After more than a decade work­ing in the shad­ows as the Richemont Group’s se­cret weapon, Gi­ampiero Bodino is step­ping into the spot­light with his epony­mous high jew­ellery mai­son that has been qui­etly craft­ing stun­ning be­spoke com­mis­sions cel­e­brat­ing Italia

Plaza Watch International - - Contents - WORDS JOSH SIMS

We talk to the cre­ative force at the Richemont Group and the founder of

Bodino, his epony­mous high jew­ellery mai­son.

Imag­ine step­ping inside the his­tory of hu­man­ity, tak­ing a leisurely stroll through what man has done best in this world: art and cre­ation. A showcase of cul­ture, savoir-faire and her­itage, the invitation-only Bi­en­nale des An­ti­quaires is the France of Louis XIV and his suc­ces­sors in Ver­sailles, that of the Belle Époque and the Art Deco era, that of Le Cor­bus­ier and Monet – a France that set the tone for the rest of the world. The Bi­en­nale has made of Paris the guardian of a cer­tain idea of France – that of a sym­bol of lux­ury – its an­ti­quar­i­ans tire­lessly per­se­ver­ing to keep alive the ap­peal of rare métiers per­formed by gen­er­a­tions of cab­i­net­mak­ers, gold­smiths, lac­quer ar­ti­sans, mar­quetry crafts­men, bronze work­ers, sculp­tors, up­hol­ster­ers and dec­o­ra­tors, who take their time to achieve per­fec­tion through ac­tiv­i­ties based on rar­ity and scarcity. Tak­ing place from 11 to 21 Septem­ber 2014, the 27th edi­tion of the Bi­en­nale des An­ti­quaires brought to­gether 86 in­ter­na­tion­ally-renowned art and an­tique deal­ers, among them 14 con­tem­po­rary fine jew­ellery houses, in­clud­ing Alexan­dre Reza, Boucheron, Bul­gari, Cartier, Chanel, Chaumet, David Mor­ris, Dior, Graff Di­a­monds, Pi­aget, Siegel­son, Van Cleef & Ar­pels and Wal­lace Chan – a record num­ber in the Bi­en­nale’s his­tory.

One of the most ex­cit­ing dis­cov­er­ies at the fair was new­comer Gi­ampiero Bodino, who works out of Villa Mozart – his op­u­lent 1930’s Art Deco home in Mi­lan de­signed by ar­chi­tect Piero Por­taluppi that he re­stored and dec­o­rated, which is sur­rounded by lush green­ery – es­chew­ing the im­per­son­al­ity of a bou­tique. Fea­tur­ing flo­ral-fres­coed ceil­ings float­ing over mar­ble col­umns, stone mo­saic floors, ex­tra­or­di­nary wood­work, sculp­tures by Eu­ge­nio Ba­roni and An­to­nio Maraini and im­pos­ing fig­u­ra­tive paint­ings by Bodino him­self, Villa Mozart is where the 54-year-old stud­ies, sketches, cre­ates and wel­comes dis­cern­ing clients be­hind closed doors by ap­point­ment only. He will never re­veal their names though, as dis­cre­tion and con­fi­den­tial­ity are the name of the game.

Es­tab­lished just over a year ago, the brand’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in the Bi­en­nale is noth­ing short of ex­tra­or­di­nary, as the other fine jew­ellery ex­hibitors have all been in the business for decades or even cen­turies – vaunt­ing their cen­turies-old his­tory and ar­chives filled with com­mis­sions from

“In the long term, what I want to do is to try to follow my instincts and hope that peo­ple around the world ap­pre­ci­ate my work.”

roy­alty and movie stars – and de­buts are rare in the world of high jew­ellery in gen­eral. Still, while the name Gi­ampiero Bodino may be un­known to the gen­eral pub­lic, he is one of the most in­flu­en­tial per­sons in lux­ury cir­cles to­day. Hav­ing served as the group art di­rec­tor of the Richemont Group (which in­cludes Cartier, Jaeger-LeCoul­tre, Van Cleef & Ar­pels and Pi­aget) since 2002, he has played a key role in the de­sign of the group’s watches, jew­ellery, ac­ces­sories and writ­ing in­stru­ments and shaped the look of some of the most im­por­tant time­pieces and jew­els of our day, and his epony­mous brand marks the first time any large lux­ury group has started a fine jew­eller from scratch, as it has pre­vi­ously grown by ac­qui­si­tion. Cur­rently bal­anc­ing his two roles, Bodino still prefers to stay out of the lime­light for the other brands he’s re­spon­si­ble for within the Richemont Group, there­fore he doesn’t par­tic­i­pate in their jew­ellery prod­uct pre­sen­ta­tions.

The first time I’d heard of Bodino was in con­nec­tion with his one-of-a-kind sculp­tural fine jew­ellery cre­ations for Jaeger-LeCoul­tre, where each time­piece was hand­crafted with over 3,000 stones – di­a­monds, ru­bies, pink sap­phires and tsa­vorites for La Rose and yel­low sap­phires, di­a­monds and tsa­vorites for La Tulipe – care­fully se­lected to fit into an amaz­ing puz­zle of sin­u­ous colour gra­da­tions of in­ter­weav­ing petals, corol­las, leaves and stems. All in­tri­cate de­tails were picked out and re­pro­duced in a man­ner faith­ful to their real-life coun­ter­parts, which en­tailed more than 600 pa­tient hours to set each del­i­cate model. Though Bodino had been recog­nised for his men’s and mil­i­tary watches, his en­thu­si­asm for haute joail­lerie cre­ations had won then CEO Jérôme Lam­bert over, trans­pos­ing his Ital­ian mas­cu­line sen­si­bil­ity into ul­tra-fem­i­nine time­pieces.

An ac­com­plished artist in his spare time, the grad­u­ate of the In­sti­tute of Ap­plied Arts and De­sign of Turin where he spe­cialised in art styling, in­dus­trial de­sign and ar­chi­tec­ture has de­signed ev­ery­thing from cars to bou­tiques and hand­bags, and worked with ma­jor lux­ury and fash­ion houses like Bul­gari, Gucci, Ver­sace and Swarovski. He recog­nises that jew­ellery- and watch­mak­ing in­her­ently in­volve team­work, a world apart from that of the artist, yet he in­fuses his sense of so­phis­ti­cated artistry into ev­ery one of his cre­ations. Hav­ing started his ca­reer work­ing for car de­signer Gior­getto Gi­u­giaro, he states, “Car de­sign taught me a lot, but the most im­por­tant thing that re­mained from that ex­pe­ri­ence is the three-di­men­sional view of an ob­ject – fun­da­men­tal when you are think­ing of cars, but equally in­dis­pens­able for ob­jects of smaller di­men­sions.”

Hav­ing pre­vi­ously pre­ferred to work be­hind the scenes, the launch of Bodino’s name­sake jew­ellery brand came about in a nat­u­ral, fluid way and wasn’t forced, thanks to the far-sighted vi­sion of Richemont chair­man, Jo­hann Ru­pert. When we meet at the Bi­en­nale des An­ti­quaires, the dash­ing and dap­per Ital­ian gen­tle­man muses, “It’s some­thing that prob­a­bly peo­ple who I worked with were think­ing at the back of their minds, but I never thought to do that as a goal of my life. I like cre­ation most and cre­ation has no name. So the fact that it’s un­der my name is some­thing that makes sense for me, but it wasn’t some­thing that I al­ways wanted to have. I waited many years to do it be­cause it wasn’t my ob­ses­sion.”

He dis­cusses how he feels to be ex­hibit­ing at the Bi­en­nale for the first time, “I don’t have enough words to de­scribe it. For me, it’s like be­ing in a dream. I feel like the name above the door isn’t mine. It’s a huge op­por­tu­nity, but it’s the fact that peo­ple like my work that gives me the most plea­sure. It’s im­por­tant to know peo­ple’s re­ac­tions. The Bi­en­nale is like ther­apy. You can’t just please your­self; look at your­self in a mir­ror and say how good you are. This should come from some­one else who sees what you’re do­ing and tells you. For me, this place gives you feed­back; it’s a kind of ther­apy to dou­ble-check if what I’m do­ing is ap­pre­ci­ated or not.”

Among the 43 capi d’opera (unique pieces that evoke an an­cient art form that ap­pren­tices sub­mit at the end of their train­ing be­fore be­com­ing master crafts­men) based on nine themes – Cammeo, Rosa dei Venti, Chimera, Primavera, Barocco, Te­sori del Mare, Corona, Pas­samane­ria and Mo­saico – which were pre­sented at the Bi­en­nale were the Barocco neck­lace com­posed of African Paraiba tour­ma­lines, di­a­monds and white gold and the Cammeo ring fea­tur­ing a chal­cedony cameo, di­a­monds and white gold. They rep­re­sented a per­sonal voy­age through the eyes of a man in love with beauty and were a dis­cov­ery of Bodino’s Italy – its his­tory, cul­tural and artis­tic her­itage and strik­ing land­scapes, from the Mediter­ranean wa­ters to Byzan­tine mo­saics. Bodino draws in­spi­ra­tion from ev­ery cor­ner of his home coun­try and its mul­ti­fac­eted tra­di­tions: it could range from the colours of a mo­saic in a church or an an­cient stone statue dec­o­rat­ing a bal­cony in Si­cily.

Bodino ex­plains, “I was born in Turin and I lived the first 20 years of my life there. Then I moved to Rome for 10 years, then to Mi­lan. Now I use Mi­lan as a base and I travel a lot. I have the amaz­ing chance to work where I want. All my love for my coun­try of ori­gin comes up and you can feel it in my pieces. It’s my way to say thank you to a coun­try that has the high­est con­cen­tra­tion of mas­ter­pieces in the world in the en­tire his­tory of art. Con­cern­ing clients, it shouldn’t be taken in an ar­ro­gant way, but I’m not an op­por­tunis­tic man and I don’t want to please clients from the Far East, for ex­am­ple, with cer­tain themes. It’s too easy and hyp­o­crit­i­cal and I have too much re­spect for clients to do that. In the long term, what I want to do is to try to follow my instincts and hope that peo­ple around the world ap­pre­ci­ate my work. What I can do is to show the beauty of my coun­try and maybe they can en­joy it, even if they’re not from Italy.”

How­ever, the Bi­en­nale cre­ations were just a small glimpse of what the brand has to of­fer. “The pieces made for spe­cific clients are never shown,” notes Bodino. “I’m very con­fi­den­tial, but I also need to show the world my taste, style and what I can do. I de­sign things that I like. I never pre­pare col­lec­tions be­cause I’m not sea­sonal and it takes too long, and we’re not in fash­ion, but mak­ing things that last for a long time. I must pro­duce some­thing that I be­lieve in and pro­pose this to peo­ple - they can be fit­ted to the client. Or when somebody sees some­thing that has al­ready been done, they can ask for some­thing sim­i­lar. Be­cause we’re a be­spoke company, when peo­ple come to see me, they un­der­stand my­self and the prod­uct bet­ter, and I un­der­stand what they want. They don’t buy just an ob­ject – they buy a mem­ory, they buy a place and they buy a lit­tle part of me, too.”

Bodino sketches quickly and clearly so clients can get an im­age in their minds of the piece in a very short time, and each piece is fash­ioned in wax, which is turned into sil­ver, mod­i­fied, then trans­formed into gold, with the most crit­i­cal part of the cre­ative process be­ing trans­form­ing a two-di­men­sional sketch into a three-di­men­sional rough sam­ple. His pieces aren’t rigid but in move­ment, so he stud­ies where to put the ar­tic­u­la­tions – highly tech­ni­cal work that in­volves elab­o­rate sym­me­tries, cas­cades, ar­cades and swirls that evoke a sense of light­ness, free­dom and rigour. Vol­umes are bold and flex­i­ble and each cre­ation unites a va­ri­ety of stones and cuts in vi­brant colour com­bi­na­tions that wel­come di­a­monds, emer­alds, coloured sap­phires, ru­bies, tan­zan­ites, pearls, red spinels and tour­ma­lines.

“High jew­ellery in gen­eral takes a very long time to make,” Bodino re­marks. “Ev­ery sin­gle piece has a dif­fer­ent level of com­pli­ca­tion. It’s hun­dreds and hun­dreds of hours of work for each one, that can go from 200 to 700 hours, which is one year of work on one piece.” While he is cur­rently able to tap the Richemont Group’s wide-rang­ing jew­ellery ex­per­tise, which is re­as­sur­ing to clients, he hopes to have a work­shop where crafts­men may work out of his villa one day. For the mo­ment, he col­lab­o­rates with se­lect ar­ti­sans that the group uses for some pieces, mainly work­ing with Parisien ate­liers be­cause he be­lieves that Italy is los­ing its jew­ellery-mak­ing savoir-faire.

Ex­clu­sively pro­duc­ing ul­tra-be­spoke, one-of-a-kind cre­ations that pay homage to Ital­ian art and cul­ture, Bodino only works on one piece at a time, closely fol­low­ing each stage of the cre­ative process. “This is my way of con­ceiv­ing lux­ury ob­jects,” he says. “There are peo­ple who buy things be­cause they feel re­as­sured that somebody else has al­ready bought them. I can un­der­stand this and I’m not crit­i­cis­ing this type of at­ti­tude, but I pre­fer peo­ple who have their own per­son­al­ity and think the op­po­site way: If somebody else wears some­thing, I ap­pre­ci­ate it, but I don’t want it for me. I want some­thing that is ded­i­cated to me or that I choose ac­cord­ing to my tastes.

“They don’t buy just an ob­ject – they buy a mem­ory, they buy a place and they buy a lit­tle part of me, too.”




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