“Reinvention” is a divisive word — it can mean both progress and a desertion of prior selves. Pop stars are masters at remaking themselves anew for each album or music video in the pursuit of fan connection and renewed cultural relevance.
The stakes increase in tandem with the size of the business. The ripple effect the designer Marc Jacobs had on Louis Vuitton — transforming it from an elite heritage luggage brand into a ready-to-wear heavyweight during his nearly two decades as creative director — continues, positively, almost 10 years after his departure. But not all transformations are so successful. The US legacy retailer Gap’s 2010 logo redesign, for example, was met with customer confusion and a dramatic dip in its share price. The company immediately reverted to its former symbol.
Since its inception in 1982, Pandora, the biggest jewellery company in the world by volume — last year the brand sold three pieces every second — has built its identity around affordable luxury. It’s perhaps best known for its Moments charm bracelets constructed with statement trinkets that can be rearranged or added to for as little as $25 per charm. The introduction of the category in 2000 spurred rapid growth for the Copenhagen-founded brand, but when the company went public in 2010 it began a tumultuous cycle of wins and losses.
By 2019, it was clear the brand needed an urgent revamp, a mission given to Alexander Lacik upon his appointment as CEO that same year.
“I was told, ‘Oh, the company is actually broken, so we need somebody to fix it,’ ” recalls Lacik. “I’ve always ended up somehow being thrown at these types of challenges.”
The straight-talking Lacik wasn’t afraid of a fight. His family fled the Soviet Union’s invasion of Czechoslovakia in the late ’60s, immigrating to the lakeside town of Växjö in Sweden. “It was not so easy to grow up,” he says. “Kids can be quite tough on each other. But they learned very soon that if they wanted to pick on me, there was blood involved.”
Fast-forward to his appointment at Pandora. Lacik’s audit revealed a digital brand that had been neglected, a near non-existent sustainability strategy and a company that had lost sight of its founding purpose: crafting price-friendly jewellery that elicited emotional connections. If Pandora wanted to lead in this democratised, emotive space, Lacik reasoned it would need to position itself as a full jewellery proposition beyond just charms. This meant, among other redirections, the introduction of diamonds. “It doesn’t take Einstein to see that diamonds represent almost 30 per cent of all jewellery,” says Lacik. “If you don’t play in that, it’s just a missed opportunity.”
Consumer research indicated there was appetite, but it was vital that the gemstone did not cannibalise the brand’s price point or renewed sustainability goals (which now include a commitment to using 100 per cent recycled gold and silver by 2025). Lacik and his team looked to lab-grown diamonds, a human-made alternative to naturally occurring diamonds that possess the same optical, chemical, thermal and physical characteristics as their natural counterparts and are graded by the same standards (cut, colour, clarity and carat). It’s a growing market, projected to reach approximately $87 billion by 2031.
By partnering with a supplier that uses 100 per cent renewable energy to produce its diamonds, Pandora would have oversight of the gemstone’s carbon footprint — an estimated five per cent of that of a similar-sized mined diamond. It helped that synthetic varietals are 40 to 50 per cent less expensive than natural options. At Pandora, diamonds could be both forever, and for everyone.
In August this year, the brand launched its three lab-grown diamond collections in Australia — Pandora Nova (featuring elegant four-prong settings), Pandora Era (a new take on classic bezel-and-prong silhouettes), and Pandora Infinite (a pared-back collection inspired by the infinity symbol) — with prices starting at $500. “These products stretch your imagination of what this brand is,” says Lacik. “On one hand, it’s a business opportunity. On another hand, it helps us to open up the brand. Diamonds have a very, very strong pulling factor.”
The release involved a star-studded campaign of lab-grown advocates including Pamela Anderson, Grace Coddington, Sherry Shi and Precious Lee. The gen Z actor of “Euphoria” fame and Pandora ambassador Barbie Ferreira flew in to attend the VIP Pandora Lab-Grown Diamonds event in Sydney.
Reinvention is a risk. One that, for Pandora, is paying off. “This company is future-proofed, and that’s not as obvious for people to see, but there’s a reason why we keep performing the way we are,” says Lacik. “Now, when all the markets are negative, we are positive. It’s not by chance.