Jean-Christophe Bédos has seen his fair share of luxury jewellery. The CEO of beloved Canadian jeweller Birks Group formerly worked for big Parisian brands Cartier and Boucheron, so he knows a thing or two about quality product. And even he, a true industry veteran, was awestruck when he saw the headquarters of London-based Graff.
“I must say, after many, many years in this industry, I still had this little room in me to be impressed,” Bédos says. “And I was very impressed by how they work as a family together, and above all, their selection of stones and the total absence of compromise on quality. The total absence. I say that because sometimes some brands cut corners in order to make things work. With Graff, it’s absolutely not the case.”
Birks Group was given the exclusive rights to open the first-ever Graff boutique in Canada, and chose Vancouver as the perfect location. Launched in December 2018, the space on West Georgia is joined by another prestigious brand: Patek Philippe. The Swiss watch company of incredible technical prowess is already sold in other stores in Vancouver, but this is its first standalone location.
“It’s a real privilege. We are very proud to have been chosen by these brands to represent them here,” says Bédos, standing in the sophisticated Patek Philippe side, with its mature muted tones and its simple yet effective timepiece displays. “It’s like being custodians. We represent them, and they trusted us to do it as if they were doing it themselves. So that’s very much with great pride and also a sense of humility, because we know how big and how exceptional they are.”
Birks, which recently became the first luxury jeweller in Canada to accept Bitcoin, was founded in 1879 in Montreal, where the company is still headquartered. It has a flagship store of its own in Vancouver, which carries its in-house creations as well as other brands, but the team felt strongly that the inclusion of Graff and Patek Philippe warranted something bigger. “This is so exclusive that they deserve their own locations,” Bédos asserts. “On-street, standalone. That’s what Patek Philippe and Graff deserve.” On the Graff side (they both have their own front doors but are connected inside as well), hints of gold give way to the elegant diamond creations, all of which are approved by founder Laurence Graff himself. Instead of following seasonal collections, Graff creates its pieces based on the specific diamonds that it receives, settling for nothing less than perfection. There is no mass production, no cookie-cutter design; everything is focused on craft.
With quality top of mind, these are fitting partnerships for Birks—a company that has become iconic in Canada (and recently, outside of the country thanks to one very famous fan: Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle). “The power of Birks as a brand here is very, very special,” explains Bédos. “When I arrived in Canada, I did a tour in order to learn: ‘Who is Birks for Canadians?’ And I realized that there is a very strong emotional dimension for Birks within Canada, for Canadians of every generation—probably, I dare to say, stronger than the emotional bond between the French people and Cartier or the Italian people and Bvlgari.” In the globalization of today’s world, it has never been easier to access brands from all corners of the planet. But there is still something to be said for a company that was created in Canada, and remains Canadian. The fact that it has been chosen to represent two respected European brands perhaps only solidifies its importance in the soul of this country.