“More is more” was the personal philosophy of Tony Duquette, the famous designer of furniture, jewelry, interiors and movie sets, known for his flair for exotic excess.
This story first appeared in the October 17, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
His client list reads like one big name check of Hollywood’s Golden Age. There was Vincente Minnelli, for whom Duquette worked on the set of “Ziegfeld Follies of 1944”; the Duchess of Windsor, who commissioned Duquette to design jewelry and Mary Pickford, Elizabeth Arden, Doris Duke and J. Paul Getty, all for whom Duquette dreamt up lavish decors. Then there were his own homes: Sortilegium, his Malibu ranch which he envisioned as a modern Shangri-la and was destroyed in a fire in 1993, and Dawnridge, the Beverly Hills villa that remains preserved, along with the rest of the estate, by Hutton Wilkinson, Duquette’s business partner of 30 years.
When Duquette died in 1999 at the age of 85, he left behind a visual legacy that remains a constant source of inspiration and marketing opportunities for interior designers, publishing houses, museum curators and occasionally American mega-brands like Coach, which has partnered with the Duquette estate for a limited edition jewelry collaboration — a first for Duquette — that will launch at retail in February. Tony Duquette for Coach captures the designer’s signature flamboyance and taste for all things over-the-top at less shocking prices — everything is under $500.
Coach has done a few collaborations over the years, most recently with Lutz & Patmos and Net-a-Porter, but the Duquette partnership is interesting because this is Coach’s biggest jewelry endeavor yet, and Duquette’s baroque aesthetic is a step away from Coach’s classic, all-American look. Reed Krakoff, Coach’s president and executive creative director, said casual talks about the project began a few years ago when he met Wilkinson in the Hamptons at one of his signings (Wilkinson has authored two books on Duquette, “Tony Duquette” and “More Is More”).
“I see Tony Duquette as an American master,” said Krakoff. “Pairing this great, iconic American jeweler with Coach made a lot of sense. It’s always interesting to see Coach through a different lens.”
As for the design process, Wilkinson said he introduced the Coach team “to every nook and cranny of Tony’s world — his archives, his personal collections, his and his wife’s personal jewelry and wardrobe, and then turned them loose to do their thing with no strings attached,” Wilkinson explained. “The results were amazing.”
The collection consists of roughly 20 pieces done in 18-karat gold-plated brass with Swarovski crystals, hand-cut glass and semi-precious stones, including amethyst, rock crystal, malachite and rose quartz. There are bangles with sunburst clasps, a floral cabochon ring, a colorful bib necklace inspired by a bauble Duquette made for the Duchess of Windsor, as well as bejeweled evening bags. Fish are a major motif, as Dawnridge’s grounds include a very active koi pond. “The jeweled fish, the yellow gold plating, the massing of cabochons and faceted stones, the overscaled rings all scream ‘Duquette,’” said Wilkinson. “And a satin clutch even can be used to decorate a table top, which is exactly how Tony liked to display his pieces.”