Davidoff has enjoyed considerable success since it was founded. How do you maintain its strong tradition and yet move forward at the same time?
Like a good cigar, it’s all about balance. Our customers have faith in our products and they are attached to us on an emotional level. The fact that we have been around for a long time, that we have continuity, makes us who we are. Yet we must also change to maintain our relevance. We do not want to be just about nostalgia. We seek to be an integral part of people’s memorable moments. We want to be wherever people are spending time together on meaningful occasions, connecting with each other – spending time beautifully. One of the important steps we have taken to add a forward-looking dimension to Davidoff is to engage with contemporary art. Nothing expresses the spirit of our moment more perfectly than art. It captures our identity, diversity, creativity and even our entrepreneurial spirit.
What is special about your new global store concept?
Our mission is to delight and surprise our consumers by delivering unique brands and unrivalled retail experiences. The new global store concept, Davidoff of Geneva – since 1911, marks an ambitious new direction for us, offering a complete experience from the expertise of the craft to the enjoyment of the product – following our philosophy of ‘Time Beautifully Filled’. The exclusive settings are by themselves a seductive invitation to an intoxicating journey from crop to shop: refined woods and natural materials in earthy tones evoke the colour of the cigar and create a warm contemporary environment, sprinkled with touches of copper for a hushed, elegant atmosphere.
Two Davidoff flagship stores were opened in Malaysia in 2014. What new developments can we expect this year?
It is very important how we can make the brand come to life at points of sale and I am very happy that the flagship stores in Kuala Lumpur allow us to better showcase what we do. There are three key areas in which we want to succeed. Firstly, we want to be the innovation leader in our category, with a strong pipeline of new ideas and products. Secondly, it is about being an indispensable business partner for the companies that we work with. Finally, we want to succeed from a branding viewpoint. Davidoff should seen as a brand that carries the hallmarks of quality and consistency. We have many exciting projects in the pipeline and we believe that the expansion of retail stores in the future will incorporate prime and sophisticated lounges that offer a better and more exclusive cigar enjoyment experience for our privileged customers.
What’s the biggest challenge the brand faces right now?
The cigar industry is in a very challenging regulatory environment, but Davidoff’s existence in a growing anti-smoking environment is facilitated by the fact that its premium products are positioned in the luxury segment. This segment behaves anti-cyclically in times of crisis and is currently showing an increase in demand. An elegant cigar is a pleasure and pleasure cannot be prohibited.
Tell us more about the Davidoff Art Initiative.
In 2012, we became a global associate partner of Art Basel, the world’s leading art fair for contemporary and modern art, which is also based in our hometown. In tandem with that, we launched the Davidoff Art Initiative, which aims to make a contribution to the cultural community of the Dominican Republic, where much of our production and many of our employees are based. We want to bring opportunity and visibility to the art and culture of the Caribbean region and extend our commitment to artistry, craftsmanship, community and quality. The first Limited Art Edition cigar boxes were launched during Art Basel Hong Kong in May 2014. Featuring commissioned work by the acclaimed Caribbean artist, Quisqueya Henríquez, two cases were produced and stocked with custom-made cigars blended exclusively for the edition. Also, the artist created a limited Collectors Edition, which includes one of the special edition cases as well as an original artist’s print from the series developed for the project. Part of the sales generated by the Limited Art Editions is dedicated to supporting the Davidoff Art Initiative.
Where do you see this project in five years?
This month, the Davidoff Art Initiative will come to full life with the inauguration of the Davidoff Art Residency. A collaboration with the Altos de Chavón School of Design, the residency will host the first five international artists in La Romana in the Dominican Republic. They will work in new, custom-built artist studios. Nominated by a global network of art professionals, these artists represent a diverse range of artistic practices and backgrounds. They are deeply interested in engaging with the social and cultural fabric of the Dominican Republic. Every year, the Davidoff Art Initiative will give a total of 10 upcoming artists the possibility of participating in this approximately three-month long residency.
In conjunction with our engagement with Art Basel, we will continue exploring new and innovative ways of collaborating with the arts. We want to continue contributing directly to contemporary art and specifically the often-overlooked art scene of the Caribbean, particularly the Dominican Republic, where we have deep roots. We are working toward these goals by strengthening our four global programmes – the residency, art dialogues and grants, and the Limited Art Editions.