In a Nod to Hemingway’s Paris, Chaumet Unveils New Jewels With an Air of Glamorous Seduction
The venerable jewelry maison, caterer to kings and emperors, used an unlikely museum to debut its new Chaumet est une fête collection.
Last Sunday, at dusk, a few hundred elegantly dressed revelers gathered at the Place Vendôme with no other instruction on their elegantly embossed invitations than to be prepared to be dazzled.
“Dazzling” a sophisticated crowd of luxury connoisseurs and patrons on the eve of Haute Couture Fashion Week in Paris is a feat of staggering difficulty. Still, Chaumet, the historic jewelry house with over two centuries of catering to French kings and emperors, is well versed in the art of staging extraordinary moments—and creating the jewels to mark such occasions.
As the sun began to set on the horizon behind a scintillating Eiffel Tower, the invited celebrities, friends of Chaumet, journalists, and other chosen few were steered onto hired vintage buses for a journey back in time. The destination remained secret even as the buses came to a halt before the Musée des Arts Forains, a venue that struck many as implausible.
The Musée des Arts Forains is a private museum of old-fashioned funfair objects located in the 12th arrondissement of Paris, founded by an eclectic collector of merry-go-rounds, mirrored carousels, circus memorabilia, and oddball bicycles. Still, it was this surprising site that Chaumet chose this year to deploy a baroque, carnivalesque fantasy set against dramatic classical music and a profusion of cascading flowers and imported greenery, tiered cakes and colorful macaroons, candied fruit and cream pies. Partygoers spent an enchanted soirée spinning around on pedal-operated merry-go-rounds while statuesque models in floor-length sequined Elie Saab gowns strutted about, adorned with a selection of jewels from the aptly named collection, Chaumet est une Fête.
For luxury houses, launch events in Paris have become an exercise in setting the bar ever higher for demonstrating their mastery of showmanship. Dior’s 70th anniversary party the following night, themed after the parks of Versailles, was a couture-inspired botanical extravaganza in the Tuileries garden facing the Louvre. Chanel’s launch of its new perfume, called Gabrielle, was held after dark on July 4th in the Palais de Tokyo, with marquee performances by Pharrell Williams and Katie Perry bringing the entire neighborhood to a stunned standstill.
Under the guidance of its president, Jean-Marc Mansvelt, Chaumet (an LVMH maison), is not to be outdone. Two years ago, Chaumet flew its guests by helicopter to the Château de Fontainebleau, some 45 miles away, to preview the Joséphine collection and partake in an imperial-style garden party on the lawns of the palace that once served as a winter retreat to the Empress. Last year, the secret destination for the unveiling of the collection La Nature de Chaumet was the Musée Bourdelle, transformed into a poetic artist’s workshop set in fields of wheat.
Chaumet est une Fête borrows its title from Ernest Hemingway’s autobiographical work, A Moveable Feast (translated into French as Paris est une Fête), that recalls the author’s youthful years in Paris of the swinging 1920s. Since no fiesta is complete without music, Chaumet’s gifted artistic director, Claire Dévé-Rakoff, chose to add a musical dimension to the four lines of the collection she designed in four distinct color schemes, with every detail studied to evoke the codes and heritage of the maison.
For the Pastorale Anglaise line, a 28-carat Colombian emerald set the tone, suggesting a very British racing-green tribute to the sounds of the Glyndebourne festival, conjuring the bucolic setting of an English garden where eccentric tartan gowns and high hats come together around a batch of Pimms.
The Aria Passionata line evoked the repertoire of impassioned Italian operas and the soaring voices of Milan’s La Scala in shades of pigeon-blood Mozambique rubies and red garnets.
The Metropolitan Opera of New York, meanwhile, was the inspiration for Rhapsodie Transatlantique, the line designed in a palette of soft pastels showcasing mystifying Padparadscha sapphires from Ceylon. Finally, the Vienna opera provided the backdrop for Valses d’Hiver, a graceful line of jewels set with white diamonds and rare natural pearls, designed in tribute to the waltzes of Strauss.
The collection, with every piece a one-of-a-kind creation (including four statement necklaces each priced over a $1 million), will begin its world tour after Couture Week. High jewelry may be all about fantasy, but it is also a vehicle for Chaumet to demonstrate its centuries-old savoir-faire, and ferry its message of the immovable refinement of French art-de-vivre to a global audience.
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