Jewelry collection

Behind the scenes of the new Louis Vuitton high jewelry collection

here is a origin story of which a brand can be proud: In 1832, a 10-year-old boy from Jura, a region in eastern France, lost his mother, a hatmaker. His farmer father remarried a cruel woman, died soon after, and the boy, now 13, left the house to seek his fortune in Paris. Working odd jobs along the way, it takes him over two years to cover the 292 miles. The boy’s name is Louis Vuitton, and in two decades he will be making trunks for the Empress of France; 200 years after his birth, his name would appear in rap lyrics and red carpet credits.

“It’s like a Cinderella story,” says Francesca Amfitheatrof, Louis Vuitton’s artistic director for jewelry and watches, reading your mind. Vuitton’s youth career was his inspiration for the fine jewelry, an incredible collection of 90 pieces called Bravery, to celebrate its bicentenary.

Sketch of the La Star du Nord necklace and La Star du Nord necklace from the Bravery Savoir-Faire Collection in white gold, with 104 custom-cut diamonds.Laziz Hamani

I meet Amfitheatrof far from France in Vuitton, in the Connecticut compound where she lives with her husband, Ben Curwin, managing partner of an investment consulting firm, and her teenage children. The Litchfield County property, built in 1880, spans almost 15 acres and includes a small herd of white buildings (the main house, Amfitheatrof’s studio, a guest house, two barns), as well as ‘an immaculate swimming pool and a solarium, behind which grows a pear tree that would make Cézanne salivate. We sit down at a patio table; just wrapped it up Vanity Show photo shoot, Amfitheatrof changed into a loose silk dress that falls just above her knees. Her left ring finger sparkles with two diamond bands, and on her opposite wrist, she wears a black tag bracelet from the independent label she founded in 2019, Thief and Heist.

The juggernaut that is Louis Vuitton has long served as a metonym for wealth in pop culture, albeit typically in reference to the brand’s iconic leather goods (Audrey Hepburn, playing the widow of a jewelry thief in the 1963s Charade, tote a set of Vuitton travel bags; Eddie Murphy’s Prince Akeem in the 1988s Coming to America has a fleet). Recently, the brand has stepped up its investments in its jewelry branch: the hiring of Amfitheatrof in 2018 was the starting point. In early 2020, just months after Vuitton’s parent company LVMH acquired Tiffany & Co. for $ 16.2 billion, Vuitton made more waves in the gemstone world by purchasing the second largest rough diamond never cut into the ground. The 1758-carat Sewelo diamond, mined the previous year, is so large that it could not possibly fit in a human mouth. If pop culture is a barometer, it’s telling that the first episode of Netflix’s label-loving reality show Empire bling, which premiered in early 2021, does not focus on a Vuitton bag but on jewelry: called ‘Necklacegate 90210’, the climaxing scene involves a millionaire wearing a one-of-a-kind pink sapphire necklace from the fine jewelry collection 2012 from Vuitton to the home of another millionaire, who supposedly owns the same coin.

If we had to describe the designer in one word, it could be took into consideration. When making a point, she tends to hold back the gaze of her interlocutor while lowering her eyelids intensely, as if words weren’t quite enough but telepathy could. Between her pronounced eyebrows and high cheekbones, she looks like a Face Morph of Hepburn and Elizabeth Taylor’s Cleopatra. Her voice is deep, and while she was born in Tokyo and spent her childhood in New York, Moscow, and Rome (a nomadic upbringing aptly for a keeper of Vuitton’s legacy), the British accent that she took to a girls’ boarding school in Kent – and cemented at the Royal College of Art in London, and more than ten years after residing in that town – remained. She was the consulting creative director at Wedgwood, chief curator of Museo Gucci in Florence, and design director of Tiffany. Of her work-from-home wardrobe, “I can’t say I heard heels,” she says, “but I wasn’t in sweatpants.”

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