (like the microphone necklace from the Wild Pop collection) remind us of the brand's ability to transcend its own classic staples.
A model in Serpenti pieces.
With this "new normal" the world is now going through, guests sipped their afternoon tea while being serenaded by Rudklao Amratisha, who sang through her mask (the singer apologised, saying face shields don't work because it's awkward if the microphone goes above or under the shield). Models that walked the fashion show wearing high jewellery pieces were in face shields too, but such quirks are trivial, considering the world can return to normalcy and start hosting grand events again. Miss Universe Thailand 2020 Amanda Obdam was wearing one of the standout blue sapphire necklaces, but interestingly, it is the sole male model that illuminated what future trends the world of high jewellery is heading towards. Besides the diamond-embedded timepiece and inconspicuous ring that the model was wearing, what stood out is also how the Serpenti necklace was styled in place where a man usually wears a necktie. As the world of fashion transitions towards more androgyny and freedom of expression, Bulgari is clearly one of the brands finding itself able to feed the public's evolving preferences.
"We don't even have to push [this concept]," Hang says of a growing number of male clients who openly wear the Serpenti necklaces these days -- a design that may traditionally be viewed as something for women. "The clients are the ones telling us they want to wear Serpenti. We are just giving them what they want. It's not just Serpenti too, because they also gravitate towards Monete. This is especially true in Thailand. Compared to men who are from other more conservative Southeast Asian countries, people here are much freer to express themselves with jewellery."
A male model wears a Serpenti necklace.
As someone who just left China, Hang shares that this is an upcoming phenomenon he's witnessed elsewhere too. "Young men are wearing jewellery. It's not just jewellery either, because Chinese men also carry women's bags very confidently. They're choosing to express themselves and now, men are much freer to experiment."
Jeffrey Hang, regional managing director of Bulgari. (Photos Courtesy of Bulgari)
The Octo watches celebrate their 10th anniversary this year.
The Serpenti Romani Secret Watch (bottom left).
Microphone choker from Wild Pop collection.
Tassled Serpenti pieces.