Q&A: Mikkel and Mads Kornerup, Shamballa Jewels

Mikkel Kornerup, chief executive officer (left) and Mads Kornerup, creative director (right).

In a Professional Jeweller exclusive, Mikkel and Mads Kornerup, the brothers behind global jewellery phenomenon Shamballa Jewels, discuss product development, balancing spirituality with business growth and their retail plans — each giving their own personal insight into the business.

PROFESSIONAL JEWELLER: THINKING BACK OVER THE PAST FEW YEARS, HOW HAS SHAMBALLA JEWELS DEVELOPED AS A GLOBAL BRAND?

Mikkel Kornerup: For a young brand, we have a global presence in over 30 countries. In 2013, we doubled our points of sale in existing markets. We are now focusing on consolidating existing markets.

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Mads Kornerup: The Shamballa bracelet design is one of the most easily recognisable styles today. Whether at a beach in Ibiza, the catwalks of Paris or the Himalayas, many people know what a Shamballa bracelet is. For me that signifies our rise as a true global brand. The word Shamballa is a mantra of wisdom and compassion and I look forward to hearing this mantra in all nooks of the world.

PROFESSIONAL JEWELLER: WHICH LAUNCHES HAVE BEEN MOST IMPORTANT FOR THE BRAND OVER THE PAST YEAR?

Mikkel: Our three new bracelets, the Korne Pavé, the Royal Bracelet and the Tennis bracelet. These differ from the Shamballa bracelet in design as they do not feature macramé braiding. All three designs have been received very well. It has proved to the industry that our capability extends beyond the Shamballa bracelet. The launches of our rings, pedants and earrings have been equally important to propel us forward as a full repertoire fine jewellery company.

Mads: For me it has been the Korne Pavé bracelet — it is a masculine piece with leather and customisable diamond shields. While I love designing for women as well, my passion is designing for men. The Korne Pavé is a handsomely crafted piece, which is quite heavy on the diamonds. It gives me a lot of satisfaction to see men wearing it. When we started [the business], men were still wary of wearing diamonds.

PROFESSIONAL JEWELLER: HOW DO YOU MAINTAIN THE GROWTH OF SHAMBALLA JEWELS WHILE KEEPING ITS ETHOS AND SPIRITUAL VALUES AT THE FOREFRONT?

Mikkel: Our spiritual values are a part of our commerce. We focus on honesty, quality, compassion and respect for our clients.

Mads: Spirituality is about offering the best you can; therefore I see no disconnect between commerce and spirituality. Design should have a purpose and a story to tell, and our jewellery carries forward the message of the Kingdom of Shamballa — of wisdom and compassion. Most of our clients can afford everything they want; what we offer them is something meaningful, a positive reminder. I continue my mission of creating meaningful jewellery.

PROFESSIONAL JEWELLER: SHAMBALLA JEWELS IS SEEKING TO EXPAND AS A FINE JEWELLERY LABEL WHILE MAINTAINING ITS POSITION AS A LEADING LUXURY BRACELET BRAND — HOW WILL YOUR DESIGNS DEVELOP IN THE COMING SEASONS?

Mikkel: We will be launching our new designs at Baselworld 2015. Our designs will continue to be customisable and offer something for everyone. Prices will begin at €3,000 and go up to €500,000 for our limited-edition pieces.

Mads: Apart from our new launches, my focus is also on our rare, limited-edition pieces. I am using larger carats of diamonds [and] more white and black diamonds. The aim is to go rarer, magical and very exclusive. We will be revealing our new designs at Baselworld 2015, so can’t share much here.

PROFESSIONAL JEWELLER: THE SHAMBALLA JEWELS BRAND IS EVER-CHANGING. DESCRIBE YOUR AVERAGE WORKING DAY…

Mikkel: My days are never the same. I ride my bike to the office — a good half-hour from where I live, north of Copenhagen. When we founded Shamballa Jewels, it was only me, Mads and one employee, so we were all involved in just about every aspect of the company — from changing the light bulbs to developing new designs and making strategic decisions.

Today, I have the overall view of the company’s business processes, so I am still involved in many areas of the company and work very closely with our chief operating officer on all strategic decisions. My main focus however is on production and development, where I constantly try to find new and better ways to produce our jewellery, so we can maintain the high quality and short delivery time. I work on developing our in-house systems; enterprise retail planning (ERP) systems, our customer relationship management (CRM) system and our ordering system, which I have built from the bottom. Once a week I practice yoga with the rest of the team.

Mads: When I am not travelling, my average working day begins with some yoga. If it is a Wednesday, we have yoga at our store with the entire crew. During the day, I am in the office finalising designs, approving products and creative material. I also work closely with our communications team to make sure that the true meanings of symbols in our designs are being communicated. Most of my design work takes place at home in the night, when I can translate the day’s inspirations into jewellery.

PROFESSIONAL JEWELLER: WHAT CAN WE EXPECT NEXT FROM SHAMBALLA JEWELS IN TERMS OF BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT?

Mikkel: We re-launched our boutique in Amsterdam in November 2014; it is now fully owned by us. We are also launching mono-brand stores with our retail partners, the first one opened in Zurich in partnership with La Serlas in November 2014.

Mads: Shamballa Jewels is a way of life; we exist in a universe that is distinct. We are working on more shop-in-shop set ups with all our retailers, so visitors can experience not just our product but the environment that inspires our designs. We are also scouting for locations in Paris and London for flagship stores.

PROFESSIONAL JEWELLER: THINKING BACK OVER THE YEARS, WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR PERSONAL HIGHLIGHT FOR SHAMBALLA JEWELS?

Mads Kornerup and Mikkel Kornerup: Baselworld allows us to offer people from all over the world, a full experience of our brand through our stand which we build with great care. It is a great B2B branding opportunity. We even install as 250kg stone lingam [a representation of the Hindu deity Shiva used for worship in temples], so visitors can get an experience of our Copenhagen flagship store. It has a great impact commercially; the fair sets the tone for the rest of the year. We launch our new designs there and confirm deals with new retailers. Almost the entire jewellery fraternity is gathered there, it is the best place to showcase our brand and designs.

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