Into the Blue: Frederic Cumenal, CEO, Tiffany & Co.

Into the Blue: Frederic Cumenal, CEO, Tiffany & Co.

Into the Blue: Frederic Cumenal, CEO, Tiffany & Co.

Photo by Martin Cook

When he’s not traveling officially as the CEO of America’s iconic jewelry design house, the France-born New Yorker throws his itinerary out the window in favor of the spontaneous and the unplanned. Read on for the places and pastimes that inspire Cumenal on his adventures abroad.

Let’s play spin the globe—name the one place you’ve always wanted to go.

There are so many interesting places that I would love to visit. If I could go back in time, I’d like to re-discover Florence and Venice. I am fascinated by the Renaissance age. As a great admirer of fine art, I often wish I could’ve experienced Italy during this incredible period.

What’s your spirit city? (Where do you want to return to over and over?)

I love New York because it is the city of the world. On the weekend, I often walk from neighborhood to neighborhood, hearing different languages, observing the architecture from different periods, and enjoying the city’s energy. It’s an incredible place to live and work.

Do you have a travel ritual?

Whenever possible, I try to get out for some sun and fresh air. Like most business travelers, I spend most of my time in airplanes, conference rooms, and of course in our facilities and stores, but you can’t really experience a new place from indoors, so I try to make time for a walk in each city.

Do you maintain any routines from home while traveling or does it all go out the window?

I’m a very active person so maintaining some kind of exercise is key. And of course life is about balance, so I combine this with an exploration of local drinks (red wines when possible!) and local cuisine.

Sorry, you only get to eat one regional cuisine for the rest of your life. What is it?

As a Frenchman, I’m ashamed to confess I would choose the delicacy and finesse of Japanese cuisine.

What one piece of advice would you give to someone traveling abroad for the first time?

Go local! Immerse yourself in the local culture and experience the unique traditions, even if only for one meal, a neighborhood walk or simply an espresso, or glass of wine with a native of the area.

If Cumenal could travel back in time, he would visit Renaissance-era Florence.

If Cumenal could travel back in time, he would visit Renaissance-era Florence.

Describe your travel personality in three words.

Curious, experiential, and passionate.

Are your trips very planned, or very spontaneous?

Both. My business trips are very planned, down to the minute. My personal trips are the opposite, so I try to keep them as spontaneous as possible. While my work travel tends to be arranged up to a year in advance with a packed agenda, my personal travels are at a relative whim—depending on when I’m able to get away—and almost always unstructured.

What’s the one travel souvenir you’d save in a fire?

Memories and experiences are what I cherish the most. With Tiffany’s presence in more than 25 countries, I meet with so many different employees and clients around the world. The interactions I have and impressions I’m left with are what I try to hold onto.

What book/movie most inspired you to travel?

On the Road by Jack Kerouac. It’s certainly a classic: no other novel as beautifully captures the wanderlust, jazz, and poetry that is so uniquely American.

Who’s your ideal travel partner?

My Tiffany watch, which I set to the time of my destination immediately after boarding the plane. In this era of tech innovation—when so many of us expect our wrist to track fitness, receive email, and play music at the same time—a purely mechanical timepiece, powered by movement and inspired by FDR’s watch, reminds me that time is the ultimate luxury.

Which travel experience do you prefer: plugged in or unplugged?

I’m online so much that I prefer to completely unplug whenever possible. It’s so important to remove ourselves from the constant tug of our iPhones, email, even social media. In this hyper-connected world, taking the time to unplug is critical.

Cumenal was born in France, but his spiritual home is New York City.

Cumenal was born in France, but his spiritual home is New York City.

What’s a custom from another culture that you’d love to implement in your life back home?

I wish that rugby culture would catch on more in the U.S.! Rugby is a lifelong passion of mine. I’ve been to known to end a meeting early if a rugby match is starting.

What’s the first thing you seek out in a new place?

I always learn how to say hello and thank you in the local language. Even learning these simple phrases I believe is a positive gesture of good faith, both in business and personally. I did my best to put this into practice on a recent two-week trip to Japan.

What’s the one thing you indulge in on a trip that you don’t at home?

I like to pass the time on planes by donning my best pair of noise-canceling headphones and catching up on all the movies I never have time to see on the ground.

What’s your first travel memory?

Driving in a back seat of a car with my parents on a summer day in Spain. I was probably three or four years old. Keeping my eyes forward on the old winding roads, watching as my father drove and my mother navigated.

Jennifer Flowers is an award-winning journalist and the senior deputy editor of AFAR.
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