Louis Vuitton’s new high jewelry collection is an ode to dragons, the phoenix, and equally fierce women.
It was one of those evenings that seemed to jump straight out of a book that opens with the words “Once upon a time…” Amid candlelight and men holding torches, Louis Vuitton presented Spirit, the maison’s latest high jewelry collection by Francesca Amfitheatrof, in Marrakech’s Dar el Bacha museum, previously the home of Pasha Thami El Glaoui. Spanning 125 spectacular pieces, this is the fourth collection by the artistic director of the fashion house’s Watches and Jewelry division, and it displayed a maturity and confidence in her designs, and the power of creating a recognizable DNA that is assertive, yet discreet.
Confidence was set through a theme that “invokes liberty, strength, and the notion of infinity, but also the ideas of destiny and of soaring to new heights,” explains Amfitheatrof, who shares that she considers herself “a free spirit.” There are also references from mythology, around fantastical creatures such as phoenixes and dragons, infusing the pieces with power. “I wanted to do animals from the minute I started working for Louis Vuitton, but not in a figurative way, as we are not that kind of house.”
When chatting in a private room of the palatial Royal Mansour hotel, Amfitheatrof, who joined the brand in 2018, seems pleased when we notice a change in the design identity, now relying less on obvious references. “To me that is very important,” she says. “My challenge is that we are a logo-focused brand, but I wanted to create a design repertoire that you can recognize. When somebody walks in and you’re like, ‘Okay, that’s Vuitton.’ I also feel that with jewelry, you can’t just brand it and that’s enough. We have done things like creating a unique diamond cut, and that is really amazing.” Amfitheatrof also mentions that there are other elements that will continue to enrich her design vocabulary, such as the mixture of different colored golds, the triangle and the arrow, and the idea of going forward.
From the first 80 pieces presented in Morocco (more pieces will be added at a later stage in Paris), there are two designs that especially caught our attention. Appearing like delicate armor – or dragon scales in gold and platinum – the Radiance necklace is intended to act as protection for a woman, flaunting a 10.99ct mandarin garnet in bright orange. In the Grace necklace, a breathtaking 65.26ct tsavorite from East Africa is suspended by two phoenix wings that unfold around the neck, as a metaphor for the Louis Vuitton woman’s capacity for renewal. This piece took jewelers more than 2,000 hours to craft.
Observing the collection, it is undeniable that Louis Vuitton is betting strong on high jewelry, and the brand has broken through the preconceived idea that a fashion label doesn’t possess the know-how to produce jewelry. As we all know, high jewelry, along with couture, is one of the most conservative of French métiers. But on the contrary, Amfitheatrof, who previously worked four years for Tiffany & Co. as the brand’s firstever female design director, believes that the mass appeal of Louis Vuitton plays in her favor. “When you go to buy jewelry, you need to be in a certain type of mood. We have an amazing flow of people in our stores, so even if jewelry was not what you wanted to buy, you will be exposed to it. We also have incredibly affluent clients that already love the brand, and that we’re attracting into the high jewelry world by showing what we do. And there’s no question that today we work with the best and most impressive stones and materials,” concludes Amfitheatrof. “But of course, when I started, people were curious and were asking, ‘Who is this girl, she is not even French.’ When they saw the work, they started to change their mind, and they understood that we are very committed, we have the best team and materials, and everything that Louis Vuitton does is at the highest level.”
Originally published in the September 2022 issue of Vogue Arabia
Style: Elena Psalti @elena_psalti
Set design: NineSeven1 Media
Production: Danica Zivkovic
Local production: Michaël Lacomblez at Louis2
Hair: Christoph Hasenbein at Wise & Talented
Makeup: Eny Whitehead at Callisté
Manicure: Hanaé Goumri at The Wall Group
Photography assistant: Julien Dauvillier
Style assistant: Maxime Bardet
Set design assistants: Mallory McLane, Carol Vobin
Model: Aicha Hammam at Skins Models