It was an acceleration, certainly not a novelty: the jewelry collections of fashion brands have multiplied in recent years and especially in the highest segment, that of high jewelry. However, less well known are the cases in which it was fashion that helped jewelry houses to become global brands. Let’s take Louis Cartier: his name became famous when in 1898 he married the niece of Charles Frederick Worth, the first contemporary couturier, who opened the doors to the world of the stars of the time (the banker JP Morgan, friend of Worth, bought for the occasion 50 thousand dollars of the time in Cartier jewels). Five years earlier, also in Paris, another marriage sealed the bond between those two worlds dedicated to beauty: the wedding between Jeanne Poiret and René Boivin. Jeanne was the sister of Paul Poiret, a symbolic name of early twentieth century fashion, and René was the son of goldsmiths, one of the best talents of the Paris of the Belle Epoque,
The innovations of René Boivin and Paul Poiret
While his brother-in-law was studying as a stylist in Worth’s atelier, ready to take flight, in his laboratory René experimented with new techniques, design, combined gems and semiprecious stones in an unprecedented way, all aspects that made the originality of his brand stand out from those of the time, closely linked to the rules of Art Decò and the Edwardian style. Considered avant-garde was for example his “Barbare” series, created in 1905, inspired by Assyrian, Celtic, Egyptian and Etruscan aesthetics, where the unprecedented Amazonite also appeared, and no less disruptive was his use of wood.
Year after year, while Paul Poiret designed clothes for the high society of the time and took her to Boivin’s atelier, from Elsa Schiaparelli to Louis de Vilmorin to the empress of Vietnam Nam Phuong, René designed accessories for him to embellish his clothes . Meanwhile, Jeanne was in charge of accounting and welcomed celebrities into their atelier. But soon her great talent, creative and entrepreneurial, would also be expressed.
The disruptive choice of Jeanne Boivin
Unfortunately, not for happy reasons: at the height of her career, in 1917 her husband René and son Pierre both died in the trenches of the First World War. Jeanne, instead of selling the business, as expected from a widow of the time, decided to take over the administrative and creative leadership. A disruptive decision for the time: Jeanne Poiret Boivin thus became the first woman to manage and lead the design of a jewelry house in Paris, at a time when all and on both fronts were led by men.
Adds the talent of Suzanne Belperron
He decided to open a new atelier in an even more central area of the capital, on Avenue de l’Opera, and also involved his daughter Germaine in creativity. Jeanne’s talent became even more evident and multifaceted when she proved to be a sophisticated talent scout: in 1918, in fact, she decided to hire 17-year-old Suzanne Belperron as a designer, just out of the École des Beaux-Arts, and who would become one of the most important jewelry designers of the twentieth century. Another woman thus enriched Boivin, which became an entirely female company. In the same years Cartier, Dusausoy and Van Cleef & Arpels had women in their creative atelier, but none could be said to be 100% led by women. Together with Suzanne, Jeanne will increase Boivier’s success, following but still innovating René’s ideas, for example using rock crystal, tourmaline and chalcedony for the first time.