The big interview

Brave heart: tracing Louis Vuitton’s biography in gems

Francesca Amfitheatrof explains her latest muse – Louis Vuitton, himself

Bravery by Louis Vuitton

This is a high jewellery collection that “truly embodies Louis Vuitton’s personality and values”, Francesca Amfitheatrof said of Bravery. First unveiled last summer in Monaco, Bravery is the third high jewellery collection by Amfitheatrof for Louis Vuitton, since her appointment as the heritage brand’s artistic director of watches and jewellery in 2018.

And Bravery is perhaps also the collection that to date sits closest to the core of Louis Vuitton: its 2021 debut was timed to coincide with the 200th birthday of the Parisian brand’s pioneering founder.

Realised at the LV master jewellery workshops on Place Vendôme, forged from white gold, platinum or yellow gold, and set with a total of 1,700 gemstones plus 110 diamonds in the proprietary LV Monogram-cut, Bravery imagines the biography of Louis Vuitton in 90 small treasures. “Bravery is not only an anniversary collection, but also a dive into this man’s incredible life,” Amfitheatrof tells me, and explains that her initial design ideas stemmed from, “a desire to tell the incredible story of our maison’s founder”.

A chronological reading of Louis Vuitton’s life story, Bravery is chaptered into eight creative themes. The collection is bookended by a couple of galactic themes: with La Constellation d’Hercule, Amfitheatrof captures the star constellation visible in the skies on Louis Vuitton’s August 1821 birthday with a bib-style white gold and platinum necklace set with gems in a nightfall colour palette – blue opals, tanzanites, tsavorites – lit up with white diamonds; then, La Star du Nord, an epilogue to the founder’s biography, centred on a knot-motif choker necklace in white gold and bright white diamonds.

Bravery by Louis Vuitton

“Bravery is a key aspect of the house,” said Amfitheatrof. It’s a statement founded in Louis Vuitton’s personal path to Paris and, with time, global recognition. Born in the Jura region, Louis Vuitton left his hometown in the east of France aged just 13. He had set off for France’s capital city Paris; here, he would eventually launch his eponymous business in 1854.

And today, Amfitheatrof visualises Louis Vuitton’s journey with L’Élan Vital, a set of gems (rings, earrings, bracelets, a necklace) with a cord-like surface. Encrusted in brilliant-cut diamonds, the rope motif nods to the chains of DNA molecules and also the ropes Louis Vuitton would have used to carry his luggage to Paris. “Young Louis’ journey is pivotal,” Amfitheatrof sums up. “It is a learning experience for life. The idea of bravery, determination, boldness, curiosity about the world is ever-present in his life and career.”

Louis Vuitton navigated a total of roughly 245 miles to Paris, down open roads and through dense forests. A courageous undertaking, Amfitheatrof concretises this route with L’Aventure: a collier of three strands, shaped in yellow gold, platinum and white gold, pavé-set with white diamonds which are interspersed with Colombian emeralds of a verdant green hue.

To craft L’Aventure, Amfitheatrof tasked her team of expert makers with a Damier checkerboard stone marquetry. This complex technique of setting gemstones is christened after the brand’s famous Damier repeat pattern of alternating squares, originally sketched out in 1888.

“The sets gradually take shape following in the steps of Louis Vuitton, incorporating all the iconic symbols he created,” Amfitheatrof said of her ternary high jewellery collection. “It is a metaphor for the founder’s life journey.”

And in Bravery, iconic Louis Vuitton brand insignias abound. There’s The Arrow necklace: at its heart, the collier features a stylised capital letter V, drawn in three colours (red rubies, blue sapphires, white diamonds) and chosen in homage to the founder’s grandson Gaston-Louis Vuitton.

Bravery by Louis Vuitton

Next up, Le Mythe, a jewellery set that counts pendant earrings, bracelets, rings and a sensational necklace. All unite a number of the maison’s most famous motifs – the geometric Damier, a travelling trunks hardware, a Monogram flower – in diamonds and important sugarloaf cabochons of a royal blue Sri Lankan sapphire, a bright shamrock green Colombian emerald and a powdery Madagascan sapphire.

When first sketching Bravery, Amfitheatrof researched the brand’s historic archives. And in addition to Louis Vuitton’s biography, it’s also the make-up of travelling trunks – their details, mechanisms and fittings – that proved inspirational. After all, it was his 1858 invention of flat-topped – and therefore stack-able – trunks that helped make Louis Vuitton’s name. On their interior, Louis Vuitton trunks feature a lattice-like mallettage lining; this geometric, criss-cross, pattern Amfitheatrof retraced in white gold, set with white diamonds and 75 round-cut rubies from Mozambique for her La Passion creations.

She also considered the trunks’s Tumbler locks, one of the business’ own inventions first introduced in 1890. Today, cerulean aquamarines sit at the heart of a set of Le Tumbler jewels – rings, bracelets, earrings – their outline a precious interpretation of a pointed clasp. Their creator said: “Bravery takes pride of place through the presence of these emblematic signatures.”

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