Patrice Leguéreau has designed a diverse range of pieces since he became the director of Chanel’s high jewelry design studio in 2009, but they always start from the same inspiration: the creations, the lifestyle and the personality of the founder of the brand, Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel.
“It’s the starting point, the base, the beginning of every new collection and new product,” Mr. Leguéreau (pronounced LE-gehr-oh) said in a phone interview from his Paris office in a building from Place Vendôme which also houses a recently renovated boutique dedicated to fine jewelry and Chanel watches.
“Sometimes I am inspired by Gabrielle Chanel herself: her life, her friends, her apartments,” he added, “or sometimes only by a very strong graphic icon, like the camellia or the lion. inspiration comes from different parts of the Chanel universe.
As its latest couture trends are showcased, Chanel presents Mr. Leguereau’s latest high jewelry collection in Paris to clients and other guests. (Some pieces from the line were shown in Taiwan in May.) Its 71 items range from a relatively understated white gold and diamond ring accented by a large star (in, yes, more diamonds) to larger pieces like a white gold necklace adorned with 839 diamonds, including a 5.02 carat stone.
Dubbed the 1932 Haute Joaillerie Collection, the pieces pay homage to a line created by Madame Chanel 90 years ago, simply called Bijoux de Diamants – diamond jewelry. Like the clothes and perfume for which she had already become famous, it was undeniably luxurious but lacked formality and bustle.
“She wanted to do in jewelry the same thing she did in fashion, which meant the pieces had to be very wearable,” said Fabienne Reybaud, who has written a volume on fine jewelry and watches for Chanel which is part of of a three-part collection. on the brand published by Assouline.
With the collection, Madame Chanel essentially opened the door for fashion houses to create their own fine jewelry lines.
“She disturbed, and she moved, the world of jewelry,” said Mr. Leguereau.
One piece of Diamond Jewelry, he said, particularly inspired him – an open diamond necklace designed to represent a comet, punctuated by a large star. “It really is a masterpiece,” he said, adding that it is “jewelry created to fit the female body.”
The new 1932 collection is Mr. Leguéreau’s second direct tribute to Bijoux de Diamants. In 2012, Chanel celebrated its 80th anniversary with a similar collection. This year’s iteration features something new: colorful stones like sapphires and blue opals mixed with a hearty array of diamonds.
Additionally, its patterns are dedicated to cosmic imagery like moons and stars. The goal, Mr. Leguereau said, was “to create a more focused and focused collection.”
Mr. Leguéreau oversees the design of Chanel’s high jewelry and also its less refined jewelry. Over the years, its collections have included highly recognizable branded motifs, including details that suggest the label’s bouclé jackets and the quilted quilting of its distinctive handbags.
“He creates jewelry where you can tell it’s signed Chanel,” Ms. Reybaud said.
“It’s kind of like omnichannel marketing,” said Christopher Olshan, chief executive of Luxury Marketing Council Worldwide. “You want a consistent brand message across all channels.”
Although Chanel does not share its sales figures, its jewelry business appears to be thriving: there are Chanel boutiques that sell only quality jewelry and watches in cities like London, New York, Hong Kong, and Shanghai.
Mr. Leguereau said he doesn’t work directly with designers in Chanel’s other categories, but feels an affinity with them. “We all have a natural connection together, because the Chanel name, the Chanel heritage, the Chanel story, is so deep and so obvious, so clear,” he said.
Mr. Léguereau, 51 years old, talks enthusiastically about his work. When it comes to his personal life, he is guarded.
Born in Paris and raised between the city and the French region of Burgundy, he won’t share much about his upbringing other than to say that as a child he developed a passion for drawing which he uses today. today in his work, since the sketch is an integral part of it. of how he designs. He also acquired a love of sport that remains – he has run marathons in Paris and New York, for example, and enjoys skiing and cycling.
As a young man, he had no plans to get into jewelry design – he graduated in 1991 from the École Boulle, a Paris-based school of art and applied art. But he became interested in luxury and, as he said, “for me, jewelry is the most luxurious activity”. This led to him earning a graduate degree in 1998 from the National Institute of Gemology, about a mile northwest of where he works today.
Before joining Chanel, he designed jewelry for 17 years at Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels. Granted, legacy is an integral part of his former employers’ jewelry, but Mr.. Leguéreau says Chanel’s connection to her past is unique.
“Heritage is more of a spirit, a philosophy, and that creates more freedom for me to create very contemporary and modern products,” he said. “It gives more space to create. The spirit is very, very different.
Mr. Leguereau’s collections take between two and three years to create, but he’s already planning something with a little more notice: a collection for the 100th anniversary of Bijoux de Diamants.
“I started thinking about how I could celebrate this collection 10 years from now,” he said, “to continue to be different, to surprise, and to create something new and modern.”