Having launched her Sophie D’Agon jewelry brand five years ago, Sophie Lepourry tells us about the digital strategy that led to her success and the opening of her first Parisian boutique.
Sandrine Merle. You have just opened your first physical boutique selling your affordable, delicate jewelry, paved with colored micro-stones. Was this essential for a digital native brand that has reached a million-euro turnover in 5 years?
Sophie Lepourry. I developed a well thought out and structured digital strategy was, which has been essential in the launch and development of the brand. Online sales now account for 90% of my turnover (double that of last year). But the physical point of sale is essential to reassure customers.
S.-M. How decisive was your experience at Prada and then at Saint Laurent (with Tom Ford and then Hedi Slimane)?
Sophie Lepourry. At Prada, I was in charge of buying bags and accessories for France and the UK; at Saint Laurent, I coordinated the buying offices in Paris, New York, Tokyo and Shanghai. These two jobs provided me with a cross-cutting skillset, ranging from purchasing to merchandising and communication. At Saint Laurent, I discovered the power of digital from the 2000s onwards by working with Net-à-Porter, a pioneering site in the sale of luxury fashion items: buyers were inspired by our boutique selections, and very quickly, we were inspired by theirs, because they were buying more and more increasingly expensive pieces. I realized that price was no longer an issue…
S.-M. What happened next?
Sophie Lepourry. After those stable and well-paid jobs, it was a big leap into the unknown… And the (little) time I had spent working on Saint Laurent jewelry was directly proportional to its share of the company’s turnover! So I did everything I could to reassure myself! My approach was first and foremost business-based: market and price research, business creation workshops, meetings with actors in the jewelry industry, etc. Prior to that, the development of my Instagram audience was essential: with 10K followers, I was able to test the enthusiasm of reactions to the first models and the style in general. Without positive feedback, I probably wouldn’t have started! I remember it like it was yesterday, I was in India – it was all very exciting…
S.-M. How did you finance the beginning of your jewelry venture?
Sophie Lepourry. Firstly, thanks to my savings and love money. I raised a second, more substantial round of funds in which many former colleagues from Saint Laurent took part. I was very touched by this… Today I’m looking to raise another million euros. I’m also recruiting a business developer: I need more time for creation and communication. Two heads are better than one!
S.-M. How is digital an asset?
Sophie Lepourry. In the absence of middlemen (retailers), I was able to keep margins to a minimum and achieve the affordable price positioning I was so keen on – you can easily buy a Sophie D’Agon jewel just because you feel like it, without waiting for a special occasion. A ring costs an average of 1,000 euros. Digital technology also allows me to monitor my sales in real time, to analyse them and to quickly adjust my actions. That said, the Made in Portugal concept also contributes to this price positioning: in France, the setting of a single micro-stone costs 6 euros (without the gold and the stone)! Imagine the cost of a ring like Yellow Stone, my best-seller.
S.-M. Finally, what do you think of the recent statement by Finance Minister Bruno Lemaire: “We could manage very well without Facebook”?
Sophie Lepourry. Mark Zuckerberg’s social networks are extraordinary tools, without them Sophie D’Agon would probably not exist. If he removed them in Europe, it would be terrible, but they would quickly be replaced. There are already effective alternatives like Google Ads or Google Shopping. Meanwhile, Pinterest and LinkedIn also offer prospecting and acquisition policies. Many brands are now using TikTok! So for digital native brands, there’s no cause for panic.