Since at least 1961, the Tiffany & Co. flagship store at 727 Fifth Avenue in New York City has held an allure for movie buffs and those with a romantic notion of the brand. But symbolizing a change in economic buying power, the luxury jewelry brand is renovating its flagship to speak to an audience whose tastes and pop culture references are changing.
On August 14, 2018, Tiffany & Co. announced that it will begin a complete renovation of the 10-story iconic store in spring 2019. It is expected to be completed by the end of 2021.
Tiffany’s as Romantic Fantasy
Since its beginnings, Tiffany’s has enjoyed a list of high-end patrons such as the Vanderbilts, the Astors, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt. The high standard of clientele aided in establishing Tiffany’s as a luxury brand of lavish sophistication, but the present-day accessibility of the brand evolved from the 1961 classic movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
Based off the novel by Truman Capote, the story’s protagonist, Holly Golightly (played by Audrey Hepburn) is a flighty want-to-be socialite with a fear of commitment who spends the movie gazing longingly into the titular brand’s Fifth Avenue storefront.
For the next half-century, the same storefront has acted as a mecca for lovelorn tourists and those looking to it as a destination that embodied old Hollywood glamour and a life they’d like to step into for a moment.
This view of Tiffany’s did a service to the brand, particularly during the Recession from 2008 to 2015. The fantasy element of the storefront, mixed with more accessible jewelry lines offered at a lower price point, meant that while other luxury brands struggled between brand identity and sales during a difficult economic downturn, Tiffany’s enjoyed a surprising boost in sales. In September of 2011, the San Francisco Gate reported that Tiffany & Co. had “almost tripled its value selling engagement rings” since the recession.
However, in the seven years since that report, Tiffany’s has had to continue to evolve the brand as buying and influence has changed.
Millennials Are Redefining Buying Purpose
On March 1, 2018, Business Insider reported that it was told by Nimesh Patel, chief financial officer of DeBeers—the largest diamond producer in the world—that previous statements that millennials (generally classed as those aged between 18 and 35) aren’t buying diamonds is false. In fact, Patel stated that millennials account for 45 percent of diamond purchases. However, the trend is moving toward self-purchase.
“Self-purchase today is at 26 percent, and we are seeing self-purchases being more frequent, and at an earlier age,” Patel told Business Insider.
As such, to compete in a market where buying power is moving from a classic idea of romance, which Breakfast at Tiffany’s tapped into, toward that of independence and self-reliance, jewelers are having to reinvent what purchasing from their brands symbolizes.
New Icon, New Look
Over the last few years, Tiffany & Co. has moved toward collaborations and collections that inspire the idea of self-success. In 2017, a commercial starring Lady Gaga aired during the Super Bowl, and the caption that accompanies it on YouTube reads, “As fiercely feminine as the new Tiffany HardWear collection, Lady Gaga captures the creative spirit of New York City. Elegantly subversive, this collection is as spontaneous as the woman who wears it. Only Tiffany could make hardware look this chic.”
This advertisement represented Tiffany’s pivot from Audrey Hepburn and Breakfast at Tiffany’s as pop cultural icon of the brand to its next stage of portrayal though updated cultural icons.
Although those who fear change will no doubt wring their hands at the destruction of an architectural and film icon, this renovation has the potential to become another highlight in the company’s illustrious history.
When it opened in 1940, the 727 Fifth Avenue location was not only stunning, but was also one of the most architecturally advanced retail buildings of its time. Evolution in not only the luxury experience, as material and architectural sciences have expanded so dramatically in the last nearly 80 years that the creative direction possibilities are endless.
What’s more: Visitors can expect that the interior will take on a more important role. The current ground floor boasts a 24-foot ceiling supported by trusses to eliminate the need for obtrusive columns, but rarely do visitors move further than the threshold of the building. Breakfast at Tiffany’s may have brought fans to the door—or window, more often—but it didn’t encourage them to explore the nine additional floors that don’t appear in film.
This renovation has the potential to symbolize an important milestone in design and brand during a moment in time when there is pushback against society evolving from the “good ol’ days” of the mid-20th century.
Tiffany & Co. will continue to remain open for business throughout the renovation, utilizing an adjacent temporary space at 6 East 57th Street.