PARIS — Louis Vuitton has recruited the high-profile designer Francesca Amfitheatrof for the role of artistic director of watches and jewelry, as the world’s largest luxury brand trains its sights on invigorating the activity.
“Amfitheatrof’s flair and creativity with precious metals as well as her experience and personal background will help shape the Louis Vuitton jewelry and watches categories in the future,” the star brand of the LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton stable said in a statement to WWD.
The move comes amid a flurry of design changes that have brought new blood into the men’s studios at LVMH brands, with streetwear force Virgil Abloh joining Louis Vuitton and Hedi Slimane introducing a men’s line to Céline. In one of the earliest moves — the shift to Dior Homme of Kim Jones, who presents his first collection for the label in June, Yoon Ahn was appointed to handle jewelry design.
A globetrotting designer born in Tokyo and trained at Central Saint Martins, Amfitheatrof is most recently known for her work heading the jewelry design team at Tiffany & Co. In 2013, she became the first woman to hold that position at the storied American label. She exited the company last January, the same month Tiffany announced Reed Krakoff would be the firm’s chief artistic officer overseeing all product categories.
At Vuitton, Amfitheatrof will be charged with creating jewelry and high jewelry collections as well as overseeing all designs of the label’s watches.
“It is with great excitement that I join Louis Vuitton, a house I feel deeply connected to through its values of craftsmanship and travel,” said Amfitheatrof, who has lived in Rome, Moscow, London and New York.
Her arrival at Louis Vuitton comes less than a year after the brand opened its monumental flagship on the Place Vendôme in Paris. Anchoring the square dotted with high jewelers Boucheron, Van Cleef & Arpels, Chanel and Chaumet, another LMVH brand, the building also houses a high jewelry atelier for Vuitton.
The label jumped into the smartwatch race last year, teaming with Google for the Tambour Horizon, which it launched at the same time as the Tambour Moon, a mechanical watch. At the time of the launch, Louis Vuitton chairman and chief executive officer Michael Burke said it was “first and foremost” a Swiss-based watch manufacturer that “happens” to have a connected watch.
Amfitheatrof broke into the fashion and art world with silver jewelry presented by Jay Jopling of the White Cube gallery in London in 1993. The Italian design firm Alessi still sells a metal bowl harboring her name.
Under Amfitheatrof’s direction, Tiffany redesigned the Return to Tiffany range. One of her last projects for the brand — the HardWear collection — was worn by Lady Gaga for a Super Bowl commercial. Her first collection for the American jeweler, the Tiffany T line, remains one of the retailer’s strongest sellers.
Some of the bolder designs from Amfitheatrof’s tenure at Tiffany were featured in a rainforest-themed high jewelry set, including a necklace of splayed-out palm fronds. The designer had taken her team to Kauai to explore the tropical region for inspiration.
Place Vendôme jeweler Lorenz Bäumer, who early in his career designed for Chanel, had been the artistic director for jewelry for Louis Vuitton from 2008 until 2015. He left to focus on his own brand. Vuitton’s high jewelry has been designed by an in-house team since the launch of the Acte V collection in July 2013, and the brand has staged many destination events for VIP clients for the lucrative, service-intensive category.