Jewellery

Just days after returning from styling Madonna on her MDNA tour – a certain wardrobe slip-up in Istanbul notwithstanding – Arianne Phillips visited the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, New York, to see her work celebrated in a new exhibition. ‘Magnificent Obsessions: 30 stories of craftsmanship in film’, sponsored by Italian sunglasses brand Persol, brings together actors, directors and designers deemed by curator Michael Connor to demonstrate “the fierce passion behind cinema”.

Many of the items on display might never have been discovered if Connor hadn’t tracked down the artists and gained their trust. Pages ripped from the diary of actor Ed Harris explain the emotional cost of his transformation into Jackson Pollock for the 2000 movie ‘Pollock’, and complex sketches by Alfred Hitchcock map the camera angles in the desert scene in ‘North By Northwest’. A series of colour charts created by director Todd Haynes to guide the actors in ‘Far From Heaven’ had to be rescued from a box in his basement. Read more

Recently, a woman in the midst of a career change came to see me. This former banker, who took time off to get married and have children, was on the verge of beginning a new life in the high-end fragrance business. Her launch product is a limited edition perfume called “Tiara” that will sell for $1,200 and features particularly glitzy packaging: nestling inside a white resin box is a glass vial shaped like a cupcake, “crowned” by a special silvery top studded with sapphire blue Swarovski ovals. The look was, she said, inspired by the late Princess Diana’s engagement ring, as now worn by the Duchess of Cambridge.

Any regular reader of this blog knows that my opinion of fashion film shorts is not exactly sky-high; of all the ones produced by this industry recently as it discovered the joys of YouTube and its gazillion viewers, only one has really worked. That’s because it walked a perfect line between self-mockery and great fun, and was not obsessed with framing its products perfectly in the camera’s eye. (The film of which I speak features models wearing Lanvin and dancing to Pit Bull.)

So I admit: when Cartier called me to tell me about its new commercial, my first reaction was (and I’m not proud of this, but we are going for full disclosure here): oh, no. Not again. Ergghh. And so on. But I took myself off to the unveiling at the Mini Palais restaurant in Paris anyway, sat myself in the plush velvet seat and prepared to grit my teeth. Read more

Q: When is a hand bag not just a handbag ?

A: When it is also a piece of high jewellery and a sculptural object.

The crocodile skin and diamond Hermès bag (photo by Dan Tobin Smith)

Such is the case, anyway, with Hermès’s second foray into haute bijouterie (as opposed to haute joaillerie — the former starts with outrageous designs, the latter with mega stones). Their jeweller and shoe maestro Pierre Hardy created four different mini-handbags, in part inspired by the brand’s iconic handbags, using gold and a LOT of precious stones. They are each functionally a “bracelet” and they actually work as (very small) handbags.In theory, anyway.

It seems to me the idea of anyone actually carrying a handbag worth €1.5m and made of intertwining chains covered in 11,000 diamonds, or a rose gold version of the Kelly bag with crocodile scales and 1,160 diamonds is a little nuts, and I mentioned this to Patrick Thomas, the CEO of the brand. He laughed. Read more

Most fashion houses are understandably cagey about who they are dressing for the Oscars, the most lucrative red carpet marketing event of the year, which takes place this Sunday in Los Angeles. However, as I’ve been making the rounds of the Milan shows, some bits and bobs of information have come leaking out. The fear, of course, in spilling the beans is that in the end you are proved wrong (see post on Adele at the Grammys). The dressing game isn’t over until the celebrity actually exits the limo, but a few designers were willing to go on the record. Read more

More fashion lexicon news: Apparently, at least in the US, men are into accessories, but not into the nominally feminine words used to describe accessories. They love bracelets – but not the name. They are into tote bags, but not the appellation. So what have retailers done? They are inventing new language to make their clients happier about their purchases.
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So it all came true, and PPR did, indeed, buy Italian men’s wear luxury brand Brioni. So far, so rumoured. But what does it mean? Seems to me there are two main implications to the deal. Read more

So David Cameron has given an interview to Grazia UK in which he attempts to display his soft, feminine side by admitting that he finds Prime Minister’s Question Time an aggressive, testosterone-filled experience, and he doesn’t like it. Awww. He might have been better served, however, to sit down and take tea with Carlo Giordanetti, creative director of Montblanc, which is likewise engaged in a campaign to woo women.
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Could the above statement be true? It seems difficult to believe, but the numbers – at least numbers published today to the industry by Bain & Co, the consulting firm, in its 10th annual Worldwide Luxury Goods Market study (on general release later this week) – seem to say yes.

Consider: according to the Bain report, 2011 is going to be a record-setting year for the luxury market. Yes, you read that right. Bain predicts the industry will increase by 10 per cent beyond its current value of sales, which it estimates at €173bn. That would be growth of 13 per cent over 2009.

What’s more, the strongest markets are not just China (as expected), but also the Americas and western Europe, with sales in Europe up 10 per cent and those in the Americas 16 per cent higher. Put another way: the two most beleaguered global areas where the jobless numbers have risen are the places where someone (tourists?) are spending. A lot. Especially on high-margin watches and jewellery.

Weird, right? Read more

Jewellery by Marie-Helene de Taillac

Jewellery by Marie-Helene de Taillac. Image by Vanessa Friedman

Yesterday, on the last day of Paris Fashion Week, I dropped in on jeweller Marie-Hélène de Taillac, and we got to chatting about the price of gold. She said it had transformed her business.

First, it meant stones had become enormously more important. She showed me some little gold hoops decorated with minute gold “sequins” (very thin) discs the size of lentils, and then some much larger sparkling numbers of quartz and amethyst — really quite large amethysts — and asked which I thought was more expensive. They are pictured left.

What would be your guess? Read more

Pity the poor jewelers of this world. As the price of gold soars and investors hoard bullion, the price of one of the luxury industry’s prime raw materials goes through the roof; suddenly, what was the base metal of high-end adornment has become as precious as the sparklers it normally holds. The unknown now becomes how consumers will react to this change; whether their idea of what gold jewellery represents (glamour, a special indulgence, an investment), will catch up to commodities reality, and they will see gold jewellery as an even better place to put their money, or whether they will run from the inflated prices. Read more

It’s that time of year when everyone looks back, assesses, makes their naughty and nice lists, and, in this world (ie, the world of this blog) generally makes best and worst dressed lists, which as far as I can tell, are just handy excuses to re-print as many pictures as possible of Gwyneth Paltrow. So I was quite pleased to discover the CBS business network (bnet) had instead come up with the 10 worst fashion business mistakes of 2010. Read more

The Economist says bling is back. I’m not so sure. Their reasoning seems to be based on two observations, one having to do with shopping bags, the other with sales. It seems to me there are some pretty big conceptual leaps going on here.

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I woke up this morning after a month of fashion collections to an email from NPD, the market research company, about the dim sale prospects for the holiday season. Turns out Americans at least plan to spend a little less at christmas:

spending intentions

Welcome back to reality!

Still, this pretty much supports what I heard from two jewellers last week. Both Taher Chemirik and Marie-Helene de Taillac, who are equally talented and original (and highly copied) in very different ways, had told me that their US business had effectively dried up over the last year or two, and in Taillac’s case, she said it was growth in Asia and Europe keeping her afloat. Apparently, US stores only want to accept jewellery on consignment (ie, they pay only if, and after, they sell), which makes it pretty hard for an independent jeweller to earn a living. Read more