THE WINGS OF A DOVE
Paloma Picasso on the journey to finding her own creative voice
The hotel suite where I am waiting for Paloma Picasso is ablaze with light. Sunshine, reflected from the surface of Lake Geneva, ripples across the ceiling and bounces off a glass coffee table loaded with clusters of gold bracelets and rings set with amethyst and aquamarine, topaz and tanzanite. The effect is positively dazzling – a fitting setting for the Tiffany & Co jewellery designer, who is as famous for her own style as she is for her creations.
Today, Paloma is a vision of restrained monochrome in a white lacy Akris shirt, black Chanel cigarette-pants and matching Manolo slingbacks. Her trademark slash of scarlet lipstick is missing, but the energy that she exudes irresistibly draws the eye: she has the assertive grace of a matador, and appears decades younger than her years (she is in her late sixties). Gently jingling bracelets of her own formation run up her tanned forearms, and on her right hand glitters a huge nugget studded with a pink rubellite and a grass-green tourmaline. I would be tempted just to sit and gaze at her, were it not for the trays of jewellery in front of us which we are both tempted to play with – she too is seeing some of these pieces for the first time, despite having designed them herself.
The Studio ring collection was inspired by her days as a 1980s New York socialite, when she partied with Andy Warhol at Studio 54 by night and worked for Tiffany by day. Bold stones in clashing disco hues are set into chunky gold, shaped and grooved to recall the city’s skyscrapers. ‘There is always a thread of thought with my designs. It may not be immediately obvious, but when people hear the story behind it, they understand,’ she says in her deep, softly accented voice.
Another bracelet, shaped like a lightning bolt, comes from her chic Graffiti collection, which was also an homage to New York in the Eighties. ‘Everyone was worrying about graffiti tags at the time, so I thought, why don’t I make some in gold and diamonds and maybe people will think they’re great,’ she says with a throaty chuckle. The more delicate interlocking Melody bracelets she is wearing were a response to the music of the softly lapping waters of the lake outside our window, while other collections have been called forth variously by details of Venetian architecture, the fountain on the terrace of her second home in Marrakesh, and her own name – Paloma means ‘dove’ in Spanish.
The simple fluidity of her design of the bird in flight suggests that it flew with a flourish from her pen, but in fact, it caused her a good deal of heart-searching. ‘All through the years, I’ve only done things that I knew for sure people couldn’t relate to my father,’ she says wryly. ‘A dove was more difficult.’
Indeed, for Paloma is the daughter of Pablo Picasso, whose line drawing of a dove is one of the world’s most recognisable symbols of peace. Understandably, she was determined that hers would be very different, and drew numerous versions until it was. ‘The legacy is a weight and at the same time it’s a blessing too,’ she says thoughtfully. ‘I don’t regard it as a negative; it just makes me want to try harder.’
In fact, she is the daughter of two great artists: her mother is the painter Françoise Gilot (portrayed by Natascha McElhone in the 1996 Merchant Ivory biopic
‘I’ve only done things that I knew people couldn’t relate to my father’
A cuff from the Graffiti collectionAll pieces throughout from a selection Paloma Picasso for Tiffany & Co
Rings from the Studio collection
Right: Paloma photographed by Robert Doisneau in 1958. Above, fromleft: Jerry Hall, Debbie Harry and Paloma at Studio54 in 1981
Above: Paloma with her father Pablo Picasso in about 1950. Below: with Andy Warhol
A necklace from the Graffiti collection
Bangles from the Melody collection