Frogs, bats, piranha, monkeys, insects. No, not a biology lab but a jewelry atelier! But then, Lydia Corteille is more than just a designer. A self-described biochemist, antiquarian, collector and traveler, Corteille has long been fascinated with all things beautiful, strange and curious.
Her ever-present notebook is where the alchemy begins, overflowing with all manner of sketches, scraps of paper, doodads and other detritus that capture a moment in time, a perfect place, a tender memory. The resulting inspiration typically turns into a highly unusual bauble, such as a diamond-encrusted Star of David juxtaposed against a Hand of Fatima, with a sprinkling of shimmery four-leaf clovers, ancient Egyptian scarabs - and a smattering of skulls, naturellement. "I like to use theological symbols for their shapes and for the ideas that they can invoke," explains the free-spirited Parisienne who doesn't create "jewelry" as much as bejeweled meditations on topics like immortality versus mortality.
To find such soul in a brand is as rare as the precious stones Corteille employs to bring her beautiful bijoux to life. Courteille insists that for her jewels to be "complete", they must "enchant, beguile and bewitch." And yet, without this beating heart, luxury brands fail to engage the very customers that can afford their wares.
To turn clients that are new into ones that are loyal, Katharina Flohr - the managing and creative director of Fabergé - believes the key is “surprising them on a day-to-day basis." Which is only possible with authentic artistic expression, meaning: it's not found anywhere near a by-committee design meeting or worse, a corporate focus group. Along with the element of surprise, there is that other basic human need: context. “In many luxury brands, you not only sell the product but also sell the story," adds Augustin Depardon, marketing director of exclusive French cognac Louis XIII. When the Ultra-High Net Worth customers (*my Supremium tribe) buy a trinket (or five) by Corteille or sip a rare cognac bottled on the eve of WWI, what these well-heeled shoppers are really after are “culture, history and legend.”
*[NOTE: IF YOU WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT EACH FASHION TRIBE, START HERE]
- Lesley Scott