No plush red velvet as a bed for gems? No puffed-up white satin where diamonds can shimmer and sparkle? But isn’t this supposed to be a jewellery store?
In a bijoux space at 6 Place Vendôme, the epicentre of high jewellery in Paris, Gaia Repossi invited Rem Koolhaas’ OMA to synthesise architecture with the jewellery display.
That meant a steely approach to interior decoration, with the three different floors in the minimalist space presenting not only different objects, but also the opportunity to view them at a varied pace; for example, a display area of metallic cabinets in ever-changing motion on the ground floor. That offers a quick look at what is on offer, while the first floor is a gallery, looking out over the famous French square, and downstairs is a salon for exploring exceptional pieces.
“My main idea was to create an experience for the client,” said Gaia, the latest generation of the famous Italian jewellery house. “I asked Rem and his team to re-think what is envisioned traditionally in luxury. I was also very attracted by Rem’s denial and rejection of conventions. I read his book, Junkspace (2001), where he points at this past half-century, where we have been reduced to living and evolving into spaces that alienate us. He’s pointing at the generic and uniformity. This was our starting point.”
At first sight, this chilly setting might appear almost too much like modern art’s empty frames. But changing textures and shapes live up to the architect’s concept that a “void” is the ultimate form of luxury.
“I was also fascinated by his interest in retail and the importance of shopping in our society and I was curious to see this combined in a unique experience,” Gaia explained. “The stairs give a strong dynamic to this shop, which is both a transformative and advertising place, as well as a conceptual dynamic salon and écrin (presentation box) for jewellery.”
The most important factor is that the delicate but streamlined jewels are in tune with the architecture. The lightness of the rings, perhaps in three narrow lines of gems, or the modern effect of sophisticated pieces edging the earlobe, make the Repossi pieces decorative in a modern way.
I asked Gaia, who studied painting at the Beaux Arts in Paris and then graduated with a Masters in Archaeology, whether her vision came mainly from her knowledge of applied arts and architecture or rather from her feelings about how she and her generation want to see jewellery displayed?
“I felt like the world I grew up in needed a clearer expression, a narrative that looks ahead but respecting the past and crafts,” she said. “I thought, ‘Why not give out clients the ultimate experience with a totally new environment?’”
“At Repossi we question classicism with the ambition of creating a new classic,” Gaia said. “Maybe the new decor has the ambition of creating a new luxury vocabulary.”
The area is so small that it inevitably seems more approachable - if not cosy - than the square’s other temples to luxury jewellery, with their bevvies of eager sales assistants hovering around clients.
But how much have attitudes shifted in a world where jewellery is entwined with the traditional roles of men and women? He offers the ring; and she says, “Yes.” Can this new Repossi boutique really lead that change? Gaia’s response was robust.
“I think certain conventions shouldn’t be a ground for silence or denial,” Gaia said. “As long as the goal is to enrich or fulfill a generation surrounded by stale graphics and meaningless objects – and moreover to enable them to dream – maybe that’s what’s modern.”
“I’m just who I am and I’ve always looked forward - and always will - to a long adventure in the jewellery world.”