Making shapes: ex-Balenciaga jeweller Charlotte Chesnais' debut collection sculpturally circles the body
'I constantly contextualise shapes,' announces Charlotte Chesnais in a soft French accent. 'I'll see a large Brâncuși sculpture and imagine how a certain curve might sit on the body if it was reimagined as a piece of jewellery,' she reveals, adding: 'Or, I might come across an anatomical drawing of the human spine that, in turn, informs the articulation of a bracelet.'
This novel exploration of form is apparent in the Parisian-based designer's eponymous jewellery debut. Sensual, striking and unique, the tightly-edited collection boasts interlocking hoop earrings that seemingly hover above the ear lobes, four-finger rings in alternating bands of gold and silver, and coiled vermeil bracelets, which fluidly spiral from wrist to palm. 'I'm trying to find a new way of wearing jewellery,' she explains. 'The lines are clean and quite classical, but the way they are positioned and interact with the wearer feels new to me.'
Chesnais considers her creative process as 'organic and ever-evolving,' which she accredits to her mentor Nicolas Ghesquière - the former creative director of Balenciaga - whom she worked with at the French house for over a decade, as a stylist then costume jeweller. 'He taught me that there is never a single formula to create and that has stuck with me,' she reveals. 'Sometimes it's a precise line sketch and others it's more conceptual, I'll think of a movement and start hand-crafting in clay.'
Stints at cult brands Kenzo, Maison Kitsuné, Maiyet and Paco Rabanne (where she's currently responsible for both leather goods and jewellery) have further sharpened her design instincts. 'When I founded my own label a year ago, I knew that I wanted to create modern classics - pieces that would stand the test of time, but also surprise people,' she notes firmly.
So, just what would Chenais regard as the most unexpected adornment in her inaugural line? 'The large Saturn hoop earrings, which rise above the ear lobes as if they are opposing gravity,' she says. 'I love that unusual abstraction and I hope to continue to push things forwards with my work,' she concludes.