Ring it up
Pandora embarks on a shiny new adventure. Laura deCarufel goes along for the ride
Jewellery has a new spirit. Women aren’t sitting around waiting for a box to be pulled from behind a suited back—they’re going out and buying the pieces they want for themselves. No one understands this liberation better than Pandora, which was founded in Copenhagen in 1982 and is now a multi-billion-dollar mega brand built on jewellery that costs less than $100 apiece. It didn’t reach that level of success by sitting still. Typical of the brand’s continual innovation, this spring, Pandora doubled down on its sustainability focus and opened a next-gen eco-friendly production facility in Chiang Mai, Thailand— a massive curved structure that reuses 45 per cent of its water and from the air resembles the brand’s iconic charm bracelet.
On an arid March day, journalists from around the world gathered to meet the makers who craft the charms, rings and earrings sold in more than 60 countries. Before arriving, we were given instructions to cover our shoulders and wear closed-toe shoes to pay respect to the recently deceased Thai king. That kind of cultural sensitivity is typical of Pandora: A spirit house was the first building erected on the new grounds; it was blessed by monks, as were all the employees. “We want our people to feel empowered,” explains Claus Teilmann Petersen, Pandora’s vice-president of ethics. “In return we get a very engaged and productive staff.” The average employee tenure? 25 years.
Inside, the facility looks like a modernist gymnasium with spotless concrete floors. Employees in maroon uniforms, some with sleeves of tattoos, bend over their work, casting or polishing. The charm bracelet is the foundation of Pandora’s success, but the recent collections are trending in a bolder, more adventurous direction—think ear cuffs and delicate rings meant to be worn across multiple fingers.
“I see a big change coming,” says Stephen Fairchild, senior vice-president and chief creative officer, of the way that women approach jewellery. “I find it interesting that a lot of women are tattooing themselves— it’s a form of wearing jewellery, a fresh kind of adornment.” For Fairchild, what makes Pandora so special is the hand- crafting element. “I call it imperfection perfection— the pieces look similar, but if you really look at them, each one is unique. I love that.” He picks up a ring and rolls it in his fingers. “A hand is not a robot.”
“We want our people to feel empowered.” — CLAUS TEILMANN PETERSEN, VICE- PRESIDENT OF ETHICS
RINGS, FROM $75 TO $110, PANDORA.NET
Clockwise from top: the Dhara Dhevi hotel, our HQ during the Pandora trip; Stephen Fairchild; model Mamé Adjei, a star of Pandora’s spring campaign; a garden at the Dhara Dhevi; the Chiang Mai production facility.