“What was surprising was how we entered in a territory that belonged to major jewelers, but we have gained credibility. It was something that I really wanted to do, I’ve always been obsessed by jewelry and I felt the need to complete the collection of objects that could belong to a hypothetical Gucci client,” Michele said in an exclusive interview, nonchalantly wearing several rings and necklaces – par for the course in his case.
This authenticity has led to “an unexpected business, but it’s done with great passion. I wanted to bring jewels back to real life, jewels are alive. They are an integral part of our lives, marking big events. I also put them on the runway on the models, and I wear them on a daily basis, in the office, for breakfast, on the street,” he continued, pointing to Gucci’s innovative step in presenting high jewelry designs with ready-to-wear on the catwalk.
He acknowledged the complexities of high jewelry for a fashion and accessories company, but Gucci relies on a web of goldsmiths and artisans in Italy’s main jewelry hubs, including Valenza, for example. “This is a segment that needs dedication and commitment and its industry has different mechanisms and timing, but we are consistent. This is not about merchandising.”
The third Hortus Deliciarum collection, or Garden of Delights in Latin, is striking and also reverberates through a campaign and film fronted by actress and film producer Jessica Chastain, who wore Gucci at the Academy Awards last March, when she received the Best Actress Oscar for her performance in “The Eyes of Tammy Faye.”
The campaign, art directed by Ezra Petronio and shot by Mert & Marcus, may be “counterintuitive,” admitted Michele, since the jewels are one-of-a-kind and may already be unavailable throughout the communication campaign — one was surely already in the hands of a client at the time of the interview with WWD — but he still thinks “it’s an interesting experiment.” He confided that he is so attached to the jewels that he would like “to know who bought them and who will wear them.”
Michele said he seeks to craft “unique and special pieces” and aims to create an imaginary world connected to the jewels. To wit, this collection is divided according to five themes.
The first theme develops the idea of the Grand Tour, an opportunity for both escape and learning. Michele revisited unique and antique micro-mosaic pieces, made between 1850 and 1870, showing typical Roman landscapes, from the Colosseum to the Pantheon or the waterfalls at Tivoli, embedding them in necklaces, bracelets, earrings, brooches and gold pendants holding sparkling peridot, yellow beryl, red and pink spinel, blue topaz, fire opal, pink tourmaline and colorful diamonds.
The second theme revolves around the India of the Maharajah, with stunning gems, from rubellite, imperial topaz, yellow beryl, tourmaline and garnet for solitaire rings with pear- or heart-cut stones, to multistrand necklaces of multicolored stones, and bracelets embellished with yellow beryl, or rings that recreate the shapes of the rosettes of European cathedrals.
The third theme hinges on the pearl, in mythology born from the foam of the sea and solidified on Aphrodite’s skin. As per the imaginary trip, the collection moves to Indonesia, Australia and Polynesia, and white, cream and black pearls are combined with imperial topaz to create sautoirs paired with earrings and brooches, while holding detachable pendants in imperial topaz or alternating with multicolor tourmalines and diamonds.
Moving forward to the 1930s and 1940s, Michele created necklaces and bracelets with geometric shapes in chains with asymmetrical, flexible modules with meticulous structural details, blended with grandiose stones. Flexible chains are adorned with amethyst, aquamarine and cushion-cut blue-gray beryl, which replicate their splendor in earrings or central pendants set in cages of baguette-cut diamonds.
Pop culture and the ’70s psychedelic colors are elements of the fifth theme, which includes necklaces of white gold chains, diamonds holding real talismans in hexagonal emerald, pear-shaped green tourmaline, and aquamarine set in a green enamel frame enclosing baguette-cut diamonds. A pendant with a yellow gold base recalls a scene in the savannah, engraved and enameled. The savannah design comes from the 1969 “Savana” foulard Vittorio Accornero De Testa designed for Gucci and in 1981, this design was transferred to a pendant.
The collection is being presented at Villa Albani in Rome June 12-19.