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Devotees of the storied, 253-year-old French brand Baccarat might have been surprised at the sight of Jim Shreve, the former fashion exec behind companies such as Diesel and Façonnable, who last year stepped into the role of president of Baccarat’s American business. The blunt-speaking native Californian, 53, is decked out in tattoos and is often seen in sequined Saint Laurent high-tops and highlighted hair. But he’s just what the company was looking for: someone to make the case for crystal in the age of dishwasher-safe elegance. Barely 18 months on the job, the optimistic exec sat down with us to explain just how he’s doing that.
How do you carry crystal into the 21st century?
You convince them they need something they didn’t realize they needed. For example, we didn’t know we needed an iPod. I’d heard our customer didn’t want sets, but we moved to sets anyway. The most successful piece in the history between Neiman Marcus and Baccarat was a set we did of six flutes called the Bubble Box.
Why should Americans want crystal, let alone need it?
I’m learning that Americans still entertain. I think in New York, San Francisco, and other big cities, entertaining can be more difficult, because we don’t have the space. Restaurants are loud. They’re expensive. We can’t control what we eat or drink. Our kids might be uncomfortable. But I’m seeing a trend of moving back home. And more outdoors than anything.
Where can people find it?
We have great new partners, such as Martin Patrick 3 in Minneapolis, probably the greatest men’s clothing store in the world. There’s a barbershop in it and furniture in the back. We’re also in Forty Five Ten in Dallas; Vaudeville in Fredericksburg, Texas; and Frederick Lynn Haberdasshere in Chicago.
That's a lot of fashion.
I find ironies, hypocrisies, and humor as I move from apparel to home. Why do I have 50 pairs of jeans when I have one set of wineglasses? The thought of how we are dressing has changed, but in the home we’re not paying attention.
And in your own home?
I throw formal dinner parties—not formal meaning suit-and-tie, but in that we all sit down together and I cook everything. Even when I’m in pajamas I drink OJ in a Baccarat. 7Up? I pour it in a Harcourt Darkside, my favorite drinking glass.
You're not worried about dropping one?
We need to break down this stigma that it’s fancy. You spend $100,000 on a car and don’t leave it in the garage. How many people do we know who have chipped iPhones? It’s $700 to replace one, but we still use them.