Charlotte Chesnais | Sculptural jewelry

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One day Charlotte Chesnais, at the time working with Nicolas Ghesquière at Balenciaga, created what would be her first of many pieces of jewlery.
The “lightbulb moment” piece? A multi-cuff which played with proportion and was conceived to be stacked. We’re today 6 years post said multi-cuff and Chesnais has been running her own jewelry brand since.
Don’t expect typical jewelry pieces, the designer sees beyond the sole intend to produce beautiful rings or bracelets:
“I don’t just design jewelry. My pieces are not merely earrings, rings, bracelets or necklaces, I want to create beautiful objects, with lines that are fluid, dynamic, sharp and disciplined.” From being sold at Colette and Le Bon Marché upon launching to owning her namesakes store but also having her pieces worn by Catherine Deneuve or Michelle Obama, JDEED wanted to have a chat with Charlotte to dive into her universe and understand her beautiful creative mind a little better.

Hello Charlotte! Could you tell us a bit about you and where did your love for jewelry come from?

Charlotte Chesnais (CC): I actually started out in ready-to-wear. I studied at Studio Berçot and I joined Balenciaga under Nicolas Ghesquière. One season, he wanted to include jewelry in the runway show; we didn’t have a jewelry designer in-house and I had no formal training but said I’d give it a go. The rest is history! I love the hands-on aspect of jewelry design, and I appreciate the slower pace too, rather than the relentless rhythm of ready-to-wear collections. I am passionate of design and I think that it is the category that is closest to design.

Your pieces are very sculptural; how would you define your aesthetic and which are some of your signature pieces?

CC: My goal is to create timeless but immediately desirable pieces ; they always have a surprising element or a novel way to wear. I think the sculptural aspect comes partly from the way I design. I don’t sketch my ideas, I go to our workshop and design directly with the metal, twisting and bending it around my hand. Our iconic Bond bracelet was born this way for example – I was playing with my iPhone cable when I was on the phone, snapped a photo of it wrapped around my thumb and wrist, and took this photo to the workshop to recreate in metal.

You’ve launched your own label in 2015: how has this journey been so far and could you share some key moments?

CC: It’s been a crazy journey! The very first season we were lucky to be picked up by some of the best stores all over the world; Colette, Le Bon Marché, Dover Street Market, which was more than I could have hoped for. I won the ANDAM price that same year! Being chosen as head of the jury for the Accessories prize at the Festival d’Hyères in 2019 was incredible too, and it all happened so fast. But my proudest moment so far has definitely been opening our first store in Paris last November. It feels like a real landmark moment, a concrete realization of five years of hard work.

“I don’t sketch my ideas, I go to our workshop and design directly with the metal, twisting and bending it around my hand.”

Which is your own favorite piece of jewelry?

CC: It changes every time we launch a new piece! For the moment I’d probably say the Turtle Chain necklace from our latest collection. It works very well just with a plain white t-shirt, or a gown! I’ve been wearing it every day recently.

What is a material you particularly enjoy working with?

CC: Most of our collections are made of Vermeil. Vermeil is a traditional French technique, used for hundreds of years for crown jewels. It is a noble material closely controlled by the French state. It is composed of 925 sterling silver dipped in a bath of 18k gold. All of our pieces of jewelry are stamped to certify that they have a layer of at least 5 microns of gold.
For the opening of our store we launched an exclusive fine jewelry capsule collection using 18 carats gold and colored precious stones (detail). I don’t get the opportunity to work with stones often, outside of special projects so it’s really exciting to me when we meet with our diamond merchant and get to choose all these amazing gems.

Can you tell us what has, for you, been an iconic jewelry moment in recent fashion history?

CC: I think for anyone who designs jewelry, Elsa Perreti is a hero and a source of inspiration. Her recent passing is a sad moment of recent fashion history.

If you could see anyone wear your design, who would it be and why?

CC: In a crazy dream, I would have loved to see David Bowie wearing one of my pieces. I am very happy to see more and more men wearing my creations. I also adore Catherine Deneuve, I think she’s the Queen of France, and she has already worn one of my designs. Michelle Obama also wore some of my jewelry, which was a pinch me moment. I I hope Rihanna will one day!

Discover more about Charlotte Chesnais here!
The boutique is located on 10, rue d’Alger in Paris’ 1st district.