Valérie Samuel, the granddaughter of Fred Paris founder Fred Samuel, tells Terence Lim what it means to return to the jewellery brand she grew up with
For valérie samuel, returning to work for French jeweller Fred Paris in 2017, after over 20 years away, is more than just another career move. The brand’s artistic director and vice president is, after all, the granddaughter of late founder, Fred Samuel. This makes her return to the fold of the jewellery house very much a homecoming. “Fred Samuel was very much inspired by the south of France, which he loved so much. Many of his creations were inspired by the French Riviera, which meant being inspired by the sun, the light and the sea,” says Valérie in an exclusive e-mail interview with Singapore Tatler. “Thus, our collections are full of light, modernity and sunshine. I have been influenced by my grandfather and his vision. I carry his values because I grew up with them.” While it is uncommon for a descendant to return to their family business after its sale to a conglomerate, Valérie’s appointment indicates that the LVMH group’s management recognises the value of the creative flair that the Samuels bring to the brand. (LVMH acquired the brand in 1995.) Take the Pain de Sucre collection, for instance. The signet ring with a gemstone cabochon was taken from Fred Samuel’s archival drawings and relaunched in 1997 with an interchangeable central stone. The collection has since become a key pillar of the brand, underlining how forward-thinking Fred Samuel’s designs were. As artistic director, Valérie plans to bring her own aesthetic and flavour to Fred without compromising on the brand’s DNA. She has been focusing on the current collections and breathes new life into them by introducing “new silhouettes and styles”. Case in point: the 8°0 collection, which used to be a bracelet-heavy range, now includes necklaces, rings and earrings. That said, she remains open to pushing the envelope and creating entirely new
collections in the future as long as the creations remain in line with the brand DNA. “We strive to constantly bring modernity to our collections and play with different ways of wearing jewellery,” she says. “We will capitalise on our rich heritage and update our DNA under today’s trends, and always keep a daring and innovative state of mind.” She shares more about her return to Fred as well as the current consumer trends.
You started your career at Fred Paris before venturing to several other big-name brands. How does it feel to be back?
I left the house during its acquisition by the LVMH group in 1995 because I wanted to stand on my own two feet and gain new professional experience. But I have continued to follow its development with great interest, especially when [Dominique] Watine-arnault was president. My return to Fred is a story of alchemy, encounter and timing. LVMH has offered me the opportunity to write a new chapter for it.
What is your vision for the brand?
My aim as artistic director is to build on Fred’s amazing heritage, and create new stories and tomorrow’s bestsellers. My grandfather had always supported me, and he imparted his values and passion for jewellery to me. So I aspire to perpetuate and evolve the house’s heritage in line with its DNA, but imbued with today’s spirit.
What key collections are the most important to you?
Our first key collection is the iconic Force 10, which has been our hero product since it was created in 1966. The unexpected marriage of a steel cable with a gold buckle epitomises the style of Fred: singular, precious, luminous, powerful and timeless. The Force 10 collection is known for its modernity, serves as an infinite source of inspiration, and stands for creative freedom and energy. I would also say that I like the new 8°0 collection very much. It’s refined, elegant and easy to wear, and gives one the possibility of stacking multiple bracelets and earrings with or without their dangly chains.
With your experience in the watch and jewellery world, how have consumers’ tastes and appetite for jewellery evolved over the years?
Jewellery is the ultimate fashion accessory with men and women wanting unique products, which suit them. For my designs, I talk to my customers and try to understand what they want. With the interchangeable concept of Force 10, and the new designs of the 8°0 and Pain de Sucre collections, I have combined my customers’ needs with modern designs to make everyday pieces that allow them to match the stone of their rings or bracelets to the occasion. The pieces are designed for our clients who can wear them to the office, for a cocktail event or on casual weekends.
BREAK NEW GROUND While the jewellery collections in Fred Paris’ stable remain largely the same, artistic director Valérie Samuel (below) has introduced more fun and contemporary interpretations of the current pieces