NOTEBOOK FROM PARIS
Byline: Miles Socha / Robert Murphy / Sandra Carlson
Designers are mining inspiration from all sorts of places these days, from historical archives and pure practicality to more unexpected references like bondage and magical fairy forests. Much of the creative juices around the city are flowing from expansion motivations. Here, the latest from Paris.
In a move to expand its four-year-old fine-jewelry collection designed by Victoire de Castellane, Christian Dior has tapped Laurence Nicolas as director of the jewelry division, a new post. Nicolas joined Dior from Cartier, where she spent the last 11 years, most recently in the retail development area.
Dior operates two fine-jewelry units, in Paris and New York. In September, openings are planned for Los Angeles and Paris’s Place Vendome. Nicolas said shops in Tokyo and Taiwan are also priorities. Apart from spearheading the plan for new shops, Nicolas said she will also be responsible for defining a clear marketing strategy, as well as supervising production.
Meanwhile, Castellane’s latest designs revisit the sexual-bondage theme John Galliano explored for Dior couture last July. Her 14-style Submission line is scheduled for delivery in mid-March and features items such as rings attached to bracelets by thin gold chains or a necklace with a long pendant hooked to a hip chain.
Prices range from $260 for a pinkie ring to $2,710 for the bracelet-ring combo. (Prices are converted from the French franc at current exchange rates.)
“I like playing with the symbolism of S&M, but I’m mostly inspired by girls and love in general,” said Castellane. “Jewelry is a very intimate accessory. I wanted to do something to be worn at night. It’s a change from jewelry that is for the day.”
It’s not exactly the human genome project, but designers Desiree Heiss and Ines Kaag have introduced the concept of recombinant fine jewelry for their Bless label.
As part of their spring collection, the designers collected old pieces of gold, silver and pearl jewelry, broke them apart and recombined them in random ways. The result is necklaces with five or more different types of chains, from delicate to chunky, and bracelets composed entirely of fasteners.
Heiss said she and Kaag wanted to carve out a new area between classic fine jewelry and fashionable, experimental costume jewelry. The two were inspired by a conversation with Kate Merkle, a fixture on the Berlin art scene and a manager for a Berlin unit of Swiss fine-jeweler Bucherer. She told them of customers who come in asking to have their old pieces of jewelry modernized, thus the recombinant idea was born.
Bless fine jewelry, with necklaces retailing for $1,700, is available at Colette in Paris and Zero and 7 in New York. Less expensive versions, made from costume-jewelry components, will be made more widely available.
The Bless spring collection also includes customized Adidas sneakers, printed bedsheets and handpainted stones. The fall collection is slated to be presented March 13 during Paris Fashion Week.
Diamonds may be forever, but a comprehensive display of the gems will last just four months when it opens at the National Museum of Natural History on March 10. “Diamonds: Heart of the Earth, Heart of the Stars, Heart of Power,” will focus on everything from the physics behind the creation of diamonds to their role in history.
The breathtaking assemblage of large and rare diamonds is slated to include: the “Star of South Africa,” not shown since its discovery in 1866, displayed on a Cartier necklace; Tiffany’s famed 129-carat, natural yellow signature diamond set in a 1995 Schlumberger setting, called “A bird on a rock;” the Crown jewels of Portugal, seen for the first time in their entirety; and France’s two Sancy diamonds: the 50-carat “Mazarin” and the 40-carat “Beautiful Sancy,” which once adorned the head of the monarch Marie de Medici.
Additionally, more than 400 historical paintings from Versailles, Florence, Copenhagen and Washington, D.C., will illustrate the role diamonds have played in politics and aristocracies. The exhibit, made possible with the cooperation of the Mouawad and De Beers groups, runs until July 15. The museum is at the Jardins des Plants, 36 Rue Geoffrey Saint-Hilaire.
Longchamp, the 52-year-old accessories house best known for its handbags with a bourgeois bent, is bulking up. To keep up with growing demand, the family-owned firm has acquired three factories in France that will increase production capacity by 30 percent. “We are going into an important development phase,” said Jean Cassegrain, Longchamp’s managing director. “We now operate six factories.”
Cassegrain, whose father, Phillipe, is the firm’s chief executive officer, said he is shooting for a 30 percent sales increase this year.
“Last year, sales were limited by lack of production ability,” he said, although 2000 sales logged a 25 percent increase, to $92 million.
Meanwhile, Cassegrain said that Longchamp, which already operates boutiques on New York’s Madison Avenue and Worth Avenue in Palm Beach, plans to open a unit in Boston this summer.
“We’re not gearing up for an assault on the American market, but we do want to increase our presence,” he said.
Longchamp operates 60 shops worldwide, one-third of which are directly owned.
In these days of multibillion-dollar luxury groups and megastores, there is still room in fashion for some whimsy, according to Gwenaela Baudry and Aude Depalle, accessory designers who recently opened a boutique showcasing their label, La Parisette, which is used to describe a woodland nymph.
Situated at 1 Passage du Grand Cerf in one of the city’s historic cobblestone pedestrian corridors, the colorful shop is a Baroque step into another world with a decor meant to evoke the magical world of elves and fairies.
Baudry and Depalle, who launched La Parisette in 1997, said they initially expected their cloth flower pins and beaded necklaces to appeal only to young girls. However, they’ve won some very adult wholesale clients, including The Bon Marche, Galeries Lafayette and Printemps Haussmann.
Retail prices range from $2 for pins to about $56 for beaded necklaces. A current bestseller is a beaded choker with a bright cloth flower in front and a twisting clasp in back for $18. The shop also doubles as a showroom and design studio for La Parisette’s handcrafted bags and jewelry.
Nina Ricci designer Nathalie Gervais has a penchant for long, sleek clutch bags. But she’s a practical woman, too, as evidenced by the latest addition to her accessories collection for spring: an ultralight umbrella not much bigger than a cell phone.
Made by the company’s umbrella licensee, Neyrat Peyronie, the “mini extra-flat” is little more than seven inches long and weighs in at about six ounces. It comes in a case featuring the house’s signature jacquard print and can be tucked into the sleekest evening bag. It retails for about $42 at the Nina Ricci boutique at 39 Avenue Montaigne and at Harrods in London.