As Luck Would Have It

“To be lucky, you have to be­lieve in luck,” said Jacques Ar­pels. Ken­neth Goh trav­els with Van Cleef and Ar­pels as it cel­e­brates 50 years of the Al­ham­bra—and its jour­ney from a hum­ble qua­tre­foil de­sign to a charm­ing sta­tus sym­bol

Harper's Bazaar (Singapore) - - CONTENTS - Mou­ton En­ragé. Le

The idea of this mag­i­cal qual­ity called luck has been prayed, wished and searched for across cen­turies. Its in­nate elu­sive­ness goes some way to­wards ex­plain­ing why Van Cleef and Ar­pels’ (VCA) idea of luck, more specif­i­cally, the Al­ham­bra, has been a shin­ing em­blem for the House for 50 glor ious years. And in an era where tech­nol­ogy and Google reign supreme, this un­fath­omable, un­sci­en­tific, un­ex­plained qual­ity is now, iron­i­cally, al­to­gether far harder to track down. Hav­ing a piece of luck hang­ing from your neck, wrists, fin­gers or ears has never been more de­sir­able.

The Al­ham­bra started life in 1968. Five decades on, VCA has cho­sen to cel­e­brate the magic of this lucky charm—prob­a­bly the most recog­nis­able four-leaf clover em­blem in the world of jew­ellery—in the ex­otic en­vi­rons of Mar­rakesh.Why this city? Well, de­spite the Moor­ish An­dalu­sian as­so­ci­a­tion with its name, and the dis­tinct qua­tre­foil form, the Al­ham­bra didn’t in fact orig­i­nate in Spain, but rather took in­spi­ra­tion from the ogives and quadr illes of Gothic Venice. So, it’s fit­ting that the cel­e­bra­tion of the Al­ham­bra should take place in a land where his­tory un­folds in a unique meet­ing of Ara­bic cul­ture with Euro­pean tra­di­tion. Over five days in Mar­rakesh, I was treated to the very best sights, sounds and tastes of this mag­i­cal king­dom in the desert, cul­mi­nat­ing in a one-night-only din­ner and party held in the El Badi Palace, il­lu­mi­nated by no less than 10,001 oil lamps.

Sur­rounded by the mag­i­cal qual­i­ties of this spir­i­tual land, where a strict Is­lamic cul­ture ex­ists along­side French in­sou­ciance and Gal­lic lais­sez-faire, I truly be­gan to un­der­stand and fall in love with this lucky charm.The qua­tre­foil de­sign ap­peared ev­ery­where I turned, whether dot­ted across arch­ways of the fa­mous Yves Saint Lau­rent mu­seum, or deeply etched in mo­saics on the fa­cade of the Bahia Palace. Deep in the souks, the lucky em­blem dec­o­rated ce­ram­ics and danced across can­dle-lit court­yards, and cast de­light­ful shad­ows on mounds of fra­grant cous­cous and flavoured tagine. At night, the Al­ham­bra came out to play on the mem­bers of the in­ter­na­tional press who graced the event. On long chains of gold and black onyx,

the mo­tif looked de­li­ciously bohemian on the Euro­pean press, dec­o­rat­ing gos­samer-thin flo­ral evening dresses with deep V-neck­lines and tanned sum­mer skin. It re­called the r ise in promi­nence of the Al­ham­bra in the ’70s, when in re­sponse to the hippy era, VCA brought out mala­chite and lapiz lazuli in 1971. This was fol­lowed by onyx and coral in 1972, tiger’s eye in 1973 and turquoise in 1974—pre­cious coloured stones that spoke of an era of deca­dence, free love and per­sonal or­na­men­ta­tion.

The Asian press wore their lucky charms in a more tra­di­tional way, dec­o­rat­ing black dresses and bril­liant red gowns with pen­dants of Sweet Al­ham­bra, with ears and wrists dec­o­rated with tiny charms of mother-of-pearl or pink gold. Small, in­tri­cate and del­i­cate, the Al­ham­bra took on an al­to­gether more Zen-like ap­peal, look­ing dis­tinctly like Ja­panese ka­mon (fam­ily crests).This re­calls the suc­cess VCA had in Ja­pan in the ’70s, when the French jew­eller made the brave move to be the first French jew­ellery house to open a bou­tique there in 1974. Har­ness­ing on the Ja­panese na­tional love af­fair with Western lux­ury, plus the air of fa­mil­iar­ity with their own na­tional em­blem that’s been used for cen­turies in all walks of life, this mar­riage marked one of the most suc­cess­ful for­ays into a for­eign mar­ket, where Ja­pan re­mained the most im­por­tant mar­ket for VCA un­til the end of the cen­tury.

Nicholas Foulkes, the ac­claimed Bri­tish au­thor and art his­to­rian of a book on the Al­ham­bra, sums it up best: “I’m a huge be­liever in luck or co­in­ci­dence.We may plan things, but they very sel­dom turn out the way we en­vi­sioned... In the end, the forces of the uni­verse need to be with us, and Al­ham­bra’s been very lucky be­cause it came at just the right time; it stuck around, and it was re­vived. Each time the Al­ham­bra looked like it had fallen from favour, it found favour some­where [else] and it found its way through. So,Al­ham­bra has been lucky.You don’t stick around for 50 years and then be­come an overnight suc­cess with­out luck.”

The beauty of the Al­ham­bra can be seen in its abil­ity to morph and change ac­cord­ing to the wearer’s style, eth­nic­ity and taste. “It re­mains the same. It re­mains iden­ti­fi­ably what it is. So, if you look at it from that per­spec­tive, if you’re chang­ing ev­ery­thing about it, but the shape...You know it’s al­ways go­ing to look fresh.” said Foulkes. I call it jew­ellery’s chic lit­tle Ru­bik’s cube.

Per­haps the en­dur­ing qual­ity of the Al­ham­bra can be best summed up by the chic style of the fa­mous women who wore them. “Its ap­peal is char­ac­terised when you have Grace Kelly and her daugh­ter, Caro­line, wear­ing the Al­ham­bra in two very dif­fer­ent ways by two very dif­fer­ent gen­er­a­tions. If you have to pick the one thing to sum it up, that would prob­a­bly be it,” said Foulkes. In 1974, Françoise Hardy was pho­tographed wear­ing two long Al­ham­bra neck­laces. Romy Sch­nei­der no­tably wore an Al­ham­bra neck­lace in Michel Deville’s film,

Clearly, the al­lure of celebrity con­tin­ues to build on a brand’s legacy and DNA, even long af­ter they have left the sil­ver screen.

“You don’t stick around for 50 years and then be­come an overnight suc­cess with­out luck.” — Nicholas Foulkes

To­day, the Al­ham­bra con­tin­ues to c a p t iva t e a whole new au­di­ence keen to find their own piece of luck. Al­most half a cen­tur y af­ter the first Al­ham­bra piece ap­peared, very lit­tle has changed when it comes to the al­lure of this hum­ble qua­tre­foil de­sign: “The ease of wear, the el­e­gant in­for­mal­ity, the ver­sa­til­ity, the ap­peal to the eman­ci­pated woman, the ever-broad­en­ing choice of colour,” said Foulkes.And, I would add, with a sta­tus sym­bol as pure and sim­ple as a four-leaf clover shrouded in a ro­man­tic story, en­closed in pre­cious met­als, cen­tred on a mag­netic stone and hung from pure gold—the idea of luck never shone as brightly as it does to­day. ■

Au­drey Mar­nay in a pho­tog­ra­phy series lensed by Damian Foxe for Van Cleef & Ar­pels

Clock­wise from top left: An il­lus­tra­tion by Julie Joseph for VCA. The El Badi Palace lit up by can­dles for the one-night-only VCA event. A pair of pink gold, grey mother-of­pearl and di­a­mond Vin­tage Al­ham­bra ear­rings. A fash­ion im­age from New York, 1984. One of Mar­rakesh’s most fa­mous sites, the Ma­jorelle Gar­den. Ken­neth Goh and Nicholas Foulkes at the French con­sul gen­eral’s res­i­dence. A crys­tal roche Al­ham­bra sautoir. Spices on sale at a souk

Clock­wise from top left: Françoise Hardy wear­ing VCA pieces in 1974. A pink gold, grey mother-of-pearl and di­a­mond Vin­tage Al­ham­bra sautoir. So­nia Si­eff wear­ing her Vin­tage Al­ham­bra neck­lace. A page from a cat­a­logue for La Bou­tique Van Cleef and Ar­pels in New York, 1973. A gold, lapis lazuli and di­a­mond Vin­tage Al­ham­bra bracelet. Chart­ing 50 years of the Al­ham­bra. An il­lus­tra­tion by Julie Joseph for VCA

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Singapore

© PressReader. All rights reserved.