Gaia Repossi on stones, style and Serti Sur Vide
"It's clever jewellery that has a place in tomorrow's wardrobes and collections"
Fine jewellery brand Repossi was started in Italy in 1920. Now, almost 120 years later it is one of the most respected makers of jewellery in the entire world. Renowned for its commitment to elegance and stunning simplicity, the brand has been run by Gaia Repossi since 2012 who ushered in a new era for the heritage brand. Here, she speaks with Buro 24/7 Middle East contributor Farouk Chekoufi about her reluctance to join the family business and her thoughts on having become a style icon in the process of growing one of the world's most famous businesses...
What can you tell us about Repossi's history?
The house was founded by my great-grandfather who had high hand jewellery ateliers and later my grandfather established the brand in the 1940s after studying advertising and engendering sophisticated design for cars and the new upcoming advertising world, which were very modern studies at the time.
What made you want to become a jewellery designer?
Just like my father I didn't want to follow this career first. I was questioning the relevance and the place of jewellery in temporary design. I entered slowly first advising in image and after that I became Creative Director with a 360-degree point of view.
It had to be done my way. With respect to traditions, the idea was to make 'tabula rasa' [the idea that human knowledge comes only from experience] and rethink the industry and its basis.
How would you describe your current ethos for Repossi?
A new classicism, where we rethink what is modern in a very old and crafted tradition.
What has changed the most in the past since you began designing in 2007 for the brand?
I think the narrative of the message I wanted to give was understood and heard by a larger audience then I expected and this brought our family house into its future.
How would you describe the Repossi woman?
She's ahead of her time.
Your designs can be described as complex reinforcements, ergonomic sculptures, minimal and radical, even intellectual, right?
If those are all compliments then I'm flattered. But yes it's clever jewellery that has a place in tomorrow's wardrobes and collections.
What is the ultimate signature style for Repossi?
A different "porté", where traditional earrings or solitaries come with new proposals yet with a depth coming from the past (we use references that come from the collective imaginary - past civilizations, sculptures, building) so the jewellery carries a study and history that enriches the client.
Could you please tell us more about your limited edition Serti Sur Vide (SSV) collection?
Well as a 90-year old house, famous for its high end jewellery and the one-of-a-kind in respect to the tradition of my "metier", we offer a large panel of unique pieces, a little bit like couture for a prêt-à-porter house of high luxury standards.
I launched the SSV collection a couple of years ago as a new type of solitary that was respecting the proportions of the body although using very big volumes of stones. This, for me, was the biggest challenge: treat opulence with modernity and yet allow the body to wear the most rare, big and stunning diamonds or precious stones but with balance and sophistication. This for me is real elegance. Balance.
It's a collection where the price range gravitates from $40k to millions of dollars just with a stone. The idea was to rethink the solitary diamond, make it modern to its extreme without layering, pure and raw, so it would still look fresh and not "age" or overcharge the person wearing it or the owner of it. It's a range that meets no age nor gender and is hopefully timeless.
Also this collection is entirely one of a kind because every time we purchase different stones, and the placement is subtly different. Each woman has her own this way.
What inspires you as a designer to be stronger every season?
Anything! When you've been doing this for a while (for me, it's been 10 years and I learned everything from my father you starting seeing references everywhere - a fence, a building, a sculpture, even stacked pieces of wood or glass, an African tribe wearing an earring etc.
Your all-time favourite star?
Isabelle Huppert. Her character reveals so much and her filmography reveals a woman that never compromised her imaginary world. Also Cindy Sherman who is my friend — I admire her immensely.
This, for me, was the biggest challenge with serti sur vide: treat opulence with modernity and yet allow the body to wear the most rare, big and stunning diamonds or precious stones but with balance and sophistication.
Your collections are very inspired by the cultural movement of minimalism...
I mean it's more about essence than minimalism, even when I was younger I always liked brutalism in architecture, the art movement in Japan in the '70s, and I never liked jewellery that was too opulent (in volume, not the stones) even though I grew up in a family of high hand jewelers. I think I just happen to be creating at the right moment.
I like essential things that reveal more about their content then their appearance. I think the jewellery world is missing a certain imagery that echoes the next generations.
What are your favourite materials to use?
Gold because it melts with your body proportions.
You're an incredibly chic woman. How would you describe your personal style?
I learned from my mother, a very elegant woman. She always told me that when wearing jewellery it was better to wear simple clothing and she taught me that elegance was better; less is more.
How aware are you of the fact that you are considered a style icon?
I don't know! Thank you for the compliment. The most important thing is to feel like yourself and never disguised. I use outfits that are somewhat like uniforms.
Your favourite colours?
I'd say peach or white.
Your favourite stones?
Pink diamonds, sometimes blue diamonds.
Place vendôme becomes the brand home today. What does this mean to you?
I'm very thankful to my father for having settled that location for us. Today it gives a dimension to the brand that sets its future growth.
Who is your muse today?
Every woman with an interesting personality and a different kind of beauty.
How would you describe present day Paris?
Lately Paris has been muted with changes, it has been hit in its heart. But it remains a very solemn city with a sophistication that is never achieved anywhere else.
Your creative ritual for Repossi?
Contrast: We like to juxtapose sophistication with the sharpest simplicity and femininity on a woman that is almost androgynous.
Now, read Farouk's earlier interview with Thierry Wasser, Guerlain's iconic nose who has created the new Mon Guerlain Florale fragrance.