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Suzy Menkes

Vogue International Editor Suzy Menkes is the best-known fashion journalist in the world. After 25 years commenting on fashion for the International Herald Tribune (rebranded recently as The International New York Times), Suzy Menkes now writes exclusively for Vogue online, covering fashion worldwide.

A jewel of a fairy tale

Van Cleef & Arpels creates an evening of Renaissance enchantment

1 Июля 2014

To celebrate the launch of its high-jewellery collection, Van Cleef & Arpels brought a fairy tale to life and created an enchanting evening. It was based on the French tale ‘Peau d’Ane’. Here, an elephant leads a procession through the grounds of the Chât
To celebrate the launch of its high-jewellery collection, Van Cleef & Arpels brought a fairy tale to life and created an enchanting evening. It was based on the French tale ‘Peau d’Ane’. Here, an elephant leads a procession through the grounds of the Chât

A magical castle, a beautiful princess, an ogre of a king, a handsome prince — and a donkey. What else could there be for a perfect fairy tale?

Oh, so much more! Parakeets and owls clinging to the shoulders of masked courtiers parading on a terrace high up under the turrets of France’s Château de Chambord.

A medieval banquet that only the French could envisage: tables groaning with fruit, flowers and food; wine bottles fat and full; a waiter service orchestrated by figures dressed in Renaissance costumes; and sweet princesses in silken dresses, lit by jewels.

Ah, the jewels! In this exceptional fest of French grandeur, the Van Cleef & Arpels collection of high jewellery was pure fairytale.

Taking ”Peau d’Ane”  or ”Donkey Skin”, the legendary story of a princess who finds happiness (and ultimately her prince) in rural bliss, the French jewellery house created artistic images with gemstones. Here was an enchanted forest, with a diamond barn hidden in emerald foliage; there, the chateau, re-created in diamonds around a 39-carat Brazilian emerald.
 
Peau d’Ane asks her father for unique dresses inspired by sun and moon. Van Cleef & Arpels has interpreted the story in a set of jewelled clips Credit: © Van Cleef & Arpels
Peau d’Ane asks her father for unique dresses inspired by sun and moon. Van Cleef & Arpels has interpreted the story in a set of jewelled clips Credit: © Van Cleef & Arpels
 
 
Most poignant were three little princess dresses, the skirts glittering in pavé work, the craftsmanship as delicate at the back as at the front. Their colours of dazzling sun and muted moon were reproduced in the “impossible” shades demanded from the deranged king when he asked to marry his daughter.

The storyline — a dark, Brothers Grimm-style fairy tale followed the 1970 film of the same name, directed by Jacques Demy, with Catherine Deneuve hiding her ethereal blonde beauty behind a donkey-skin robe.
 
The Château de Chambord, in the Loire Valley, was built by Francis l in 1515, and is a magnificent example of French Renaissance style — frogandprincess.wordpress.com
The Château de Chambord, in the Loire Valley, was built by Francis l in 1515, and is a magnificent example of French Renaissance style — frogandprincess.wordpress.com
 
Following the original tale, the Van Cleef installation at the bottom of the chateau’s sweeping stone stairs — believed to have been designed by Leonardo da Vinci – included references to oriental kings rolling up for the princess’s royal wedding at the story’s happy ending.
 
The backdrops were inspired by the woodcuts of Gustave Doré, who illustrated the original ‘’Donkey Skin’’ book. A drawing of a caparisoned elephant introduced the most exotic Van Cleef jewels: bold neckpieces of colourful stones.
 
The extravagant table display captures the theme of ”Peau d’Ane”
The extravagant table display captures the theme of ”Peau d’Ane”
 
Outside on the lawns, a real elephant, decorated maharaja-style with wildly patterned floppy ears, joined an eye-popping parade of gilded carriages, unicorns and horn-blowing hunters.

That was a reference to the era of Francis I, the young king of France who ascended to the throne in 1515 and built Chambord in a game-filled forest in the Loire valley. This ultimate hunting lodge has become symbolic of the French Renaissance.

So like Renaissance royalty, Van Cleef had built an ephemeral tent — this one a colourful Moorish marquee — for the guests for whom the dress code was ruby red or sapphire blue.
 
A model poses in a in Gaspard Yurkievich dress adorned with Van Cleef jewels (Credit: Sonia Sieff), Right : Catherine Deneuve played the princess in the Seventies film, ‘Peau d’Ane’ (Credit: theredlist.com)
A model poses in a in Gaspard Yurkievich dress adorned with Van Cleef jewels (Credit: Sonia Sieff), Right : Catherine Deneuve played the princess in the Seventies film, ‘Peau d’Ane’ (Credit: theredlist.com)
 
Wearing her donkey skin, Catherine Deneuve poses as Peau d’Ane in the film which Van Cleef & Arpels is helping to restore. Credit: Production still from Jacques Demy’s film Peau dÂne, 1970. Michel Lavoix © 2003 Succession Demy
Wearing her donkey skin, Catherine Deneuve poses as Peau d’Ane in the film which Van Cleef & Arpels is helping to restore. Credit: Production still from Jacques Demy’s film Peau dÂne, 1970. Michel Lavoix © 2003 Succession Demy
 
Every part of the evening followed a theme of muted elegance, from the soft, silken dresses by designer Gaspard Yurkievich to the music of Michel Legrand, who composed the original score of Peau d’Ane.

It is rare to see such a combination of imagination and elegance in a luxury world focused on celebrity, showmanship and brand promotion. With no visible logos, the event transported guests to an enchanted world, while at the same time showcasing five centuries of the finest French traditions and, with a sweet simplicity, focusing on craftsmanship and skill.
 
Left: a white-gold, diamond and sapphire pendant by Van Cleef & Arpels, with a Gaspard Yurkievich dress. Van Cleef & Arpels – Photo by Sonia Sieff. Right: masked costumes added to the festivities.
Left: a white-gold, diamond and sapphire pendant by Van Cleef & Arpels, with a Gaspard Yurkievich dress. Van Cleef & Arpels – Photo by Sonia Sieff. Right: masked costumes added to the festivities.
 
Behind this evening of earthly delights was Nicolas Bos, president & CEO of the jewellery house.
 
“We thought it was time to go back in history to discover the art, poetry, literature and architecture of the early sixteenth century and the moment of nature,’’ said Bos, explaining that even the tent was inspired by a structure once created to greet the King of England.
 
‘’We wanted to give another, twenty-first-century interpretation using our own art: exceptional stones and the magic of our workmanship,’’ he continued, before fireworks exploded over the turrets and brought the evening to its close.
 
Poetry and magic are rare in the hyper world of luxury, making this enchanted night a jewel of an event.
 
The Peau d’Ane collection will be on show again at La Biennale des Antiquaires in Paris in September
 
Suzy on the terrace of the Château de Chambord
Suzy on the terrace of the Château de Chambord

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