ROME — In a tribute to the Eighties and the special bond between Bulgari and Andy Warhol, the Rome-based jewelry brand unveiled its new haute joaillerie collection “Wild Pop” here on Thursday at the stunning Renaissance Villa Farnesina frescoed by Raffaello. To showcase the collection, though, Bulgari re-created a colorful set inspired by the extravagant decade. Power suits and shoulder pads left room to the “Magnificent Green Ruffles” necklace set with an exquisite 34,12 carat Colombian emerald, inspired by some retro fashion advice courtesy of the Dynasty character Alexis Carrington, who said “When in doubt, add some ruffles to your dress.”
“I had so much fun,” said a beaming creative director Lucia Silvestri, who was impressed by a trip to the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts in New York and saw how connected the artist was with Bulgari. “I started working at Bulgari in 1980, for me it was like going back to that period, I really enjoyed it.”
Not that the collection wasn’t especially challenging in terms of manufacturing. In particular, Silvestri pointed to the “Play it again,” series, a necklace and earrings that reproduced vinyl LPs and their players, down to the record grooves, the tiny tone arms and the cartridges, made with rubies and a five-carat diamond at the center. “We had our moments of gridlocks, but we really wanted to do it. The music is so much part of the collection,” she explained. Everything was carefully manufactured, so much so that the tone arm even moves as if to play the record. “The only drawback is that there is no sound,” Silvestri said.
The Eighties for the designer was a time of discovery. “I was so young and learning from Paolo and Nicola Bulgari, they were really avant-garde, innovative and creative. There was always something new to discover. That rubbed off on me immediately and it has stayed on, this wish to always create unique and different pieces to emphasize the beauty of women. I don’t believe in creativity for the sake of it.”
Asked about the “Happy Leaf” series inspired by cannabis, Silvestri said she wanted to “remember a particular moment of those years that were transgressive,” but also, more simply, because she very much liked the design of the leaf, pointing to one such brooch on her blouse. “Beyond the meaning of the leaf, I think it’s harmonious and beautiful,” she mused on the motif.
Chief executive officer Jean-Christophe Babin underscored the “colors, contrasts, volumes and combinations that are the foundations of Bulgari and the themes that excite our creatives,” but he also emphasized the message behind the “Wild Pop” collection, which “brings back the values of freedom, glory and gender diversity, the power of women and hedonism expressed by the Eighties.” Babin believes today’s technology can also create uncertainty and that the spirit of the Eighties, “the energy, the boldness, will help be in charge of tools and allow us to manage the changes in society.” This boldness can also impact the art of Bulgari, he added, “expressing our excellence by raising the bar even more with uncompromising designs, pushing goldsmiths to evolve their art.”
Parent company LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton will report the group’s six-month performance in July, but Babin did say that the first six months of the year are confirming the desirability of the brand, both in terms of jewelry, but also increasingly in the watch category. He said several distinctive features stand out in different divisions, including that of accessories, and that the recent openings of Bulgari Hotels in Beijing and Shanghai have also contributed to “add layers” to the brand.
Asked about new customers and potential growth markets, Babin said high jewelry is marked by “a universal fascination and desire for precious gems.” Bulgari’s “added value is the capacity to exalt and glorify the gems in a creative environment. We are beyond fashion, we have the responsibility to pass through the decades with our designs, bold but consistent even in 30 years. We must be crazy and responsible at the same time, which seems paradoxical. With this kind of event, we are not trying to surprise but to provide a key to understand the creativity of Bulgari.”
The Eighties are everywhere on the fashion runways as well, and Silvestri said Bulgari jewels she sees at the auctions where the company tries to buy them back, “they are always very appealing. There’s been different evolutions, a moment of minimalism, but now there is a return to this joy, to explore colors and mix different styles. I always suggest to mix, not to go with one set only, but to play with these small works of art.”
Other standout jewels at the presentation included: “The Curls, My Love” necklace, bracelet and ring in titanium and white gold — a glamorous tribute to the hot rollers women used in the Eighties with diamond curls, topped by cabochon-cut emeralds; the pink gold, onyx and pavé-set diamond Flamingos necklace and the yellow gold, carnelian, agate and pavé-set diamond Palms necklace take design cues from the look of Miami Vice; music by Madonna and David Bowie is reflected in the colorful Pop Mics necklace, bracelet, and brooch. Amethysts, peridots, rubellites and aquamarines were specially cut to form the colorful top of the diamond and onyx microphones.