The allure of Louis Vuitton’s new high jewelry collection
Some say it’s a vibe, others a stirring of the soul – but a creation steeped in dreams and invested with thousands of hours of craftsmanship can certainly induce an otherworldly feeling. Typically with fine jewelry – the prestigious side of “couture” which for centuries has served royalty, society and haute couture, and where a piece can cost between tens of thousands and millions – the mind turns towards opulent settings and formal dress codes.
But that’s not the case with Spirit, Louis Vuitton’s new ode to strength, freedom and destiny. The new collection, which is all about “what’s on the inside and what’s on the outside,” covering mythical spirit animals and a kind of modern makeover, triggers a powerful urge to burst; venture beyond; swinging cheekily carrying it somewhere completely unexpected, maybe even just dancing around the kitchen.
Escape is exactly what the house did just ten years ago, channeling its famous sense of adventure into new territory with a fine jewelry workshop and gemstone buying department in Paris, and becoming the first comer in a rarefied and long-established field dominated by names such as Bulgari, Cartier and Chaumet. It would have been easy to follow a well-worn path, but the house has defined its own compass – and although it is still early days, the strategy of subversive craftsmanship has crystallized beautifully in the ambitious and sometimes daring collection of 150 parts of this year. .
It’s an attitude that informs aesthetics, says Francesca Amfitheatrof, the house’s graceful and energetic artistic director of watches and jewelry, who is four years and four collections into her tenure. The artist-trained designer, whose early work was exhibited at London’s White Cube gallery, was Tiffany’s first female design director from 2013 to 2017, before her appointment at Louis Vuitton in 2018. houses and brands that have been doing this for hundreds of years, and we come in, you know, all excited. . . We know we’re the babies of the fine jewelry world, and you can’t just jump in with the finances and the demand to change the landscape – it takes time. But because we don’t have those hundreds of years of history, we have the freedom to be bold. We don’t have to worry about upsetting preconceptions: we can walk out the door with no weight on our shoulders.
The designer, who feasts on pieces from the finished collection in her office on the edge of the Pont Neuf, couldn’t be clearer about her mission: “Amazing, beautiful things have been done in the past – but it’s no use , for me to reproduce them now. Everything we do should have a point of difference from what has gone before.
Graphic, personality-driven design and left-field inspirations aside, a twisting pattern of fine jewelry standards is emerging: sourcing important rubies from Africa instead of Myanmar; and load several important colored stones, which could have made up several jewels, into stunning unique pieces. “I was convinced there should be only one of these treasures – as unique and individual as the person wearing it,” she says of these pieces. “It’s hard to say to the powerful: ‘It’s sold, we’ll have to wait until next year’, but it’s a choice we made”. There are also contemporary two-finger rings, chain earrings and playful riffs on the classic high jewelry stable – think cuff bracelets that look like a shirt popping, complete with a monogrammed starcut diamond. LV made to measure “cufflink”.
While Amfitheatrof says Louis Vuitton is still a “young” player in the jewelry category, the house is not shy about its intentions: certainly, the ears of industry veterans perked up when, at the end of 2019 , she paid an undisclosed sum for the 1,758-carat Sewelo. diamond, found in Botswana, the largest stone mined since the Cullinan Diamond in 1905. While the stone had inclusions that would dictate how it was cut, the house is also not shy about innovating in this area, despite the complexities – indeed it already has two patented cuts around the emblematic flowers of the monogram.
The new collection, sometimes fantastic and often complex – “We make difficult pieces, and I sometimes drive our workshops crazy, especially about the custom-cut stones, which are so expensive and difficult to make”, says Amfitheatrof – is accessible and brilliantly portable. “Yes, they might have an 8.7 carat flawless diamond, but a lot of these pieces you can wear all the time if you want to. They should be worn as much as possible, especially now. That way of thinking has parallels with other houses including Boucheron: its management under Claire Choisne sees a modernity and a lightness of heart in high jewelry that makes the pieces more wearable.
Many of the new pieces incorporate alternating elements of yellow and white gold to “soften” the luster of the white, and there are beautiful but low-set rings with tsavorites, rubies or sapphires. Even the convertible pieces – one of the most lavish traditions of old-world fine jewelry – are executed with such precision that there is an ease, a casualness, so that it almost feels like changing stones. between rings and necklaces and converting high octane necklaces to new lengths is a cool concept that was just invented.
“Codes are one of the things that will make these pieces instantly recognizable and timeless,” says Amitheatrof, “and I feel like we’re on the right track.” The signature minimal lines are there, but accelerate in places to create an intricate play of angles, with deep Vs dancing throughout. They’re accented with fine-cut emeralds — even rubies, which are extremely rare — and triangle-cut diamonds, which punctuate dangling earrings, open lattice paths in cocktail rings and bracelets, and form spiky pyramids to give a cool edge to the “classic”. ” buttonholes. Meanwhile, the chevron “arrow” shape that “showed young Louis Vuitton’s way to Paris” in last year’s Bravery collection has now found its way onto collarbones and as a pedestal for cut-throat diamond rings. breath.
Geometry is tempered with a kind of supercharged sensuality, and in some cases literal sweetness: the Radiant “protective armor” necklace in gold, constructed from tiny triangular scales of gold and featuring a spectacular spessartite garnet , is inspired by the Louis Vuitton trunk and the strength of scaled creatures, but it rests on the throat, silky and caressable – like a second skin.
What unites the sharp and the soft, the arrows and the curves, is a feeling of perpetual motion: there are many wing details, but many pieces also have a subtle component of undulation or gentle turning. – a chapter of the collection plays with an optical illusion, giving the impression that the metal turns or swirls like a ribbon. All of this hints at the theme of transformation, while adding fluidity and comfort on the skin.
“It’s super important to look comfortable,” says Amfitheatrof. “High jewelry should not wear you, nor age you. It takes confidence to carry it, yes, but it is above all a question of character, of spirit.
Photographer: Thomas Chene/SevenSix; Stylist: Marine Chaumien; Talent: Sheryl Bennett @Marilyn Agency; Hair and makeup: Sophea Yen
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