Behind the scenes of Louis Vuitton’s new high jewelery collection

Here is a tale of origin that a brand can be proud of: In 1832, a 10-year-old boy in the Jura, an eastern region of France, loses his mother, a hatter. His farm father remarries a cruel woman, dies shortly after, and the boy, now 13, leaves home to seek his fortune in Paris. When he works along the way, it takes him more than two years to walk the 292 miles. The boy’s name is Louis Vuitton, and in two decades he will be making suitcases for the Empress of France; 200 years after his birth, his name will appear in rap lyrics and red carpet.

“It’s like a Cinderella story,” says Louis Vuitton’s artistic director of jewelry and watches, Francesca Amfitheatrof, reading your thoughts. Vuitton’s youthful journey was her inspiration for this year fine jewelry, an amazing 90-piece collection called Bravery in celebration of its 200th anniversary.

A sketch of the Bravery Collection Savoir-Faires La Star du Nord necklace and La Star du Nord necklace in white gold, with 104 specially cut diamonds.Laziz Hamani

I meet Amfitheatrof far from Vuitton’s France on the Connecticut complex, where she lives with her husband, Ben Curwin, a managing partner of an investment advisory firm, and her teenage children. The Litchfield County estate, built in 1880, spans nearly 15 acres and includes a small bunch of white buildings (the main house, the Amphitheater’s studio, a guest house, two barns) plus a pristine pool and solarium, behind which grows a pear tree that would make C├ęzanne to drool. We sit down at a patio table; have just wrapped her up Vanity Fair fotoshoot, Amfitheatrof has switched to a loose silk dress that hits just above her knees. Her left ring finger glitters with two diamond bands, and on her opposite wrist she wears a black brand bracelet from the independent brand she founded in 2019, Thief and Heist.

The juggernaut, which is Louis Vuitton, has long served as a metonym for wealth in pop culture, though typically with reference to the brand’s iconic leather goods (Audrey Hepburn, who played a jewel thief’s widow in the 1963s). Charade, totes a set of Vuitton travel bags; Eddie Murphy’s Prince Akeem in the 1988s Coming to America have a fleet of them). Recently, the brand has increased investment in its jewelry arm: Amfitheatrof’s hiring in 2018 was the starting shot. In early 2020, just months after Vuitton’s parent company, LVMH, acquired Tiffany & Co. for $ 16.2 billion, Vuitton created more waves in the gemstone world when it bought the second-largest rough diamond ever cut from the ground. The 1,758-carat Sewelo diamond mined the year before is so large that it could not plausibly fit into a human mouth. If pop culture is any barometer, it’s telling that the first episode of Netflix’s label-loving reality show Bling Empire, which premiered in early 2021, does not focus on a Vuitton bag, but jewelry: called “Necklacegate 90210”, the climactic scene involves a millionaire wearing a unique pink sapphire necklace from Vuitton’s 2012 haute joaillerie collection to someone else’s home. millionaire who allegedly owns the same piece.

If one had to describe the designer in a single word, it can be considered. When she makes a point, she tends to hold her interlocutor’s gaze as she lowers her eyelids intensely, as if words are not quite enough, but telepathy perhaps. Between her statement eyebrows and high cheekbones, she looks like a Face Morph by 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 (an appropriate nomadic upbringing for a guardian of Vuitton’s legacy), she gained the British accent at a girls’ boarding school in Kent. – and cemented at London’s Royal College of Art, and subsequent decade plus residency in that city – has stuck. She has served as advisory creative director at Wedgwood, chief curator of Florence’s Museo Gucci and as Tiffany’s design director. About her work from home wardrobe: “I can not say I heard heels,” she says, “but I was not in sweatpants.”

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