BLUE-BOX THINK­ING

Selina Den­man lunches with Tif­fany & Co’s first fe­male de­sign di­rec­tor, Francesca Am­fithe­atrof, who was in the cap­i­tal for the launch of the brand’s lat­est fash­ion-jew­ellery line, Tif­fany T, an un­apolo­get­i­cally mod­ern col­lec­tion that proves that the 177-y

The National - News - Luxury - - JEWELLERY -

There is some­thing of the Au­drey Hep­burn about Francesca Am­fithe­atrof – a steady, wideeyed gaze and easy grace that are rem­i­nis­cent of the fa­mous ac­tress. It is quite the co­in­ci­dence, then, that Am­fithe­atrof is the de­sign di­rec­tor of Tif­fany & Co, the leg­endary jew­ellery house im­mor­talised by Hep­burn’s most fa­mous film.

It took Tif­fany almost five years to se­lect a new de­sign di­rec­tor a er John Lor­ing, who re­tired in 2009 a er 30 years. Granted, when set against its 177-year his­tory, five years is a rel­a­tively short pe­riod of time, and this is a company that likes to get things right.

There are few names in the world that are as in­grained in the popular con­scious­ness as this one – and it’s not just the “Break­fast at ...” thing, ei­ther. This is a company that sold jew­ellery to Queen Vic­to­ria and Rus­sian tsars, was re­spon­si­ble for cre­at­ing the in­vi­ta­tions for the open­ing of the Statue of Lib­erty, and more or less in­vented the en­gage­ment ring.

Then there’s that fa­mous pic­ture of Steve Jobs, sit­ting bare­foot and cross-legged in his first home. There’s no fur­ni­ture – be­cause he couldn’t find any­thing that matched up to his ex­act­ing aes­thetic ideals – save for a Louis Com­fort Tif­fany lamp, the iconic piece named for and de­signed by Tif­fany’s first de­sign di­rec­tor.

“Peo­ple love Tif­fany so much,” Am­fithe­atrof ac­knowl­edges over lunch at Emi­rates Palace in Abu Dhabi, dur­ing her first-ever trip to the UAE. “They all feel like they have a lit­tle bit of Tif­fany inside them – or that they have the so­lu­tion for you. Which is kind of en­dear­ing, be­cause ev­ery­one is very con­nected with the brand.”

If Am­fithe­atrof feels any pres­sure about tak­ing on the re­spon­si­bil­ity of such a weighty role (she is the company’s first fe­male de­sign di­rec­tor and only the eighth per­son to hold the ti­tle since the company was founded in 1837), she’s not say­ing so.

“It’s a huge learn­ing curve and I am still read­ing a lot about the his­tory of Tif­fany,” she says. “There are so many great sto­ries. In that sense, it’s thrilling and an hon­our. The big­gest chal­lenge is not to lose your­self. To make a Tif­fany for the 21st cen­tury, you have to be very fo­cused on bring­ing all the cat­e­gories un­der one hand. Whether it’s fash­ion jew­ellery or en­gage­ment or cou­ture or state­ment pieces – all of them need to feel like they are made by the same hand.”

Born in Ja­pan, to an Ital­ian mother and a Rus­sianAmer­i­can fa­ther who was a for­eign cor­re­spon­dent for

mag­a­zine, Am­fithe­atrof grew up in New York, Rome, London and Moscow. She re­mem­bers mak­ing her first piece of jew­ellery – a sil­ver hair­piece with etched stones – when she was just 15 years old.

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