Gannon Brousseau

Gannon Brousseau couture cropLike the word "couture" itself, the Couture Jewelry Show has come to represent high design and exquisite craftsmanship in the fine jewelry world. During the major jewelry market week in Las Vegas each year, Couture defines and aggregates exceptional talent from a curated pool of fine jewelry designers and watchmakers. The venue doesn't feel like a traditional trade show. Opening night events, awards ceremonies, and a general spirit of camaraderie add to sense of a complete jewelry ecosystem.  

If you have ever wondered what, or more specifically, WHO is behind the curtain, and what it takes to pull off the exclusive meeting of the minds that is the Couture show, you should get to know Gannon Brousseau. Director since 2012, Gannon and the Couture staff steward the show through Jewelry Market Week, one of the most important weeks of the year for emerging and established designers, and the retailers, press and buyers who want to discover them. Gannon and I met up at the AGTA Gemfair in Tucson, where we talked about brands, embracing social media, and what's next for Couture.

Welcome to Couture!

CJDG Editor Monica Stephenson:  Soooo…where do you come from?
Gannon Brousseau:  Originally I’m from Sacramento, but lived in LA for the past 15 years. My family has a retail clothing business in Sacramento, so I am no stranger to WWD. This is going to seem crazy to say, but I am fascinated by retail. It can be a grind, mind you, but I love it! Retail, at its most creative, can be the ultimate platform for providing a customer experience. I firmly believe that the better experience a store provides, the more successful it will be. 

CJDG:  And yet, you are not involved directly in retail right now. How did you get into the jewelry trade show business?
GB:  I was involved in the arts for a while, and between projects I applied for a job with gift market trade shows. These were shows for non-branded products at a price point. 

CJDG:  I can’t help but notice the juxtaposition of that kind of market with the Couture show, which is about the highest tier possible for a trade show.
GB:  Yes, I’ve gone from the Walmart of trade shows to the very opposite! Going to trade shows is my job, so I've been to many, many shows, and the Couture show is one of the finest I've been to. Though I will say, I never refer to Couture as a trade show; I always call it an event…because that’s what I believe it is.


 

CJDG:  The impression in the industry, talking to many people on all sides of the jewelry business, is that the Couture Show is carefully edited and THE place to exhibit if you are a fine jewelry or luxury watch designer.
GB:  We work very hard to maintain that edited feel. If a buyer comes to Couture, they are going to see the very highest level of craft in the field.

CJDG:  Is there a secret sauce to making that happen with so many different jewelry and watch designers?
GB:  I believe it is important to know who you are and what your voice is. We are not trying to be everything to everyone which I believe is what makes our show so special. We know who we are and we are not willing to compromise.


 

CJDG:  How many years has Couture been around?
GB:  We are in the 19th year. 2015 will be the 20th anniversary…

CJDG:  And how long have you been the director of the Couture show?
GB:  Two and a half years total: 2012 was my coming out party.

 

 

CJDG:  Do you feel like you have some leeway as the “new guy” at Emerald Expositions?
GB:  I’ve actually been with the company for eight years so the people at Emerald know me very well. As for the Couture community giving me some leeway, I would say no and I believe that is a good thing. At its very core, Couture is a community and a very passionate one. They love their show and have high expectations of everyone involved. I’m very lucky to be a part of the show and look forward to coming to work every day. Very rarely is one able to work with artists AND business leaders on a daily basis, so this show is a perfect fit for me.

CJDG:  Having worked in other industries, do you feel that is what makes the jewelry and watch industy unique?
GB:  Absolutely! It is remarkable that the show is essentially an artisan community. And it’s incredible that the vast majority of businesses are essentially “Mom and Pop” endeavors--even the larger companies. It’s what makes this industry unique and fascinating.


 

CJDG:  Speaking of this group, how many fine jewelry and watch designers are exhibiting this year at Couture?
GB:  We will be very close to having the same number as we did last year, so roughly 250 designers/brands. The magic of Couture is that it doesn’t get too large so we like to hover around that number.  

CJDG:  What is a common thread for those 250 members? 
GB:  Passion. The designers at Couture are all very passionate about their craft and all of them have a specific point of view. 

 

CJDG:  It seems to me anecdotally that in the past 1-2 years the Couture show has really taken off in terms of press and attendance. Do you have any data to support that?
GB:  Attendance is definitely up in the past two years. Designers are realizing the importance of becoming a brand, and consumers and collectors appear to be buying into that story. 

CJDG:  Couture seems to be everywhere in social media, is that a strategy for you?
GB:  Absolutely. I believe that all designers and brands should embrace social media or the world will pass them by. I feel that some forms of social media, particularly Instagram, are perfect for our industry. Instagram can do more than just communicate; it can educate the average consumer about your product. You can teach them how to wear your pieces and more importantly where to buy it. I believe social media has broken down barriers that used to exist between brand and consumer and have given an equal voice to everyone.   


 

CJDG:  I love the #CoutureTakeOvers @by_Couture
GB:  Thank you! We took a cue from the fashion industry on this one. I’ve long admired their industry and believe they’ve done a brilliant job of embracing social media and the consumer. I felt that our industry was trending behind and wanted to change that. I recognized that our industry was void of a collective voice so I’ve positioned Couture to be that unifying voice to showcase our incredible industry. But I am not Couture, the community is. The #CoutureTakeOvers have enabled us to highlight a different member of our community each month and live vicariously through them for two or three days. It’s been an incredibly rewarding concept. Be sure to follow us @by_couture!

CJDG:  Where do you see growth for the Couture show? 
GB:  We are always looking for new emerging talent in jewelry, but the true growth for Couture will come from an expanded timepiece platform. We would definitely love to work with more watch brands. 


 

CJDG:  Where do you see Couture in the next 2-3 years?
GB:  Evolving. Always evolving. I continue to be excited that the industry has entrusted me with this brand. The Couture team is constantly evaluating the process and how to add value to the community. 

CJDG:  Soooo...why is it always so cold in the ballrooms?  Why do I have to dress for the Artic in the middle of the desert?
GB:  I didn’t know that {laughs}! I’ll look into it…

CJDG:  Last thought...can you tell me something that people wouldn’t otherwise know about you?
GB:  I love art, and I admire people who take risks and create without worrying what people are going to say. Maybe that’s why I love Couture. It is inspiring to see the level of passion that people bring to their craft. 

Monica Stephenson, an Editor at CJDGjewelers.org, needs to clone herself before June to cover all the talent and beauty of the Couture show, and is the founder of idazzle.com, a jewelry blog that explores the jewelry industry from an insider's perspective. 


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