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  • Jewellery - Colour world tour
  • Inspiring People - Sophie Helsmoortel, founder of CCS and president of BEL
  • Downtown Brussels - Why eat at Yi Chan?
  • Watches - Interview with Jean-Marc Pontroué, new CEO of Panerai
  • De Greef Story - Shooting our Jewellery catalogue 2019
  • Jewellery - The diamond, a unique gemstone that deserves our commitment

Issue #4

Sophie Helsmoortel, founder of CCS and president of BEL

Serge Anton | by (c) Serge Anton

A interview with Sophie Helsmoortel, founder of concept store Cachemire Coton Soie and new president of Brussels Exclusive Labels.

Are you cashmere, cotton or silk?
Probably all three in one day, but at different moments! I can be cashmere for its softness, silk for its seductiveness but also very natural and simple, straightforward like cotton. 

After 10 years on the board of directors of BEL, you have now been elected president. What would you like to contribute to this institution?
I founded CCS 18 years ago but was especially involved in the commercial side of the business. I can bring my pragmatic, commercial approach to this association of fine Brussels Houses. I am also very perseverant, which probably has to do with my training as a dancer. BEL is 80, a respectable lady who could do with a little push. I hope I can live up to the challenge!

To me, luxury is being able to make choices, sacrifices sometimes... but most of all to be free!

— Sophie Helsmoortel

What do the 80 members have in common?
It is a mix of very different Houses that have all managed to retain their soul and craftsmanship, in spite of the current international climate that puts so much pressure on brands of this standard. We aim to cherish and develop our traditions, perfection and expertise... without eschewing the technological evolution in our business. We are very attached to our values: quality, passion, knowledge, elegance and respect.

Do they represent 'belgitude'?
Absolutely! We like to accentuate the differences between Brussels and other capitals: our Houses are family businesses, led by independent people with a real passion for their brand. We also want to work closely together with our workshops and we like to pass on our knowledge: the new generation of craftsmen have been trained in-house. 

What innovations do you want to introduce in BEL?
We have a number of projects, especially concerning image and communication. At the BEL Experience Days that took place on December 15 and 16 people were able to take a look behind the scenes of some 40 Houses; in the coming months, we want to open up to people, create a direct connection. For the same purpose, we will develop our presence in the digital world, especially on social media, to come closer to our clients. We have also developed a new logo, which will adorn the windows of member Houses, as a kind of quality label.

Why eat at Yi Chan?

Jaa | by (c) Slurp co

To change your idea of Asian restaurants

A high quality Asian eatery in the Saint-Géry area? It seems hard to believe, seeing the many tourist traps in the neighbourhood. Since 2016, Yi Chan has been sailing its own course, serving a cuisine that navigates between traditional and modern. They offer classic dishes from various countries (Peking duck, dim sun, Japanese gyoza...) but also more modern surprises, such as the use of aged beef in certain recipes (the Pho comes highly recommended!). The meat comes from Hendrik Dierendonck, star of Belgian butchers!

Ja | by (c) Slurp co
(c) Slurp co

To meet the bartender of the moment

Yen Pham, owner of the restaurant, is also an exceptional bartender, probably the trendiest French-speaking bartender of the moment. He is highly regarded in the professional cocktail world, has won many competitions and has even reached the finals of the Diageo World Class Benelux, held in Amsterdam in the spring. He sees his cocktails as the combined result of extensive research into unusual ingredients, precise techniques (he uses the latest instruments, such as ultrasound) and emotions. He often uses a touch of Asian flavour as an ode to his origins. Our tip: try the Penicilline cocktail with a Pho with aged beef.

Yi Chan, 13 rue Van Praet, 1000 Brussels, 02 502 87 66 (reservation recommended).

Interview with Jean-Marc Pontroué, new CEO of Panerai

(c) Panerai | by (c) Panerai

The SIHH 2019 took place recently. What did you pack in your suitcase?
Italian suits, flippers to go diving with Guillaume Néry (world record holder free diving, ed.) and my trainers, of course: I never travel without my running shoes.

And on your wrist?
One of the 20 new Submersible watches that I will introduce at the fair. This is a highly technical man’s watch with movement made in our own factory, produced in new materials. It encompasses the spirit of Panerai, inspired by the Laboratorio di Idee. 2019 will be the year of the Submersible! We will also give our clients new experiences to allow them to discover the spirit of the brand, its values and performance…

What excites you most about the SIHH? The inspiration and creativity, or the business side?
The creativity, because a brand only exists through its ability to be different and to create a contemporary story that attracts clients to Panerai.

You run a lot. But what do you chase?
New challenges. Running is a great way to discover a town early in the morning, to live according to the local rhythm and gauge the needs and cultural habits of a market. Our clients are the reason we exist, we want to seduce them, involve them in our story.

What does time mean to you?
There is a proverb I like: “Take time as it comes, people for what they are and money for what it’s worth.” We can all do with that what we want.

What did Jean-Marc Pontroué dream of as a child? Was he already fascinated by the world of luxury?
I have always worn a watch, but I had no passion for them. I think I really discovered the world of watches when I started at Richemont, even though for a long time, my opinion and critical sense were mainly aesthetic. You can sharpen your critical sense through curiosity and by learning every day.

Our clients are the reason we exist, we want to seduce them and involve them in our story...

— Jean-Marc Pontroué

You joined the Richemont group almost 20 years ago. Is that sort of loyalty important?
These days, people switch from one thing to another, but I feel it’s essential to engage in long-term projects - and especially to stay with a company for a long time, in order to understand it and absorb its culture. It is essential for me to be able to work with a team and to take the time to understand the markets and their different cultures. I have always led companies as if they were my own. I now have a certain amount of experience, but I have also been allowed to learn from my mistakes, and in that sense, Richemont has been a wonderful education.

How do you see Panerai in 10 years from now?
We will showcase the iconic Panerai pieces more and more, and ensure our aesthetic continuity. A brand touches the collective imagination and installs itself for the long haul. In that sense, this is only the beginning of our adventure. We will also continue our innovative research in our ‘Laboratorio’ in Neuchâtel and we will offer our clients more and more experiences, to make sure Panerai remains one of the great mythical brands of the 21st century.

Panerai has inspired a group of people who are passionate about the brand, the Paneristi. Who are they?Panerai is followed by a large, cosmopolitan group of people who are passionate about our brand and our organisation. They have a strong sense of belonging that we need to nurture and continue to enrich. Panerai is first of all the incarnation of a distinctive Italian-ness that creates a strong interest and a feeling of belonging... I will keep in close touch with the community of Paneristi, because they have an incredible knowledge of our history and our brand. 

Discover our Panerai collection.
More about Panerai.
Everything about the SIHH.
Photos: © Panerai.

The diamond, a unique gemstone that deserves our commitment

Assymetrical White Golden Earrings Set With Diamonds

Because diamonds are forever, we don’t choose just any stone for you: before they reach the workshop of our designer Arnaud Wittmann to be made into jewellery, the diamonds have had to pass various selection processes. 

Origin control

Like all quality jewellers, Maison De Greef does not buy gemstones from war zones. Since the beginning of the 2000s, their origin has been guaranteed by an international GIA certificate.  

International certificates

The two independent expertise agencies we work with issue HRD or GIA certificates that guarantee the quality of the stones. We recommend that you never buy a diamond without a certificate.

The 4 Cs, or classification criteria

Carat stands for the weight and diameter of the diamond. Maison De Greef has a great selection, from small brilliant-cut stones to 1 carat or even 1.2 carat stones, often ‘emerald’ cut.

is about the purity of the diamond, with some 10 classifications, depending on whether the stone contains occlusions, and the size and location of those occlusions. Maison De Greef never goes beneath the fifth category (called ‘VS2’) in order to ensure an aesthetic that is as pure as possible.

Colour: Arnaud Wittmann is very demanding in his selection, and the diamonds he chooses are always from the first four colour categories: the whitest ones. Any lower and a yellowish tinge can become visible, for instance if the stone is set in white gold.

Cut is very important in a diamond. The cut determines the sparkle of the stone. There are several cuts: ‘Princess’ or ‘Brilliant’ for a solitaire for example (these give the greatest sparkle) or ‘Emerald’, which creates less sparkle but adds a more modern touch to a piece of jewellery.

Maison De Greef Magazine
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