Audrey Hepburn will always be one of my favorite actresses. Her grace, beauty, and acting – especially her comedic roles – combined for an enchanting big-screen presence. I’ve only seen a handful of her movies but it didn’t take many to fall in love with Audrey’s delightful characters. Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady (which premiered shortly after I was born). Sabrina Fairchild in Sabrina. Hap in Always (her final film). And perhaps my favorite role, the quirky Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
In the opening scene of Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Holly gazes into the New York City Fifth Avenue store window and famously observes, “Nothing very bad could happen to you there.” Holly’s probably right, but that’s not to say something very bad couldn’t happen to Tiffany’s itself. Sales and profits are down significantly over the last two years. Cartier and David Yurman steal market share from the ultra-wealthy. As detailed in a recent Wall Street Journal article, Tiffany & Company is resorting to pedestrian strategies to restore its cachet. And those strategies are so not Tiffany’s.
The first sign of Tiffany’s troubles might have surfaced last February, when the company debuted its first-ever Super Bowl ad. I’m not sure what tarnished the Tiffany’s image more: a television commercial stuffed between plugs for beer and tortilla chips, or Lady Gaga as its newest sponsor. Apparently, that’s an appeal to the Millennial generation (as if young people shop at Tiffany). No offense, but Ms. Gaga is no Audrey Hepburn, as Zales is no Tiffany. There’s a bit of a stain on the robin’s-egg blue.
The one and only time I visited Tiffany’s New York City location was two years ago with my family. Despite our touristy dress we were greeted warmly by the security guard as we passed through the grand polished brass-and-glass doors. Once inside, after a nervous glance at the showcases of diamonds (as if we could afford anything whatsoever), we were politely redirected to the fifth floor to “more affordable offerings”. I took no offense, as I was only hoping my daughter could snag one of the famous blue boxes as a souvenir. Turns out she purchased a Tiffany’s gold ring for several hundred dollars while my wife and I settled for a set of Tiffany’s ceramic mugs.
As satisfied as we were with our purchases, I have to admit gold rings and ceramic mugs removed a bit of the Tiffany prestige. I more associate Tiffany’s with priceless diamonds and silver – befitting royalty. In fact, that’s where Tiffany’s got its start: almost two hundred years ago as a purveyor to the Russian imperial family. Tiffany’s also brings to mind its trademark advertisement, showcasing a single piece of jewelry against the silhouette of a couple embracing – a refined, iconic portrait of elegance. Audrey Hepburn, not Lady Gaga.
Today you can purchase Tiffany ceramics, as well as Tiffany leather goods, paper products, watches, fragrances, and even a limited-edition cell phone. You can find over 300 Tiffany shops in 22 countries around the world. I thought Tiffany was more of the “Rome-Paris-London-New York City” kind of retailer, complete with stern, immobile security guard at each front door.
Admittedly, some of my first associations with “Tiffany” were far removed from diamonds and gemstones. Tiffany Darwish was a flash-in-the-pan American singer in my late teens (her only real hit: a retread of Tommy James and the Shondells’ I Think We’re Alone Now). I developed an affection for Tiffany lamps – the stained leaded-glass variety – when I studied the Craftsman style of architecture in college. And it’s hard to get the lyrics to Big Blue Something’s singular hit out of my head; especially the lines: “And I said, ‘What about Breakfast at Tiffany’s?’ She said, ‘I think I remember the film.’ And as I recall, I think we both kinda liked it.”
Tiffany & Co. recently ousted its Chief Executive in search of a new one, with hopes of improving both sales and image. To the new leader in search of new answers, I say look back to the Golden Age of Hollywood for guidance, when the Tiffany blue was truly iconic. As Holly Golightly would say, nothing very bad will ever happen to you there.
Some content sourced from Wikipedia, “the free encyclopedia”.