Out of Africa

With the fi­nal chapter of its Les Mon­des de Chaumet tril­ogy, the French Mai­son shines the spot­light on the rich colours and ma­te­ri­als of sub-Sa­ha­ran Africa.

Harper's Bazaar (Singapore) - - CONTENTS - By Windy Aulia

ma mag­ine if you could go on an epic jou jour­ney around the world, trav­el­ling acro across dif­fer­ent con­ti­nents to ex­pe­ri­ence as d di­verse an ar­ray of cul­tures as pos­si­ble. Y You might start in Rus­sia, fol­lowed by Ja­pan, and fi­nally end up in Africa. Sounds like an im­pos­si­ble dream? Not ac­cord­ing to Chaumet. Les Mon­des de Chaumet (French for “The Worlds of Chaumet”) is a high jewellery tril­ogy staged beau­ti­fully by the Mai­son, start­ing with the Rus­sian-in­spired Prom­e­nades Im­péri­ales be­fore mov­ing on to the Ja­pan-in­spired Chant du Prin­temps.The grand fi­nale? Tré­sors d’Afrique (French for “African trea­sures”), in­spired by the nat­u­ral won­ders of sub-Sa­ha­ran Africa.

Con­sist­ing of five dis­tinct parts, each sub-col­lec­tion in Tré­sors d’Afrique pays homage to a dif­fer­ent as­pect of the con­ti­nent.The Ter­res d’Or line, a sym­bol of desert sand and ochre earth, boasts ru­bies from East Africa, yel­low sap­phires and a mod­ern mix of red lac­quer.The ex­cep­tional rings were de­signed with the Toi et Moi ring (an iconic ring given to Em­press Josephine by Napoleon Bon­a­parte) in mind. In­spired by an African bride head­piece, the neck­lace from the Cas­cades Royales line is a bold mix of the rare Colom­bian Muzo emer­ald with onyx and di­a­monds.The Ron­des de Pier­res line is a clear nod to the Maa­sai tribe’s fond­ness for dy­namic colours, ex­pressed in a cir­cle of beads of man­darin gar­nets, red spinels, black spinels, emer­alds and the purest non-heated sap­phire beads.The Tal­is­ma­nia ban­gles and rings, mean­while, sym­bol­ise a good luck charm, jux­ta­pos­ing ebony with gold, lapis lazuli, tiger-eye, mala­chite and turquoise.

The last line, Espiè­g­leries, sits as a spe­cial se­ries as it high­lights a col­lab­o­ra­tion with Evans Mbugua, a Nairobi-born, Paris-based con­tem­po­rary artist. Di­rectly trans­lated as “play­ful har­mony”, Espiè­g­leries de­picts scenes from the African sa­van­nah, mainly us­ing the Grand Feu enam­elling tech­nique.The re­sult­ing brooches and watches are awe-in­duc­ing pieces that have been cre­ated with a sense of play and won­der.

As al­ways with Chaumet, ev­ery col­lec­tion is about cel­e­brat­ing the con­nec­tion be­tween art and the Mai­son, the past and present, as well as the di­a­logue be­tween his­tory and the world today.We speak to Chaumet’s Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer, Jean-Marc Mansvelt, to find out more.

Can you take us back to how Les Mon­des de Chaumet be­gan?

The jour­ney is re­ally about com­ing back to what is im­por­tant for us since the be­gin­ning of our Mai­son. [For us,] it has al­ways been about re­it­er­at­ing the fact that Chaumet is a Parisian Mai­son with a strong point of view and distinc­tive style. Paris is the cap­i­tal of, not only fash­ion, but also art; and she has been ex­posed to many vis­i­tors from var­i­ous coun­tries, cul­tures and con­ti­nents. Of course, some of them have be­come Chaumet clients. So the idea is to cel­e­brate the fact that Chaumet has been open­ing its doors to the world. We planned this in three chap­ters. The first was based on his­tor­i­cal in­flu­ences, and we chose Rus­sia. Chapter two was more of an ed­u­ca­tional out­reach, with the open­ing of our ex­hi­bi­tion in Tokyo (“The Worlds of Chaumet”, held at the Mit­subishi Ichigokan Mu­seum). The third chapter cul­mi­nated in the first week of July, fo­cus­ing on Africa with the launch of Tré­sors d’Afrique. It’s a ter­ri­tory that has not been ex­plored much by other high jewellery brands.As far as I know, this is the first time a high jew­eller has done a full col­lec­tion ded­i­cated to Africa.

With such a worldly theme, is it fair to say that Chaumet is now look­ing out in­stead of look­ing in?

I think the world of Chaumet is dia­lec­tic be­tween in­side and out­side; be­tween be­ing true to your style and the way to see the world. That’s why we reg­u­larly bring in tal­ents to col­lab­o­rate. In the past we had Pierre Sterlé. Some 40 years ago, he was cre­at­ing jewels for his own brand as well as for Chaumet. Also, at the end of the 19th cen­tury, the key fac­tor to some of Chaumet’s iconic pieces was René Lalique, be­fore he started his own Mai­son. He con­trib­uted great draw­ings and ini­tial ideas for wing-themed de­signs that by ex­ten­sion be­came our fa­mous wing tiara cre­ated for Gertrude-Van­der­bilt in 1908.

That’s why I thought Les Mon­des du Chaumet is an in­ter­est­ing con­cept: The first two chap­ters are fa­mil­iar to the Chaumet world, be­cause we have done so many or­ders for im­por­tant Rus­sian and Ja­panese clien­tele.The last chapter, on Africa, is a bit un­ex­pected.

Why was Africa cho­sen for the last chapter?

Many may not know how much African cul­ture has in­flu­enced the world of art; that’s why we are cel­e­brat­ing it. Plus, we al­ways want to cel­e­brate this con­nec­tion be­tween Chaumet and art in gen­eral.Africa is ev­ery­where in the world of today and, I be­lieve, the world of to­mor­row. Chaumet has sur­vived for so many decades be­cause clients still come [along] with us. So we play the good role by open­ing up their eyes and their hori­zons.Tak­ing into ac­count that many of our clients are also very much in­volved in art, and are them­selves col­lect­ing great art pieces from the past and from today. Some of our clients hold some in­cred­i­ble pieces from the 20th cen­tury; [Ge­orges] Braque, [An­dré] Derain and Pi­casso, as well as con­tem­po­rary art­works from Africa.That [is] also our way, to con­nect dif­fer­ent things.We need to, be­cause oth­er­wise, we could be very dusty, very soon.

Tré­sors d’Afrique was cre­ated in col­lab­o­ra­tion with artist Evans Mbugua. What was the process like?

Evans Mbugua came into the pic­ture about two years ago. By then, we were al­ready work­ing on the third chapter. He brought in his own point of view, some­thing rel­e­vant to today. The ini­tial work on Tré­sors d’Afrique was more re­lated to some of the African-in­flu­enced art­works done in the 20th cen­tury by well-known artists like Pablo Pi­casso. At Chaumet, we con­nect the then with the now, his­tory with moder­nity. Mbugua’s role in the col­lec­tion was more of a col­lab­o­ra­tor; to add di­a­logue and to in­cite re­ac­tion. [He also worked on] a se­ries of brooches, where he was given a blank [slate] to imag­ine his own story through the por­trayal of African an­i­mals.

What is the essence of the Tré­sor d’Afrique col­lec­tion and what does it aim to cap­ture?

Ev­ery col­lec­tion [that we cre­ate] is an an­swer to the ques­tion on en­ergy, joy and colours, be­cause jewellery is cre­ated for cel­e­bra­tion. Even though the theme feels rather dif­fer­ent—the brand has ac­tu­ally been a lit­tle bit au­da­cious in its ap­proach—Tré­sors d’Afrique still feels very Chaumet to me. There will al­ways be light­ness and flu­id­ity, a sense of har­mony or equi­lib­rium in ev­ery sin­gle Chaumet piece. The goal for each col­lec­tion is to de­fine the brand. Once this is achieved, it’s all about the jour­ney. Per­son­ally, I be­lieve peo­ple re­spond to the col­lec­tion well if the jour­ney was joy­ful. That’s the thing we have to guar­an­tee. What’s also im­por­tant with Tré­sors d’Afrique is that with it, we cel­e­brate Africa, but we don’t pro­mote nor fight for Africa. The col­lec­tion is not a po­lit­i­cal state­ment. We are in­spired by African cul­ture and peo­ple be­cause they bring a lot of mean­ing to us. [It’s] as sim­ple as that. It’s as if we opened a win­dow for us to think dif­fer­ently, to think out­side, to think about cer­tain won­der­ful mo­ments. Tré­sors d’Afrique is a dream. It’s a dream of Africa. ■

Mod­els wear­ing pieces from the Chaumet Tré­sors d’Afrique col­lec­tion

From left: An il­lus­tra­tion of the Espiè­g­leries flamingo brooch. The Espiè­g­leries parure in­cludes white and yel­low gold, colour­ful pre­cious stones and Grand Feu enamel. The trans­formable Espiè­g­leries ant brooch

From top: The Espiè­g­leries ele­phant brooch in white gold, pink opal and multi-stone. The Cas­cades Royales parure mixes white and yel­low gold with emer­alds and di­a­monds. An il­lus­tra­tion of the Espiè­g­leries ze­bra and mon­key brooch

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