Daniel Perel has spent over 35 years working in the luxury goods market, most of that in Asia, but his passion for the field remains as strong as ever.
“I’ve always been attracted by beautiful things,” he said, surrounded by a dazzling array of high-end jewelry and luxury goods at the Tiffany & Co. Japan headquarters in Marunouchi.
“You are that way or you become that way given your environment, what you were exposed to when you were young. I was lucky,” he said, adding that a fascination with the arts, people and opportunities for travel also played their part.
Perel is convinced that Japan is one of the most sophisticated markets in the world. “The general population, thanks to the country’s culture, has an appreciation for beauty, for aesthetics, for design, for history and craftsmanship that has no equal in the rest of the world.”
Noting Japan’s appreciation of beauty as involving all the senses and going beyond the visual — “the same way people would appreciate a color, they (Japanese) would appreciate a fabric” — Perel is emphatic that Japan has an extraordinary appreciation for beautiful things. “There’s no denial … there’s no guilt trip about having a beautiful kimono, a beautiful sweater, a great bag,” he said.
It is perhaps this deep appreciation of aesthetics and craft that sees Japan being luxury jewelry and specialty retailer Tiffany’s second-largest market. The iconic jewelry maker, renowned for its classic and timeless designs, along with collaborations with designers such as Elsa Peretti and Paloma Picasso, tapped Perel to join the company in 2012.
For Perel, an opportunity — and challenge — for the company is that Tiffany tends to mean different things to different people.
Recently, collections of color diamond jewelry have been introduced to Tiffany’s upper clientele are a lesser known part of the Tiffany story. “To make everyone grasp the full world of Tiffany and not just part of it is a never-ending undertaking,” Perel said.
“Yes, we are the king of diamonds. Yes, we are the king of engagement rings. Yes, we are the king of jewelry, but for some people, we are sometimes only that,” he said. “For some clientele, we are the brand to go when you want to buy your diamond engagement ring. And once you go there and you buy it, that’s it. Done. For some other people Tiffany is a gift brand; for others it is going to be (the iconic) open heart, ‘expressing my love to my girlfriend.'” In recent years, they have been working hard to break the segmented perceptions of the brand.
How the company relates to its younger clientele and adapts to their needs is a related area in which Perel sees Tiffany is making strides. “The nature of information has taken such a drastic turn in the past decade or so; it’s a challenge for all of us (in retail) to keep afloat … (that is) at least to understand it and to make the best of it,” said Perel.
The jeweler’s foray with its “Tiffany @ Cat Street” concept store in Harajuku is one such area in which Tiffany is engaging in new conversations — “kind of like a UFO landing from planet Tiffany to earth.” Perel said that while Cat Street seemed like such an obvious choice, it was the area that was best suited for the company’s purposes. The firm narrowed its plentiful options down to Harajuku but opening there alone was just the beginning.
“Everything has to gel. Not only the district but also what’s around it, including the building itself,” Perel said. “We were trying to find a place which would allow us to surprise not only with its location, but also in the way it looks,” he said. For Perel, the genius of the Tadao Ando designed Bank Gallery where Tiffany set up shop was that it was the perfect canvas for Tiffany to stage and showcase its timeless collections and limited edition items, such as Cat Street charms, to a younger audience and the existing one in a new and different light.
Working in jewelry was never a master plan for Perel. Upon graduating from France’s esteemed ESSEC Business School, Perel first worked as a marketing and strategic planning business consultant. Sent on two to three month “missions” to companies in various sectors, he discovered an affinity for working with high-end products.
He soon found himself working for a small jewelry company from Monaco but had an urge to travel and live abroad. Reminiscing fondly on his time spent in America as a high school student, Perel had plans of heading west, “to the land of everything.” Instead, after unexpected whirlwind interviews with Cartier, he ended up joining the luxury house in the so-called Far East in Hong Kong.
“It was pure magic,” Perel said. After four years in Hong Kong, he ended up as Cartier’s number two in Japan, but returned to Hong Kong to work with the now-Richemont Group as head of operations in the Asia-Pacific region. Stints working in Europe and London followed before Perel branched out and worked with a Japanese friend distributing luxury cashmere. At that point, Cartier Japan wanted him back.
Perel recalls that the president at the time was “smart enough to stop telling me about the brand and (instead) talked to me a lot about the country, so it was just all about Japan.”
This would eventually lead to Perel’s immersion and his ongoing appreciation of Japan’s ever-evolving luxury market and its many subtleties.
Luxury goods career spans over 35 years
Daniel Perel is group vice president of Tiffany & Co. Japan, a position he assumed in 2012. He has over 35 years of experience in the luxury goods market, most of them spent in the Asia-Pacific region, where he has cultivated a successful track record in brand development and repositioning, team building and cost control. Describing himself as a results-oriented, good communicator with a hands-on approach, Perel has extensive experience working in Japan’s luxury market, especially jewelry and watches. He spent 18 years working for Richemont Group in various roles, including president of Cartier Japan. More recently, he was president of Swatch Group in Japan. Born in France, Perel grew up there, in Israel and the United States. He is a graduate of ESSEC Business School in France. An avid art collector, he enjoys contemporary art, in particular, pop art.
The Big Questions is a Monday interview series showcasing prominent figures who have a strong connection to Japan.
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5