Brief Encounters: Gaia Repossi

The unconventional artistic director of Repossi jewellery talks about her move into the family business

PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 July, 2014, 10:43pm
UPDATED : Friday, 18 July, 2014, 10:45pm

"I recently fell in love with Austrian artist Franz West's work after my boyfriend [the artist Jeremy Everett] introduced me to it. His art inspired the squiggles of gold [such as doodles, some studded with diamonds] in my new White Noise collection - the lines dance, there is so much movement.

My designs begin with drawings and then I experiment in 3-D with proportion and volume: sometimes with wire or wax. I am trying to make jewellery that will last, yet maybe is ahead of its time, able to surprise people.

I am creating new codes for the house that my grandfather founded 90 years ago. Although I am based in Place Vendôme in Paris, the jewellery is still made in northern Italy, in the same ateliers used by my grandfather and father. The head of the atelier has worked with my father for more than 30 years.

I was born in Turin - an only child. When I was a baby we moved to Monte Carlo where I lived until I was 17. Later, I moved to Paris. The water and light of the Côte d'Azur are always part of me. I remember my mother wearing Repossi jewellery every day. Back then Repossi was famous for big one-of-a-kind stones, but I had no interest in them, although I would look at my father's treasured creations. I would not wear a single jewel as a teenager. I think it is only when you look at things in a radical way, with a strong desire to shift things, that it becomes interesting.

I grew up painting, it was my dream, and I still paint, although I don't show my work. I studied painting at the Beaux-Arts in Paris and got a master's in archaeology [as well] at the Sorbonne to fulfil my passion for early civilisations and their thirst for knowledge.

My Berbère jewellery takes its name from the Berber community in the North African desert and their tattoos [Repossi's Berbère community rings have been worn by Cate Blanchett and Emma Watson, while her Berbère earcuffs have been seen on Beyoncé, Rihanna and Michelle Williams, among others]. Inspiration comes from tribal, nomad, art nouveau and art deco iconography and reference.

I started designing jewellery while I was studying, and it grew faster than I expected. I would often visit my father at the boutique here in the Place Vendôme, which he opened in 1986 - the year I was born. I realised that jewellery wasn't just diamonds. It is cultural.

I began making suggestions and advising on designs, but never had any plans to be part of it. Nevertheless, my father asked me to take care of the brand image and it started from there. I took over creative direction when I was 20, with my father remaining as president. I felt confident enough to develop the brand. My father was very surprised by what I did but has given me total freedom.

I think he looks proudly at the expansion of the brand, which, apart from our flagships in Paris and Monte Carlo, sells in Moscow, Hong Kong, Shanghai, London and the US. Karl Lagerfeld was an early supporter, and I was commissioned to do small capsule collections for Alexander Wang and Joseph Altuzarra's shows.

I don't think it is necessarily me that moves the brand in a new direction, I think it was time for Repossi jewellery to be renewed in harmony and an awareness of our time. We offer fine jewellery but I think we do it with a point of difference." As told to Francesca Fearon