FEATURE: Samer Halimeh discusses Knightsbridge flagship opening
Jewellery designer Samer Halimeh, owner of eponymously named Samer Halimeh NY, gave Jewellery Focus a tour of his new London flagship store.
Opening just six months ago, the jeweller described the decision to set up a store in the UK’s capital as a mere “coincidence”. Selling a piece to a customer some years back, the idea of making London a permanent setting was only put into place after the customer’s son found property for Halimeh, saying, “I’ve got you a perfect location right next to Bulgari, just do it.”
The two-level store, which sits on the corner of Knightsbridge, stands out with its reinforced concrete walls which connect to the street outside making it virtually ram-proof, bullet-proof glass windows and custom-made steel curtains.The flagship, which took two years in the making, was made collaboratively with Halimeh and his architect. “I tried not to be involved but I micromanage. The architect did his work; I didn’t like it so I came a few months after.” Halimeh adds, “Then shop here below me was a sunglasses shop, then they went out of business so I took it. Then we did the planning again and redid the whole job one more time, so I was involved in everything.”
It is not only the architecture and structure that stands out about the store, as a rhino statue stands atop the entrance, greeting any visitors. “Originally, they wanted to put a private garden or somewhere people could do shisha, but I don’t like smoking and we have the beautiful platform.” Wanting to preserve the identity of London as well as fuse it with Manhattan structure, Halimeh decided to commission the work of Italian artist Stephano Bombardieri to design the Rhino Sospeso sculpture.
The rhino has now become a part of the identity of Samer Halimeh NY, with the jeweller planning to launch a collection inspired by the animal later this year. The sculpture also represents the brand’s charitable initiatives, as each customer who visits the flagship is invited to donate to the WWF-SA Save the Rhino cause.
With the bottom level of the store home to a vault containing raw diamonds and exclusive pieces, the flagship is where Halimeh’s customers can come to peruse at his full range. This is important, as Halimeh prides himself as a “jewellery tailor” with 80% of his custom requesting bespoke pieces at relatively affordable prices.
Because of the jeweller’s low prices, customers will also come to him asking to have pieces recreated for a fraction of the price. “Nowadays people want value for their money, so they shop around [and] look, take pictures and say “We’ve seen this, what can you do for me?” and most of the time my price is half – people [also come] with heirlooms where the stones will be refashioned as new contemporary pieces.”
Halimeh is also to keep his prices low by cutting out the middleman, as he outsources his diamonds from ethical mines which then get approved by the Kimberley Process, which is then cut in his New York office before being transported to London.
Building his brand over the last 18 years, Halimeh has acquired an extensive and impressive client list, including Oprah Winfrey, Elton John and Middle Eastern royalty. His internationality also requires him to mostly trade in dollars, despite being situated in the UK. However, the jeweller hopes that with his London store, he can begin to develop close relationships with new clients saying, “I like personality, and I try to know my clients as much as I can and for them to know me.
“Your jeweller is like your dentist, you get used to them, you trust them and I want friendly and long term relationships. I don’t care if it is a million dollar client or $5000 client I will treat them the same.”
Taking things slow, Halimeh has no immediate plans to expand but would like to set up three more retail stores in the future. “For now we just want to build a solid foundation before we think of other locations.”