In a festival attended by cinema’s biggest names, no star shines brighter than Caroline Scheufele.
It is around seven in the evening and guests start to arrive to a mysterious private villa at the top of a hill, framed by the azure waters of the Mediterranean. The atmosphere is painted in a soft shade of pink and a big band plays “Fly Me to the Moon,” infusing a James Bond mood into the elegant Cannes Film Festival evening. The dress code: black and diamonds, bien sûr. After all, tonight we celebrate Chopard’s annual Secret Party.
Attended by stars such as Julianne Moore, Lupita Nyong’o, and Kendall Jenner, this is probably one of the most coveted tickets of the festival. The mastermind of it all is Caroline Scheufele, artistic director and co-president of Chopard, who later welcomed friends of the brand coming from China, Russia, and beyond.
The German-born businesswoman is the daughter of Karin and Karl Scheufele III, who, in 1963, bought the maison that today remains a family business. While her brother and co-president Karl-Friedrich focuses on the men’s universe, she is responsible for the ladies’ world of Chopard, including the red carpet collections worn by Hollywood’s shiniest stars. On the rooftop of Cannes’ iconic Hotel Martinez, the headquarters of the brand during the festival, the dynamic woman reshaping the world jewelry shares her journey.
How do you divide tasks between you and your brother?
We share an office and we work very much hand in hand. Sometimes we have discussions, but we like to make decisions together and work as a team concerning business development, global strategy, production, distribution, new designs, or new products.
Your family has been part of the jewelry industry for many decades. What are your earliest memories related to this industry?
During the 1990s, when I joined the company with my brother, we both reinterpreted the family legacy in our own way. I reinvented the Pforzheim jewelry-making tradition by launching the Haute Joaillerie collections, while Karl-Friedrich did the same for the watchmaking in Sonvilier by founding a fine watchmaking manufacturer in Fleurier in 1996.
Did you have a rebellious stage when you wanted to do something else?
I have always been passionate about what I do. When you are passionate, you are always a rebel! I would say I am a daring person. For example, in 1997, I came across and fell in love with an exceptional high-quality batch of rare deep pink diamonds. I purchased it even though I wasn’t sure how to use them. On December 23 that year, the invoice arrived on my father’s desk. He was not happy. Over dinner, he remained somewhat distant and ended up warning me, “You better have a good idea for your awful stones!” I ended up using the stones in the Haute Joaillerie collection La Vie En Rose and it was a success.
It is amazing that Chopard is still a family-owned company. In what ways is this beneficial?
Chopard is a family-owned and independent company and this is one of our main strengths. It is in many ways a blessing: we do not report to anyone. We are free to do what we want and we are very flexible, so we can adapt quickly to different situations. My parents, my brother, and I wish to continue working this way.
As the creative director of the brand, what inspires you?
I travel a lot and this makes every day different. I am fortunate to meet many people from different cultures and – along with nature and art – that is where I draw inspiration from.
Do you believe that jewelry should follow trends or do you aim for timeless designs?
I am a fan of timeless designs as well as creative pieces. I believe that a jewelry piece is to be treasured forever. You should fall in love with a design, rather than “classic” or “creative” styles. Trends come and go, and jewelry stays forever.
What is the most spectacular piece of jewelry you own?
My first jewelry design: the Happy Clown pendant, an articulated clown with moving diamonds and colorful precious stones in its belly. It was initially produced as a one-off model for my personal collection, then it led to the launch of the Happy Diamonds jewelry line in 1985, marking the beginning of jewelry-making at Chopard.
What is the reasoning behind Chopard’s commitment to creating sustainable jewelry, using 100% ethical gold?
My family and I have been philanthropists for many years. At the Oscars in 2012, when I met with Livia Firth, founder and creative director of Eco Age, she asked me where our gold comes from. I immediately replied, “From the bank!” But Livia’s question was deeper and has put the spotlight on a humanitarian concern. When you learn that there are millions of men, women, and children digging up gold from valleys and hills, often working in unsafe conditions and unable to get fair compensation for their work, you’d better do something about it. From that point, I was determined to embark on a mission to change not only Chopard as a company and brand but also the entire industry. By putting sustainability at the very heart of our brand and using 100% ethical gold in all our creations as of July this year, we are showing ourselves to be leaders in our industry and a company that truly wants to make a difference in the world of luxury jewelry and watches.
Where do you stand on the new trend of sourcing lab-developed diamonds?
I would answer with a question: Do you think a woman prefers to receive from her love a diamond created by Mother Nature a billion years ago, or a diamond created in an hour? I think the answer is obvious…
Chopard has been the official partner of the Cannes Film Festival since 1998. Why did you believe that this was the right tie for the brand?
I am a passionate film-lover. This long-term relationship with the Cannes Film Festival is very close to my heart. As official partner, we do not only make the Palme d’Or trophy, we also created the Chopard Trophy in 2001, in order to reward young acting talents.
Each year, Chopard creates around 70 pieces for the red carpet. How do you develop this vast quantity of designs?
Every year since 2007, we have been taking up the challenge of creating a number of high jewelry pieces equivalent to the edition number of the festival. This year we have a complete collection of 71 creations thanks to the constant work and dedication of the high jewelry workshops of the maison. This year’s Red Carpet Collection is inspired by my travels and dreams. Year in and year out, I travel the globe. These peregrinations are a perpetual source of inspiration for me.
How was the experience of redesigning the Palme D’or?
It all began in 1997 when I met Pierre Viot, then director of the Cannes Film Festival. While I was attentively examining the trophy displayed in his office, he invited me to design a fresh interpretation. It was a new challenge that I took up with great enthusiasm, devoting my inspiration to one of the film industry’s most sought-after awards. The following year, at the closing ceremony, the new Palme D’or was unveiled to the world in the form it still takes to this day. Since 2014, the trophy is made in Fairmined gold, as part of our journey to sustainable luxury.
You created an award for up-and-coming stars. Is there a winner whose journey you are particularly proud of?
I am proud of all of them and especially Diane Kruger, who was the patron of the Trophée Chopard this year. She won this prize in 2003 and was honored with the best actress award at last year’s festival. This year, she gave the awards to the two laureates: Australian actor Elizabeth Debicki and British actor Joe Alwyn. I am sure they will both have a bright career.
Personally, which are your all-time favorite movies and actors?
In terms of fashion, how do you prepare yourself for Cannes?
Cannes is a fantastic window for fashion and jewelry. My stylist helps me choose my outfits carefully: long dresses for red carpet, cocktail dresses for parties, and a casual chic style during the day, which I love. But I always have the last word! Shoes are key, as you need to feel comfortable. I like wearing flats, but high heels are a must for evenings. Manolo Blahnik or Aquazzura are my go-to brands. I find that in Cannes people are more adventurous than at other award ceremonies. Dresses are more colorful, jewelry is more original. In my wardrobe during Cannes, there are on average 25 long dresses, 30 day looks, 15 cocktails options, and 30 pairs of shoes, but I don’t wear them all!
Photography and videography: Julian Torres
Styling: Sonia Bedere
Model: Jasmine Tookes
Hair: Martin-Christopher for John Barrett NYC
Makeup: Ismael Blanco
Video camera: Leica SL
Music: “I Know Your Game”, HELMAUD