How Tiffany & Co. Got Its Cool Back

Photographed by Renell Medrano.
At my all-girls secondary school in the early '00s, a shiny Tiffany dog tag on a balled silver chain denoted a confidence not typical of teenage girls. Worn by the sort of girls who had donned a Baby G way back in year 5 before anyone else was even comfortable in fountain pen, a piece of Tiffany jewellery marked its wearer out as a person of influence.
In a similar fashion and at a similar time to fellow heritage brand Burberry, Tiffany swept through the nation, the mere sight of a little 'Tiffany blue' (the brand’s trademarked colour) box with a white ribbon around it causing mass hysteria. I got my first and only piece of Tiffany jewellery for my 16th birthday: an Atlas ring costing £130. My mum took me up to Sloane Square to purchase the ring and I remember the look of pride on her face at being able to buy her daughter the sort of birthday present she never had growing up. I ditched the ring not six months later when suddenly, Tiffany wasn’t cool anymore. Like Burberry, the brand had gotten so big that it fell prey to copies and fakes until it didn’t matter whether it was real or fake anyway because it had become ubiquitous, and therefore undesirable. As my fashion tutor at London College of Fashion once said: "There’s nothing more naff than something that was really cool five years ago."
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Something that was cool 20 years ago, however, is a different story. There is weight to the theory that fashion trends work on 20-year cycles, and thanks to a number of smart business and creative decisions, Tiffany is on track and on time for a major revival in the fashion world.
The most obvious consumer-facing evidence of this was a show-stopping Christmas ad titled "Believe in Dreams". Directed by Mark Romanek, the man behind the video for Beyoncé’s "Lemonade", the campaign starred Zoë Kravitz, Naomi Campbell, Karen Elson and Jū Xiǎowén as characters in an Alice in Wonderland fantasy. That famous Tiffany blue was used creatively – in eyeshadow on Elson’s eyes, as a ribbon in Kravitz' hair and colour on her nails. While Tiffany & Co. is no stranger to big shot models, the tone of this campaign was decidedly different; playful but still pristine, with a diverse cast and impactful styling.
Behind-the-scenes stills from the campaign went all over Instagram, credited to Renell Medrano, one of the most exciting photographers around. The 26-year-old has worked with Tiffany for the past year in an artistic collaboration. In February 2018, she hosted a breakfast (at Tiffany’s!) at the sweetly named Blue Box Cafe in the flagship Fifth Avenue store, which had opened a few months before. The breakfast was attended by some of Medrano’s high status friends including Hailey Baldwin, Justine Skye and A$AP Ferg. I didn’t follow Tiffany on Instagram until I saw Renell posting the BTS imagery on her account and thought Oh, that’s cool they’re working with her. Then I followed Tiffany. Now I’m writing and thinking about Tiffany. Maybe it really is that simple.
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Reports that Tiffany’s revenue grew 9.6% between November 2017 and October 2018 suggest I’m not the only one (though the most up to date report, published this week in the Financial Times, said actual figures during the festive period were lower). Regardless, Deutsche Bank called Tiffany’s comeback "one of the most compelling turnaround stories in our coverage [...] We think brand building efforts are working and recent innovation is noticeably better." The report continues: "Tiffany management is focusing its efforts on refreshing, updating and relaunching the Tiffany brand, transforming it into a more innovative and inclusive brand with social media relevance and increasing digital engagement."
Though the style of the pieces hasn’t changed much since I was at school (chunky silver, beads, the Atlas collection, Tiffany heart pendants), the demand for it has risen. Buying Manager at Selfridges, Josie Gardner agrees, telling me: "The demographic that previously shopped at Tiffany has expanded, with a resurgence of a contemporary Tiffany customer who buy into their key pieces such as the iconic Tiffany key pendants and the City Hardwear collection that embodies the modern woman." Gardner also praised the recent campaigns and brand direction, commenting that they had "truly resonated with our younger clients".
While Tiffany’s lower-range pieces (in the category 'under £250' on its website) are beginning to boom again, brand visibility has also increased at the top end of the scale. At the Golden Globes a few weeks ago, Lady Gaga wore a custom £3.92 million Tiffany necklace named the 'Tiffany Aurora' – "an homage to the stars". The extravagant (to say the least) piece made it into several headlines in the next day’s coverage of the awards, helped no doubt by the shade of Gaga’s dress and hair on the night – a blue not far from Tiffany’s.
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At the same time as this parade of craft and decadence, Tiffany hit another set of headlines with plans for full transparency on the source and supply chain of its diamonds. The brand’s Chief Sustainability Officer, Anisa Kamadoli Costa, released a statement recognising that merely assuring customers that its diamonds are 'conflict free' is no longer enough, and stating that by 2020, customers "will be able to trace the registered diamonds using a unique T & Co serial number".
Back in May 2017, Tiffany & Co. became the first jewellery brand of its size to speak out about climate change, posting a message on Instagram and Twitter asking Trump to keep the US in the Paris Climate Agreement.
Over the last two years, Tiffany & Co. has diligently and impressively rebuilt its brand for the socially conscious, digitally savvy shopper. After quite the hiatus – on the UK fashion scene, at least – the little blue box is back and once again, too cool for school.
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