It's in the details
When it comes to fine jewellery, there's only one philosophy that designer Lorenz B?umer believes in: 'I always insist that women wear the jewellery, no matter the price,' he says. 'It's not made to be displayed; it's made to be worn and felt good about.'
The designer behind his own eponymous line, as well as Louis Vuitton's current artistic director for fine jewellery, B?umer developed a passion for all things bejeweled while growing up.
'My first memories are of my mother when she went out - all of sudden she wasn't my mother; she was a princess wearing diamonds,' says B?umer. 'My mother was very creative, and she taught me nothing is impossible if you have the desire to create something. For instance, my parents never bought me a skateboard, so I took my rollerskates apart and I nailed them to a plank of wood. I did that with everything I wanted, and it's still a process I use today with jewellery design. I see a piece of jewellery that I do not especially like, and I'll transform it into something new.'
The approach stems from the technical side of jewellery design: unlike many a fashion school-trained designer, B?umer's background is in engineering.
'Being an engineer is a very important part of being a designer: the way you manufacture something, the way you make sure it doesn't break, the way you make sure the engagement ring is delivered on time to the wedding,' he says. 'The only thing you don't learn is the artistic side, but that you build up over time.'
After graduating from ?cole des Arts et Manufactures in Paris, B?umer quickly went to work behind the scenes at such esteemed luxury houses as Gucci, Herm?s, Breguet and Piaget, before joining Chanel in 1989. But it was only when he started his own line three years later, that the designer finally took that crucial step into the spotlight.
Starting out in costume jewellery and working his way up to finer creations, the juggling of the two worlds offered an education that was crucial to his current success. B?umer's work for the luxury houses offered a testing ground for his own creations, one that allowed him to eventually find the ideal jewellery niche.
'Every creative designer has to do things a little differently; otherwise it's not worth being around. You'll have jewellery where it's only the stones, like with Harry Winston. And then you'll have on the other extreme, a piece where the stone will not be present,' he says. 'I'm trying to blend both, where the necklaces are very creative and innovative, while never taking away from the incredible stones that are set in a classic way.'
They're what he calls 'sculptures you can wear'; avant-garde pieces that act like a beautiful frame where elements are either added or removed from the whole. 'There are the restraints that any creative person has; for a painter, it's the canvas and you can't paint outside that,' he says. 'Here, my canvas is that it has to be affordable, has to be usable, and that you don't put a 2,000-carat diamond in the middle of the necklace. The limitations behind jewellery make it interesting for me. You're stretching the edges of the canvas to create something that hasn't been created before.'
His creative collections aim to surprise and inspire - there's the Lucky Charm ring with a heart-shaped garnet hidden on the inside, or the scarab brooch that opens to absorb and release perfume - while his one-of-a-kind pieces are highly sought after by his clients.
It's a process that sees him working tirelessly day and night. With over 200 annual creations for his own line, seasonal collaborations for Louis Vuitton, as well as the bespoke pieces, does it get to the point when the hardworking designer finds it all too much?
'Everyday,' he says. 'Everyday I'm pushing the boundaries, and it's too hard or it doesn't work or it breaks or it's too complicated. As a designer, you have to accept the fall once in a while. But that it allows you to get up again and do something that you otherwise would not have done.'