Mais Oui Joaillerie de France

Leave it up to the French to do things in the most precise, the most beautiful, and of course, in always the most utterly creative ways. Case In Point: The recent Jewels of France Exhibition and Trunk Show – in partnership with UBIFrance and The French Trade Commission – held for the second year in New York City, at the toney Fifth Avenue Gallery of Aaron Faber – featuring au courant collections from thirteen of France’s most acclaimed jewelry houses and their designers. The week long consumer event, which debuted with a lavish press breakfast and evening reception, including lots of fashion and social types, served up an abundant mix of jewelry and watches by many of the Creative Directors and designers beyond the labels.

So, why was this particular Gallery specifically chosen two years in a row for the event, you ask? The answer, according to Camille Wiart, Director of Business Development, Fashion and Jewelry, The French Trade Commission, “we are happy to be working again with the Aaron Faber Gallery, whose reputation and commitment to showcasing the best in contemporary studio jewelry, class and vintage jewelry, made it the obvious venue.”

Thinking about French haute couture fashion, especially jewelry and accessories, might bring to mind the big gun brands, the ilk of an LVMH, but in the case of Jewels of France, the focus is on the smaller, less recognized and maybe not so well-oiled or hugely hyped, French jewelry houses, whose quality and craftsmanship is guaranteed by the French Union BJOP, as being designed, manufactured, mounted, set and polished in France, following strict, ethical, legal and environmental standards.

While nearly all of the collections on show at the event were absolutely fabulous, there were several groupings that really stood on their own, in order to make themselves memorable in the eyes and minds of more than just a few viewers.

For starters, Bijoux Commelin … In the 19th Century, under Emperor Napoleon 3rd, Theodore Commelin set up a workshop in the heart of Paris. Today, Phillippe Commelin’s grand-niece, Isabelle Latour, has sustained the legacy of her grand uncle, employing in the workshop, the last few master enamel craftsmen to produce the miniature jewels for which Commelin has since become well-known. In 2006, Commelin became one of the first French companies to be awarded the “Entreprise du Patrimoine Vivant” award. In 2008, Commelin received the French jewelry label, Joaillerie de France.

Garnazelle (meaning “little frog” – See photo at top of article) was founded in 2001 by Celine Rivet as an alternative to the more classic and traditional jewelry houses of Place Vendome. Overall, this eclectic, off-the-beat collection of sensual rings, bracelets and earrings, can easily be translated as wild and spicy, with a touch of mystique and spookiness. Belonging to the world of fairies, the “little frog” becomes the symbol for the creative repertoire and the brand logo, where an extravagant and romantic world mixes animal life and plants, all strangely connected with human life. Nearly every piece across this line portrays a decidedly fetish quality, rendered as talismans of many colors, shaped to convey opulence, attraction, lavishness, and rapture.

La Maison Marchak makes use of a diverse range of artisan techniques, such as pate de verre or gold plating, which uses tiny, articulated chains to give jewelry a feather-soft look and feel, to create signature prêt-a-porter and numbered, haute couture pieces. Founded in 1878 by the “Cartier of Kiev”, Joseph Marchak became one of the Russian Empire’s most recognized jewelers, supplier to the Tsar, and the undisputed rival fo Peter Fabergé. Now in its 131st year, Joseph Marchak’s grandson, Daniel Marchak, working alongside the company’s longtime, senior designer, Bertrand Degommier, continues the revival and growth of the French luxe jewelry house.

Sophie Reyre has been a journalist, a novelist, and most recently, a fine jeweler. Her long time fascination with the richness, allure and history of India, and her passion for the work of 20th Century innovators, the ilk of Rene Boivin, Count Fulco de Verdura and Seaman Schepps, coupled with her studies of Chinese Calligraphy and the two years which she spent at the Institut de Gemmologie in Paris, have all contributed to Reyre’s special approach to jewelry design and manufacture. Since launching her business and label in 2007, her collections continue to mix tradition and modernity, translating artifacts from India’s 17th Century Mughal rulers, into modern, precious jewels, embracing jade, turquoise, coral, onyx and other fine stones, accentuated with high gold motifs.

Veronique Bailly lives in Hossegor, France, a small, out of the way village, located near the sea. Bailly, who loves nature and sports (she plays golf, surfs, snowboards, and practicates Pilates), previously worked for big sports brands, such as Billabong, Rusty, Rip Curl and Nike. Inspired to take her love of and background in sports, and mix all of that into a different kind of jewelry line, she recently did just that, and began her own company. Bringing the playful spirit of the line into play for this young designer, means creating unisex jewelry with a young, hip, rock-and-roll attitude. which is meant not only to be played with, but can be easily transformed, for example, from a luxurious stack of rings into a swingy, sexy pendant.

-Adrienne Weinfeld-Berg

Art of the Collection: The Design Spirit of American Fashion Artist Audrey Schilt

On View at The Fashion Institute of Technology
Through Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Opening Reception Thursday, December 10, 6-8pm

(Press Release) The illustrations of Audrey Schilt, a Fashion Institute of Technology alumna who worked closely with Ralph Lauren for 22 years, are on display at FIT in an exhibition titled Art of the Collection: The Design Spirit of American Fashion Artist Audrey Schilt through January 27, 2010. Included are sketches of the pink silk Ralph Lauren gown worn by Gwyneth Paltrow at the 1998 Academy Awards, on which Schilt collaborated, as well as sketches of the white silk and organza Lauren gown worn by Emmy Rossum to the 2005 Golden Globes, which Schilt designed. These are among the approximately 125 works created by Schilt between 1986 and 2007 on view, including original concept drawings, advertising images, design silhouettes, and works in watercolor and chalk on paper.

After graduating from FIT with a degree in Illustration, Audrey Schilt started her career as a sketch artist for Halston, where she drew several of the hats for which Jacqueline Kennedy became known, including the pillbox, and Halston’s first women’s collection. From there, Schilt moved to freelance work, creating fashion ads for such clients as Bergdorf Goodman and Vanity Fair, many of which appeared in The New York Times. Schilt also returned to school to learn patternmaking and draping. She then worked as a designer for Jacque Bellini for five years, as well as on a children’s line of clothing. Hired as a concept artist at Ralph Lauren in 1986, Schilt rose during her 22-year tenure to vice president and creative director of collection for the company. Now retired from her position at Ralph Lauren, Schilt has turned her attention to other artistic endeavors and continues to work as a conceptual design consultant.

Free and open to the public, Art of the Collection: The Design Spirit of American Fashion Artist Audrey Schilt is on view through January 27, 2010 in FIT’s Fred P. Pomerantz Art and Design Center (D Building), 27th Street at Seventh Avenue.

This exhibition is co-sponsored by the college’s School of Art and Design, the Gladys Marcus Library at FIT, and the library’s Print/FX Graphics Lab. For press information, contact Cheri Fein, 212.217.4700 or



Ernest Schmatolla is publisher of Lookonline since 1994. It is the longest running fashion site on the Internet.

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