Every year, Caroline Scheufele, creative director and – together with her brother Karl-Friedrich Scheufele – co-president of Chopard, creates a stunning haute joaillerie collection for the Cannes Film Festival. Nevertheless, she still has time for other designs. This summer Chopard is opening the Hotel de Vendôme, which she designed, in the heart of the French capital. An exclusive interview with the creative lady on her new projects.
By Anja Van Der Borght
As Chopard is a Maison with a long history and you have been for a long time in the family business I guess you have a big collection of gemstones. But how do you go ahead when designing a jewellery piece ?
CS: “It depends. For very exceptional gemstones I start designing around the stones. On other occasions I make the design first and then we start looking for the stones, like was the case with the dog necklace. There are over 9,000 small stones in this necklace so it took a lot of time to find the right stones. The dog necklace contains more than 1,200 hours of work.”
You are into stones, do you have a fetish stone ?
CS: “I would say I have a fetish shape which is the heart shape. Stones are all beautiful to me, you know. Because of their particular energy. If I really had to pick one, it would be a pink diamond. Because pink diamonds are very rare and I like the colour pink. Apart from that the diamond is the hardest stone of all.”
I can’t tell you much about the next theme of the Red Carpet Collection for the Festival of Cannes but I can disclose you in avant-premiere that it won’t be about nature this time. More I can’t tell you yet.”Caroline Scheufele, creative director and – together with her brother Karl-Friedrich Scheufele – co-president of Chopard
Which is for you the best piece of the actuel Red Carpet Collection and why?
CS: “That’s a bit difficult to answer because they are all my babies. If I really have to choose one piece in particular it would be the necklace with all the dogs. I started to work at that piece a long time ago for the Animal World Collection, a High Jewellery collection of 150 unique high jewellery creations that we introduced for the 150th anniversary of Chopard in 2010. As I couldn’t find the right colours of diamonds for the furs of the dogs, it stayed a long time on the side. When during the lockdown I was cleaning the safe I found the piece back. So I said to myself: ‘this one is going into the Paradise collection’ (the Red Carpet Collection 2021). It is a very special piece to me.”
Is this necklace based on your own dogs ?
CS: “All types of different dogs are featured in the necklace. Dogs of family members of friends. Of course in the front I needed bigger dogs and in the back smaller ones. Byron, my Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, is defintely featured in the piece somewhere in the back.”
Is Byron kind of your favourite dog ?
CS: “That is difficult to say. In fact I have six dogs. Two Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, two Leonberger, one Basset and one Labrador. A lot of times Byron comes along with me because he is small and easy to take. The other dogs are big.”
This summer Chopard is opening the Hotel de Vendôme, designed by Caroline Scheufele, creative director and – together with her brother Karl-Friedrich Scheufele – co-president of Chopard, in the heart of Paris.
From the 74 pieces of the current Paradise Collection most pieces are allready sold ?
CS: “Yes a lot is sold allready. Because Cannes did take place last year in July. I wasn’t sure what to expect because of the pandemic but suprisingly there were a lot of clients present so it was a very succesful edition. Afterwards we did a lot of Paradise Collection events in autumn in Shangai and Singapore, Hong Kong, Geneva, Brussels, … As we go around what’s left gets smaller.”
Now you are in the final stage of the new Red Carpet collection but how long do you work on a collection ?
CS: “It’s an on going process. Some pieces can take several years. The dog necklace took me about eight years to finish. It was a long time in the safe until I found the right stones. Sometimes I keep a piece on the side, thinking I will keep it for another occasion. Other times there is a technical problem or we are looking for certain stones like top quality unheated rubies. It can take up to three years or longer to get the matching stones to get a whole. In our business you have to be patient.”
You work a lot around the nature theme ?
CS: “I stay in the nature theme because I am very close to nature and I love nature. Whether it is gemstones or metal like gold, all the materials we work with come from our planet. I can’t tell you much about the next theme of the Red Carpet Collection for the Festival of Cannes but I can disclose you in avant-premiere that it won’t be about nature this time. More I can’t tell you yet.”
Chopard, Queen of Kalhahari, Exceptional ollection exceptionnelle with diamonds
Talking about diamonds. One of the highlights of your career is the discovery of The Queen of Kalahari Diamond that combines D color with F grade flawless clarity ? Can you describe a bit what you felt when you first saw it ?
CS: “It was a very passionate journey because we really wanted to follow a rough diamond from the mine till the capital where they cut it. So when our partner called me to say that they had found a very big rough stone I took the plane to South Africa to discover the rough. From their on we started to follow the rough from in the mine in Botswana, to the cutting, to the polishing. There is a modern technology today where they can sort of scan the diamond (like your head) and then you can predecide what you are going to cut. Whether you want to cut the stone of 360 carat in two very big stones of 80 carats and smaller ones or whether you want a lot of small stones. I decided I wanted all the diamond shapes that were possible. So the biggest stone is around 150 carat and apart from that we managed to have all the shapes. Because for me as a designer it is important to have different shapes of diamonds in order to design the pieces. I didn’t want to have just one big rock. The necklace still is in our collection because I don’t want to sell the pieces from the box separately. And I am not in a hurry to sell.”
Fairmined gold is a big theme for Chopard. How important is it for you personally ?
CS: “Every jewellery piece that Chopard produces is made from ethical sourced gold, fairmined gold or recycled gold. The jewellery business still has a lot of work to do when it comes to gemstones. Ultimate luxury is transparency. Which means that you know how the piece you have fallen in love with or that you dream about has been produces from A to Z. From the supply chain, from the mine up to the Chopard boutique and you wearing it. For me that is important because that has been very opaque in history. And I think no matter which luxury business we should all be working on that. The worst in fact on that matter is the fashion industry. In there the situation is much worse than in the jewellery business. There is a lot in fast fashion that needs to be done. But if we all do a little bit in the end it will help. Sometimes it is also difficult because of the government regulations. They don’t necessarily let it the organisations that do the vigilance of the mines.”
You also use a lot of titanium in your jewellery. Is this because of its lightness ?
CS: “There are several reasons. First of all, indeed, we use it for the comfort. It is a very light material so you can use it to create very big earrings which the lady that is wearing them will hardly feel. You have to know it is not the stones that create the weight, it is the gold. And I often see during dinner parties ladies taking of their earrings in the middle of te dinner because they hurt. On the other side we use titanium to expand our creativity. We developed a way to achieve all the different colours in titanium which we can’t do with gold either, as the process is not compatible with gold. It gives a totally different aspect to the piece because it really enhances the colour of the stones. Depending on the stones we use a different colour of titanium.”
So you are here in Belgium today which is quite exceptional. It is your first visit to the boutique and you are good friends with Jacky Ickx but do you have another link with Belgium, a great souvenir, or did you have a Belgian boyfriend in the days ?
CS: “No I didn’t have a Belgian boyfriend (laughs). And it has been about 7 years since my last time in Belgium. But I remember that my father used to come a lot to Brussels and to the place where the Chopard boutique is housed today. My father liked coming to Brussels. He always used to stay in the Amigo hotel in which I stayed last night and he used to bring me of course the delicious chocolates from Belgium – even though we have good ones in Switzerland too. There also used to be a children clothing shop from which my mother always bought me little dresses, I don’t know whether it still exists.”
I saw a nice video of you in your private house which is very classic and romantic, I see you more in a design house Is this your family house ?
CS: “No it’s not the family house. My father gave this house – which is close to their house – to me some thirty years ago and I completely refurbished it. I addded a modern part to the house which is actually the kitchen but I mainly wanted to keep it authentic. I like antiques and modern art so it is a mixture of both. If you talk about designer houses, they are modern one day but for me they don’t last. That’s why I am not so much into that style. I like cosy romantic. I like Botero, Picasso, Chagall, Van Gogh. I am not fixed on one artist. The painting has to talk to me not the painter.”
“In our business you have to be patient.”Caroline Scheufele
So which painting talks to you ?
CS: “The Mona Lisa (laughs)””
Are you a romantic person yourself ?
CS: “Oh, yes!”
What do you dream of designwise ? Would it be a hotel, a boat ?
CS: “As we speak we are finishing a hotel in Paris, a project I am undertaking with my brother Karl-Friedrich at n°1 Place Vendôme the place where our boutique is situated. When the building which contained a hotel above our boutique came for sale, I asked my brother to take action quickly if not Bernard Arnault, ceo of LVMH, would buy it and we would get kicked out. Obvisously Arnault is strategically trying to buy the whole place Vendôme so we would have been finding ourselves in the streets with no boutique. As the hotel was run down we decided to redo it. We talked to different groups like the Oetker Collection hotel management and Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group but then decided to do it ourselves. So we are in the middle of decorating a hotel and that is a lot of fun. Of course we work together with an architect because we took out a whole floor and that requests a lot of engineering but the decoration on the inside is sort of inspired by the different Chopard collections. There will only be suites in the hotel and there will be a more masculine suite inspired by mechanical watches. Another suite is called ‘Animal World’. There will be a Copacobana suite, a Chopard suite and there is one that has to do with astronomy refering to watches and their complications. It is not in your face but you will get the story and we will make a little book explaining where the inspiration for the suite comes from. It is going to be interesting as every suite is different and not like a hotel where all the rooms look alike. The hotel that is called ‘N°1 Vendôme’ referring to the address feels more like a house. And I guess clients when they come they will want to come to discover the 29 different suites. We also renovated the boutique downstairs and the hotel itself will have a small spa from this summer onwards. We got a bit delayed because of the pandemic.”
So apart from the hotel what do you dream of ?
CS: “When I was in Monaco I was talking with some people from the aircraft business and a gentleman from Airbus asked me whether I would be interested to design the inside of an aircraft. At that moment I was thinking like ‘what am I going to do with an aircraft’ but today I am thinking that it is a fun project to do because it is pretty much trendy that brands personalize a car or a scooter. So, yes, why not.”
You said once that you like to sit in the workshop and see the people working so do you have a special place in the workshop ?
CS: “Well there is a big table in the middle of the workshop where I often go and I just sit there and work with them on projects?”
So you mostly design at home ?
CS: “At home, in planes, in restaurants, whenever it comes.”
So you have a sketch book on you all the time ?
CS: “Sketch book and pencils.”`
Of course Chopards sets trends itself but are there upcoming trends you notice ?
CS: “Well I don’t look much what the competition does. Because I don’t want to be influenced by them. I prefer to get inspired by other domains like architecture, decoration, fashion. But I think now in the jewellery world the pieces are much more colorful than before. And of course I also introduced a lot of colour myself but I see left and right brands using much more colour than before.”
Is this because the traditional stones like ruby, emerald, … are much less available in nature than before ?
CS: “No they are available. The may be more rare but they are available! I think it has more to do with women that own allready a diamond or two, today want something more easy to wear. And the semi-precious stone like aquamarine, tanzanites or yellow sapphires, … are easier to wear in daily life than a very big, important piece that you would wear for a special event. I think that is also a reason why there has been a shift. And of course coloured stones usually are less expensive. If you go into the four big ones ruby, sapphire, emarauld and diamond of a certain size you are immediately talking about a certain price however if you have a nice tanzanite which could look like a sapphire that is not over expensive.”
Is there stone which you would love to discover somewhere?
CS: “I think I used the whole palette of rainbow colours but I am always in search for stones we have not used yet. The moon stones for instance we used in the Red Carpet collection are not much sought of. Recently we used a lot of opals from Australia which have amazing shades. They also seem a little bit forgotten. Most gemstones are so beautiful we should not forget about them.”