Wednesday, 20 August 2014

The art of Louis Vuitton luxury

The painstaking process of creating a single piece of high jewellery takes hundreds of hours

The painstaking process of creating a single piece of high jewellery takes hundreds of hours

Louis Vuitton pulled out all the stops for the launch of their latest high jewellery collection in Singapore.

WHEN it comes to rolling into town in style, few do it better than Louis Vuitton (LV).

It would be hard to miss the BMWs with personalised number plates; to launch their high jewellery collection Acte V, the French luxury brand commissioned 150 “LV” plates numbering between 1 and 150 to move around Singapore.

Apart from the preview of the collection, there was a gala dinner with customers from around the world. Singapore was also the first city to host a Louis Vuitton High Jewellery collection launch outside of Paris, hence the grand launch.

High jewellery is about specialised pieces. These are jewellery that evoke emotion, and tend to be one-of-a-kind pieces. The idea is that you get an exquisite piece of jewellery, specially created by a House, and no one else will have the same piece.

(From left) The initial process of the creation of a necklace at the atelier in Place Vendome; The painstaking process of creating a single piece of high jewellery takes hundreds of hours; Michael Burke, Chairman and CEO, Louis Vuitton, says when it comes to high jewellery, it's not just the design but also the connection to the brand.
Michael Burke, Chairman and CEO, Louis Vuitton, says when it comes to high jewellery, it’s not just the design but also the connection to the brand.

For Louis Vuitton, it always comes back to the heritage and history of the House, and this collection is no different. The iconic V shape brings to mind the initials of the brand and the collection is truly a dazzling one.

Consisting of 20 pieces, the collection is inspired by the Art Deco style and comprises necklaces, cuffs, earrings and rings. It also links back to the brand’s history. Apart from that era being a time of creative and artistic freedom, LV also introduced bespoke monogramming in precious stones and gold in the 1920s. This would set the scene a century later, of the launch of the Maison’s jewellery collections.

Michael Burke, the chariman and CEO of Louis Vuitton was in the Lion City for the event. We managed to catch up with him for a chat, along with Hamdi Chatti, vice president, Watches and Jewellery, during a private viewing session.

According to Chatti, when it comes to high jewellery, they start from the best gemstone, before going on to design the collection. And in this case, it’s a gorgeous opal.

“We call it the Genesis, actually. We have selected a beautiful opal, an amazing opal and the design started from the opal. The opal is obviously very mineral and the shape is more an art nouveau shape. It’s much more curved and the designer wanted to do something that is related to art deco. So we have the face of the curve facing the art deco necklace which makes the design very striking. And the V, which is the starting point of the necklace.”

The piece-de-resistance, the Genesis necklace with the striking opal. 

The Genesis necklace is definitely the highlight of the collection. It features a a triangular 87.92-carat Australian black opal surrounded by LV’s signature star-cut diamonds. While I was able to see and touch that particular piece, several pieces of the collection had already been sold. In fact, this is considered the most successful collection in terms of sales.

While both Chatti and Burke were reluctant to disclose the exact number of pieces sold (I deduce from the fact I had to see most of the collection from the visuals), the desirability of the collection, apart from the exclusivity, lies also in the ties to the House, and as mentioned earlier, the emotional connection.

“What is prevalent is the obvious design. We are in one of those moments where the object’s intrinsic design is at the top of the desirability, and it’s also for ready-to-wear and leather goods,” says Burke.

“What’s striking is beyond the gemstone, the setting has to say it comes from the House of Vuitton. This is the kind of design no one else would do; it’s over a thousand of hours of work on this piece. Another House would not spend thousand of hours on this design, and that’s what the client is looking for. The client is not looking for understatement, it’s about (making a) statement. What you see here comes from the mind of the designers and the client will relate to something like this.

“We have the store (in Paris) and above the store, the offices and showroom. Above all that is an atelier where the pieces are actually made. So you’re buying a piece of Place Vendome, that’s also part of what the customer is looking for, design but also provenance, a sense of place. It has to relate back to not just a House but a place and this place is Place Vendome, which is the epicentre of high jewellery in the world. When you are buying jewellery, you do want to make a statement; the statement is about your taste and your relationship with the House.”

The Genesis ring with the Pien Pyit sapphire. 

The collection is divided into Genesis, Metamorphis and Apotheosis, and each piece is an exquisite work of art. Think geometric forms, calculated proportions and precise lines. The jargon in the press release denotes words like “abstract aesthetic and avant-garde power inspired by the structure of buildings, speed and mechanics” and “Louis Vuitton adopts the new lexicon of geometric forms popular at the time, invented for women breaking free and travelling.”

But really, the beauty of the collections rests in the powerful evocation of emotion. It is near impossible to touch and feel the jewellery without a feeling of breathlessness.

It is not merely the work of exceptional cratsmanship from a renowned House, it draws the eye and appeals to those who appreciate the symmetry of movement, the alignment of a design that falls perfectly, yet naturally, in place. These are pieces that are absorbing.

And yes, some of them, particularly the cuff bracelets (a key item of the collection and a star item of jewellery in the 20s) immediately bring to mind the image of fringed dresses and flappers.

The gems themselves are extraordinary; apart from the aforementioned opal, there are gems like a 20.94 carat blue grey Burmese sapphire extracted from the Pien Pyit mine in Mogok valley, a red Tanzanian spinel weighing over 20 carats ... these amazing stones retain their position as the centerpiece, but yet remain seamless in the streamlined design.

This is a range that has collector’s pieces and are a definition of true luxury. When asked to explain what luxury is, Burke had this to say: “Enduring quality, creativity ... it’s a blend of the past and future. The creative approach has to be forward looking, always contemplating to strive for uniqueness but in a relevant way.”

Divine opal and diamond earring.

“In other words, it’s creativity that has its origins. A sense of place, sense of belonging, the creativity has to match with the fundamental values of the House, together with uncompromising quality and provenance. Provenance when we go back to materials, in this particular piece, we’re talking about gemstones, metal, but it’s just as true with shoes, handbags, leather, fabrics, ready-to-wear. So uncompromising provenance, material, the meeting of that and the creative mind and the hand.

“At the end of day, the hand makes these pieces. To have one foot in the past with the values of the House and one foot resolutely in the future with the creativity of the mind, that’s what luxury is.”

And when it comes to Louis Vuitton, the brand has definitely mastered the art of luxury.

Some of the rings in the collection.

Tags / Keywords: louis vuitton , acte v , jewellery


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