Rosa Tous: “Jewellery is a tremendously sustainable sector”
With nearly 100 years of company history, Tous has established itself as a global brand, has 700 stores in 53 countries, online shops in 14 markets and more than 4,000 employees around the world.
The company, which sells over 2 million ‘bears’ a year, ended 2017 with a 10.6% increase in revenue to €446 million ($501m, £383m), boasting of an impressive set of results which expose the success of its business. All the more reason for Rosa Tous, its vice president, to be confident about its future. The executive, whose parents are company founders Salvador Tous and Rosa Oriol, looks back at the firm’s past and discusses its future, as well as that of the Spanish fashion industry, in conversation with FashionNetwork.com. A continuity plan, marked by a raft of hires, a focus on craftsmanship and heritage through the Tous Jewellery and Artisans School and a strong commitment to sustainability, are the cornerstones of her ambitions.
FashionNetwork.com: What does the appointment of a new chief executive officer mean for the company?
Rosa Tous: It’s a continuation. These changes occur in companies. But we will continue to work on the same plan, carrying out a an existing strategy for the next two years. Our business managing director, who has now become our CEO, knows it very well and has previously worked in close collaboration with his predecessor. And I think this is a moment to focus on expansion, growth, talent and digital transformation. It was a joint decision, taken carefully, and we are very happy now. Some change is always good to rethink certain aspects. That is what we are currently working on.
FNW: What is the secret to success of a company that will celebrate its 100th anniversary next year? How can Spanish brands and designers follow your example?
RT: I have always said that you need to have two heads in the world of fashion. That is what happened in our company. There was the creative head, my mother, who is the soul. And then there was my father, the thinking head, the strategist, the financier. You must always consider these two very important sides. It is very unlikely for a good creator to be a savvy businessperson. The important thing is to make a good team, and then the rest will follow. When there is a team, vision and goals, the rest follows.
My mother has always had the possibility to create freely and my father has taken care of everything else, making sure that the pieces she made could be sold. I think they have made a very good team, which I have seen in my family and at home. When you look at the industry and you look at how teams are organised, you realise that this is the way it has to be.
FNW: What is Tous’ relationship with the city of Paris [where ACME’s annual exhibition has recently taken place]?
RT: We have two stores in Paris, one located at number 266 on the Rue Saint-Honoré and the other at Le Marais at number 19 on Rue des Francs Bourgeois. We have had a presence there for over 15 years and are very happy. Paris is a global, international city that acts as a mirror to the whole world. Everybody has been to Paris at some point. For us it is important to have a presence in this city to have access to that kind of visibility.
FNW: How does Tous’ education programme, the Tous Jewellery and Artisans School, operate?
RT: We have started with Spain and Mexico but the goal is to make it a global programme. The inaugural year has ended with 19 students. I am very satisfied with the results because we have managed to adapt to the training programmes of each school, taking into account that each of them have their own regulations. Additionally, we have been fortunate enough to see that one of our jewellers, who has been working with us for more than 40 years, has offered himself as a mentor. As he approaches retirement, he sees the project as a way to leave a legacy, his work will not have been in vain. He will teach everything he knows to apprentices, who will move on to become the future of jewellery.
FNW: Is placing a high value on the savoir-faire also a way to differentiate the company?
RT: We were looking for a social project, but one that would have a lot in common with us. We have considered it very carefully and have worked on it for a couple of years to find out what is most important for Tous. It is about reclaiming our roots. We are jewellers by profession, professionals of manual labour. Many of the pieces which we are presenting here [at the Made in Spain exhibition organised by ACME in Paris] are handmade from scratch by a jeweller who knows the trade and who works on the piece without any type of technological intervention.
On the other hand, when it comes to production we are using as much technology as we can, from 3D printers to laser machines, to improve our production systems. But even at this level we seek to maintain an element of craftsmanship. We have understood that jewellery pieces, on average, go through at least six different hands, even if they are not exclusively handmade. Which means that there is a lot of manual work put into their creation.
FNW: What is the company’s position in a world where sustainability is key?
RT: We always say that jewellery is a tremendously sustainable sector because you will never throw out a jewellery piece. We are experts in reviving, reusing and recycling jewellery. We have a workshop specialised in providing a cleaning service, repairs and adjustments for our customers.
At Tous we have always been very aware of what is happening around us, what is happening in the market, and what our customer wants. Additionally, as retailers we receive our customer’s feedback directly in our stores, as well as through our social media networks. It makes you realise that sustainability is companies’ responsibility. And in the case of jewellery, because so many chemical agents are involved in the development of new pieces at any given time, we have been working on the issue of recycling and metal recovery for many years. This is part of our DNA and now we are making sure we tell [customers] about it and make it more visible, because consumers want to know. They are asking for a level of transparency which seems ideal to me.
FNW: How does an international company face the current socioeconomic situation in Spain?
RT: With concern. What happens around us has an impact and an influence on us. During this time we have focused on our work and doing what we are specialists in. We have a commitment to our customers and to the more than 4,000 people who depend on Tous around the world. Our best strategy has been to focus on our work.
FNW: And beyond Spain, what about Brexit?
RT: We are currently present in the United Kingdom through an online store. Which means will will have to adapt some aspects related to import. On a personal level, I think [Brexit] is a complicated and strange situation. But on a corporate level, we are managing it very well. I guess that fact that we don’t have such a strong presence in England means it’s not a key issue for us.
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