Savoir Flair talks to the Tiffany & Co. Design Director about her new role, the legacy she hopes to leave behind, and the new Tiffany T collection.
As far as historical jewelry houses go, Tiffany & Co. is one of the richest, most storied legacies in the industry. From its creation in 1837 by Charles Louis Tiffany as a stationary and fancy goods store to the modern day, the brand, which celebrated its 175th anniversary last year, has become synonymous with luxury and fine jewelry and has produced some of the most iconic collections of our time, including the instantly recognizable ‘Tiffany Locks’ and ‘Atlas’ collections.
Following in the footsteps of such icons as Jean Schlumberger, Paloma Picasso, Elsa Peretti, and Frank Gehry, Tiffany & Co.’s new Design Director, Francesca Amfitheatrof, joined the company in September 2013. With this new addition came a shift in strategy for the brand away from its more extravagant pieces, which had been the best-performing in 2013, and with the focus now on reviving its fashion jewelry offering. One year after her appointment, Amfitheatrof unveiled ‘Tiffany T’ – a collection of sleek bracelets, cuffs, rings, and necklaces inspired by the letter ‘T’ and that is so “unashamedly modern” and so classically timeless at the same time.
In her first interview for the Middle East, Amfitheatrof talks to Savoir Flair about her new role, the legacy she hopes to leave behind, and the ‘Tiffany T’ collection, which you can see exclusively in the gallery above.
You’ve been with Tiffany & Co. for just under a year now. How has the experience been so far?
I joined Tiffany in September 2013. It is a company of great innovators and dreamers who are willing to take many risks. I think this concept links directly to its founder, Charles Lewis Tiffany, who was a great entrepreneur and businessman long before these terms even existed. There is a lot of creativity, courage, and optimism at Tiffany & Co. From its magnificent collection of diamonds and gemstones to the most celebrated designers, Tiffany has always been one of the most iconic American brands.
You’ve been busy working on a new collection, ‘Tiffany T’, which is launching next month. Could you talk us through it? What was your starting point or starting thought? What story does it tell?
‘Tiffany T’ as a collection is very modern, pure, and elegant. ‘T’ felt like a natural starting point for me at Tiffany & Co. The collection pays homage to the Tiffany name and has the angularity and verticality that I associate with the energy and architecture of New York. There is that sense of continuous movement and optimism on the streets of New York; it’s a place of constant reinvention and creativity. You have these bold, sculptural pieces mixed with these delicate pieces, so you can layer them. The idea is to mix them.
What does this collection mean to you?
‘Tiffany T’ is my first collection for Tiffany & Co. and only the beginning. It is very clean and bold. I designed the collection with the Tiffany woman in mind who has a spring in her step and does not conform. Neither does Tiffany. Tiffany makes its own rules. It always has and always will. The possibilities are endless.
Do you have a favorite piece from ‘Tiffany T’?
Yes, I do. My favorite piece is the square bracelet in 18-karat gold. Although it is not the largest piece in ‘Tiffany T’, it has great presence and can be mixed and layered with any other piece from the collection.
You’re a true citizen of the world, having lived in Asia, Europe, Russia, and the USA and traveled the globe. Have your travels informed your design aesthetic and this collection in particular? How does Tiffany’s history with New York City play a role here?
Absolutely. I take my inspiration from everywhere I travel and would spend as much time in a jewelry store as I would in an art gallery or a museum.
One of the first things that came to my mind when I was looking at this collection, playing around with the bangles and stacking them up my wrists, was how much it had the potential to become a truly iconic collection. What qualifies an iconic collection, in your opinion? Is this something you keep in mind when designing?
For me, an iconic collection often results from a bold approach to established traditions. It’s also an approach that has underscored Tiffany’s design philosophy since its founding in 1837. Tiffany has such a rich and illustrious history of introducing to the world the most spectacular jewels and designs. The Tiffany Archives house the greatest collection of designs and each one represents a different era. I feel this provides such a great opportunity, as there is so much we can learn from our past. At the same time, we’re unfettered by historical styles or schools of design; rather we create with a freedom to make – and break – our own rules.
Your have a strong background in design, but you also trained as a silversmith. What part of the jewelry-making process do you enjoy the most – production or design?
In my design process, I always start with something I see in my head that won’t fade until I get it down on paper. I love those initial drawings, when anything is possible. I like to start with a sketch, to give the design process a human element, a real touch. But I enjoy the entire process, the journey of taking a vivid idea and doing all the practical and technical thinking that makes a piece possible to produce beautifully. I also find great satisfaction in distilling and refining a design until it is just exactly what it needs to be, nothing more nothing less. What I love about ‘Tiffany T’ is that it’s democratic; it’s an attitude and not an age. I see jewelry as a strong dose of personality and making a statement about who you are.
Each creative director brings something new to the table and as such leaves his or her own mark on a company. What do you hope your legacy will be at Tiffany & Co.?
I grew up all over the world, having lived in Asia, Russia, Europe, and the US, and tried to immerse myself in art, theatre, music, and film. I particularly love Asian art and ceramics. There’s a real sensitivity to form and a very pared-down and clean aesthetic; and I am obsessed with form and function. At Tiffany, we carry forward that spirit of risk and vision.
What’s on the horizon for you?
‘Tiffany T’ is an exciting debut collection, not only for me as a designer but also for Tiffany & Co. as a brand. I wanted to create a symbol for modern life and its relentless energy that flows through New York and drives art and culture around the world. This is just the beginning of what I hope to accomplish. I will also be visiting the UAE in a few weeks, which I am very excited about. This will be my first visit and I can’t wait to experience its culture and meet the people. Who knows, maybe it will be my next source of inspiration.
Tiffany & Co.’s ‘Tiffany T’ collection will be available across the UAE from September onwards.
Photos: Courtesy of Tiffany & Co.