By Rachel Strugatz
Crest & Co., a high-end and private clienteling service, is out to push the price boundaries of luxury goods online.
The company, founded by Nima Abbasi this year, offers its customers only exclusive, one-of-a-kind or limited-edition items and is testing the upper limits of what is typically seen in the world of e-commerce. Crestandco.com carries 40 brands and just more than 1,000 products, many of which Abbasi acquires from craftsmen and merchants favored by the royal families in the U.K., Sweden, Spain, Luxembourg, Austria, France, Japan and more.
Close to 80 percent of what’s for sale on the e-commerce destination is available exclusively at Crest & Co.
“It wasn’t about royalty per se,” Abbasi said. “We aren’t saying, ‘Buy this because the king of Sweden has one,’ but we realized [that] over the last hundreds of years when royalty bought product — whether silver, a candle or a bag — they went to the best manufacturer in the country.”
In practice, the site taps into what might be called “royal crowdsourcing.”
Abbasi was trained as a lawyer before venturing into business strategy consulting and starting social media agency WFG Media in 2007. Last year he sold the firm, which worked with clients such as Tom Ford, Reed Krakoff, Oscar de la Renta, Evian and Bentley.
The invitation-only site sells home decor items, fine jewelry, large and small leather goods, beauty and fragrance as well as gifts such as cuff links, barware and technology accessories. The site’s most expensive piece is a Marina B collar containing 61 carats of diamonds and 62 carats of emeralds set in white and yellow gold, which retails for well over $1 million. (The cost is listed at “price upon request.”)
Abbasi believes that fine jewelry has ample opportunity on the site and noted that it’s the “number-one or two investment for the superrich right now.” The site is selling a one-of-a-kind Suzanne Syz Lucy in the Sky ring fashioned from a 23.59-carat red spinel bordered in a “ribbon” of sky-blue Paraiba tourmalines and pavé diamonds for $310,000; Lydia Courteille’s fire opal, gold, tsavorite garnet, and orange and red sapphire necklace that retails for $246,180, and a Tiffany & Co. Jean Schlumberger diamond necklace selling for $160,000
There’s also a selection of more affordable gifts that include Kilian scents that range from $245 to $475, Vicente Gracia cuff links for $620 and a Puiforcat Champagne beaker at $910.
Abbasi planned to launch a one-on-one service in time for the holiday season, but the demand for private clienteling was so high that he’s rolled out the service months early.
“We’re working with a very well-known singer, whose assistant is working with us now to help them find 120 gifts for Christmas,” Abbasi said, declining to reveal the client. “That is where it becomes superinteresting. It’s not them going to Tiffany’s or Hermès and getting everyone the same thing. There’s a whole romancing around gifting which makes it more valuable.”
An interior designer approached the service last week on behalf of a client seeking a chess set, and Crest & Co. has already commissioned a master trunk maker in Paris to produce trunks that come with a built-in chess set.
Abbasi sees the main e-commerce site as a mainstay — but he predicts the volume driven by clienteling will become the majority of the business, though it will constitute fewer individuals spending significantly more money. The budget and investment going into purchasing 120 handpicked and largely hand-sourced gifts is higher than a click-to-buy purchase on crestandco.com.
Abbasi’s goal for the site — which raised seven figures from Belgian-based Christian Cigrang, the original backer of Raf Simons — was always to become an omnichannel destination. He intends to keep building the clienteling business, while developing showrooms where the clients can come to Crest & Co. by appointment.
“When I started this, I never believed that e-commerce was the only way to go,” Abbasi said. “You have to have the hybrid model — showcase and sell things online but also have physical traction with the customer. Bonobos or Warby Parker did the same thing — its not very different from that.”