Change is afoot at John Hardy, the eponymous artisan jewellery brand established in Bali, Indonesia, in 1975.
Last year, the brand welcomed a new creative chairman in Reed Krakoff, whose most recent stint was chief artistic officer at LVMH’s Tiffany and Co. for four years until 2021. In October John Hardy appointed a new CEO, Jan-Patrick Schmitz, a luxury veteran, who is seen to lead the brand’s rejuvenation.
Canadian artist John Hardy arrived in Bali in the 1970s and discovered generations of skilled artisans, leading to the creation of the brand which has since found purpose in preserving Balinese culture and local artisanship. The brand, which has standalone stores and stockists across the globe, transferred ownership to the US private equity firm L Catterton in 2014, but retains its headquarters in Indonesia with over 600 employees today.
Over the years it has launched different ways to engage meaningfully with customers and locals in Bali. In Mambal near Ubud, for instance, John Hardy’s Kapal Bamboo Boutique, designed by the founder himself, is an early masterpiece of bamboo architecture, and today presents jewellery workshop tours, bespoke jewellery masterclasses, and dining series that showcase Balinese culture and craftsmanship.
Retail in Asia speaks with John Hardy’s CEO, Jan-Patrick Schmitz, to learn more about the brand’s recent initiatives and plans to expand in Asia.
RiA: You have recently been appointed to lead John Hardy. How do your previous experiences at premium and luxury brands inform your priorities at John Hardy?
Jan-Patrick Schmitz: Prior to joining John Hardy, I served as the CEO for Muirbury & Co, an independent firm which specialises in product-centric, premium brands across distinct consumer sectors. Additionally, I had the privilege of serving as the global CEO and chairman of the Management Board of the WÜSTHOF Group, a revered German company manufacturing high-end kitchen knives.
During my time at Richemont, I held several senior leadership positions at Montblanc, including president and CEO of Montblanc North America, head of supply chain management, and president and CEO of Montblanc Japan. These roles have provided me with valuable insights into the luxury market to drive brand growth and success.
John Hardy takes immense pride in its authenticity and community values, and I eagerly anticipate contributing to the company’s prosperity while honouring the brand’s unwavering dedication to sustainable luxury practices and the art of craftsmanship. I am enthusiastic about working closely with Reed [Krakoff] and the talented team as we build upon John Hardy’s artisan heritage to propel growth.
John Hardy has tremendous opportunity around the world. We are seeing interest from European consumers who have experienced our brand when visiting Bali or the United States. On the product side, as our clients enjoy our creations in gold and with precious stones, we will continuously develop our collections in that segment.
RiA: Tell us about John Hardy and its niche positioning in the market.
Schmitz: John Hardy is a revered artisan jewellery brand that stands out for its exceptional craftsmanship, unique design aesthetic, and commitment to sustainability. With a rich heritage rooted in the traditions of Bali, our brand has forged a niche positioning in the market as a purveyor of exquisite artisan jewellery.
Inspired by the beauty of nature and the cultural heritage of Bali, our designs often feature intricate patterns, organic shapes, and motifs that reflect the island’s rich artistic traditions. This distinct design language resonates with customers seeking jewellery that tells a story and evokes a sense of connection to nature and culture.
Each piece of jewellery is meticulously handcrafted by our in-house artisans, who bring their expertise and passion to every detail. Our artisans employ ancient techniques passed down through generations, resulting in jewellery that exudes a sense of artistry and authenticity. This commitment to craftsmanship sets us apart in an era of mass production and emphasises the enduring value of our creations.
RiA: While John Hardy is a global player today, its roots are in Bali, Indonesia. Are there initiatives or efforts to collaborate with local artisans in Indonesia?
Schmitz: John Hardy’s initiatives and efforts to collaborate with local artisans in Indonesia are an essential part of our brand’s DNA since our founding in 1970. We take pride in nurturing and supporting the talented artisans of Bali, ensuring that their heritage craftsmanship techniques are preserved and celebrated.
Our dedication to heritage craftsmanship is not only a defining aspect of the John Hardy legacy but also serves as a means to support and retain artisan families. Today, our Workshop & Kapal Bamboo Boutique on the island of Bali employs over 500 multi-generational craftspeople, ranging from watercolour artists to metalsmiths.
Through our Workshop & Kapal Bamboo Boutique, we offer an apprenticeship program called Jobs For Life, which provides vocational training and financial support to local orphans in Bali. This program enables each participant to be given the opportunity to join our workshop, where they engage in meditative and communal chain-weaving, hand-hammering, and carving. We [also] provide locally sourced family-style meals to several hundred workers and guests – a gathering ritual that fosters a sense of community.
Our commitment to collaborating with local artisans goes beyond mere business transactions. We engage in genuine relationships, working closely with the artisans to create jewellery pieces that embody the essence of their artistry. We place great emphasis on preserving the authenticity and cultural significance of their craft, while infusing it with a contemporary and global perspective.
RiA: You have worked with a number of luxury brands, including watch and jewellery maisons. In your view, what sets John Hardy apart today?
Schmitz: What sets John Hardy apart today is a unique combination of factors that make us truly exceptional in the luxury jewellery industry. Our brand is built upon the rich heritage and rituals of Bali, which infuses our jewellery with a profound sense of meaning and purpose. We honour not only the craftsmanship that goes into creating each piece, but also the interconnectedness of our past, present and future.
One key aspect is our unwavering commitment to sustainability. We are deeply aware of the impact our industry has on the environment and communities involved, that is why we prioritise sustainable sourcing practices, utilising 100 percent reclaimed silver and gold, minimising our reliance on newly mined materials. We ensure that our stones are conflict-free, providing our customers with the assurance that their jewellery has been ethically sourced.
In addition to our commitment to sustainability and craftsmanship, we also prioritise responsible sourcing practices and maintain strong relationships with our suppliers. We conduct thorough due diligence in line with OECD requirements, ensuring that our supply chain operates with integrity and transparency. We pay careful attention to product provenance and disclosure, providing our customers with the confidence that they are purchasing jewellery of the highest quality and ethical standards.
We believe that by embracing these values, we not only create exquisite pieces of jewellery but also contribute to a more sustainable and conscientious luxury industry.
RiA: Can you share your insights into John Hardy’s expansion plans in Asia, and the growth strategies that are top of mind for you at the moment?
Schmitz: Our roots run deep in Bali, Indonesia, where the John Hardy brand was born. We see immense potential for growth in our birthplace. Indonesia’s rich culture and vibrant spirit provide a fertile ground for us to cultivate and nurture our brand. We are deeply committed to strengthening our presence in this market and forming deeper connections with our local artisans and customers.
By leveraging the unique craftsmanship and heritage of Bali, we aim to create authentic and meaningful experiences that resonate with Indonesian consumers as well as the consumers in China and Hong Kong.
Beyond Bali, John Hardy will further develop its engagement in several markets, including other regions and islands of Indonesia, China, and Hong Kong.