Look at almost any list of the world’s most coveted luxury jewelry brands, and among the list including Van Cleef & Arpels, Cartier, Tiffany, Harry Winston, Bvlgari and others, you’ll find David Yurman.
After being founded by sculptor David and artist Sybil Yurman a mere 42 years ago, the David Yurman brand has worked its way up from local arts and crafts festivals to the pinnacle of the global fine jewelry market.
Now energized by second-generation leadership, under newly appointed president Evan Yurman – David and Sybil’s 40 year-old son – David Yurman has just opened its first flagship store in Paris. It’s located at 245 rue Saint-Honoré in Paris’ historic district and the city’s luxury hub around the Place Vendome.
The Paris flagship store expresses the evolution of the brand, spearheaded by Evan, who apprenticed with the company for 20 years. During that time, he guided development of its men’s jewelry business, which now represents more than 25% of total sales, and served as chief creative officer, a title he continues to hold.
“Paris is a place of inspiration. It’s where creative dialogues take place in poetry, art and culture,” Evan shared with me. “We are honored to bring our American sensibility of openness and inclusion to Paris, where luxury is more about exclusivity. We embody a consumer-centered philosophy which is what we’ve built the business one.”
Unlike so many of the big luxury jewelry brands, David Yurman is and remains a family business. Evan’s parents remain active in the company and serve as co-CEOs with David as lead designer and Sybil as chief brand officer.
In his expanded role, Evan is taking the lead to drive the company into its next phase of growth.
Poised for global growth
After opening its first retail store on NYC’s Madison Avenue in 1999, David Yurman now operates some 50 branded stores, until now all in North America, and is currently carried by nearly 300 wholesale accounts, including international retailers.
While the company’s financials remain private, Evan shared that by the end of 2022, the company is on track to double sales revenue over 2019, with brick-and-mortar retail complemented by a strong e-commerce presence, which will advance 150% over 2019 levels.
“Those early months of the pandemic in 2020 forced us to push deeper into the digital marketplace and it paid off, giving us a strong burst in business. We were able to gear up our factories when other brands were still waiting,” he said.
But this is only the beginning, as Evan sees tremendous potential for the brand as it steps onto the greater world stage.
“Over the next three years, we’re expecting to see strong accelerated growth. We’re at a jumping-off point for the business, having an extremely strong foundation and brand recognition in the U.S. market. And we see a lot of room to grow in the global market to reach our potential,” he continues.
Family-owned and operated
Evan grew up virtually over the shop. His school bus dropped him off at the original Madison Avenue store where he hung out with his parents and the company staff who became his extended family. After attending NYU for a couple of years, he decided to go full-time into the family business. He never worked anywhere else.
“My parents taught me what I needed to know. My father said, ‘If you have an idea, draw it, then make it, and then you have to sell it.’ So I went to the trade shows, created sales and marketing packages, learned sourcing and manufacturing, and all about gross margins and profitability,” he said.
“There is a delicate balance between being part of a family business and running a corporation. But in a small business, being family-run gives a competitive advantage,” he added.
When it comes to maintaining that corporate-family balance, the scales are going to tip toward family as reflected in the culture David and Sybil built and Evan will carry forward. He proudly points out the company has never taken funds from outside investors, having bootstrapped business every step of the way.
“I have visions and goals for the company, but I’m not going to be able to accomplish any of it without our people. I want to marry our people with our organization and our strategy. You can’t be a customer-centric business without being employee-centric too,” he shared.
To help Evan build the best-in-class people organization, Emily Yueh has just joined the company as chief of people and strategy. Yueh worked for over a decade at McKinsey, rising to partner and leading its executive training practice under McKinsey Academy.
“We want to be a destination employer to attract the kind of talent we will need to fulfill our vision and our mission,” Evan says, adding that the company will grow its current level of employees from 845 now to over 1,000 by the end of 2022.
Building a legacy luxury brand
“We are building a brand for longevity. That is our legacy. And legacy brands are built on trust and consistency,” he said. “A brand that has your name attached to it comes with a lot of responsibility. We have an artistic, design-led philosophy that’s more than just marketing and brand building. We offer customers real wearable art.”
Looking around David Yurman’s neighborhood on 57th Street and nearby Fifth Avenue, Evan observed the streets are filled with the world’s leaders in luxury.
“These brands are doing an amazing job in directing the luxury market and anything good for the luxury market is good for us. But most of these brands are owned by conglomerates. Very few are privately held. And we are the only privately held, American family business in the area.
“This is an amazing achievement to have built that kind of customer affection and loyalty to the David Yurman brand. Everything is from the family. It’s a true legacy that everyone in the company can be proud of,” he concluded.