Gripoix, Paris Interview: The DNA of a Jewelry Icon

 

If ever there was costume jewelry that could be called “haute couture”, the examples made by Gripoix, in Paris over the years for the couturiers, fit this definition. Not made of gold or diamonds, but of glass and gilt metal by hand…the work of the house represented some of the finest artisanship in the industry. Let’s follow them as they push forward into the future.

Gripoix for Schiaparelli. Recent collab image. Photograph courtesy of Gripoix, Paris.

My fascination with Gripoix started with the acquisition of Chanel pieces from the 30s-90s made by Gripoix and older examples made not for just Chanel, but beautiful nonetheless. This led to my interest in researching articles, images, and texts on the subject. Many sought after rare pieces were made for indeed Chanel and other fashion houses like Worth, Pioret, YSL, Balenciaga, Dior…but Gripoix also made pieces early on for private clients. Most of the earliest examples can be recognized from a few characteristics, such their use of handmade glass beads, pearls and sometimes the mark Made in France.

Early clasp style and beading example, marked France.

Although, it is important to note that various vintage pieces marketed as made by Gripoix online, are not actually even pate de verre. The back is telling in that it should have a poured appearance. One should look at themes, coloration, and design as well.

Back of the poured glass belt by Gripoix for Chanel. Believed to have been designed or executed with Goossens.

As an admirer of the jewelry for quite a while, my interest was renewed in their history and current jewelry team. They recently have begun working with designers on limited examples and creating custom orders for clients themselves. The custom orders as I understand it will be made to specification and are one of a kind or limited. My intention is not to address here the definitions of couturiers (legally here), but to recognize the brand’s past relationship to haute couture producers/ or couturiers while looking at their future as a jewelry brand. See our previous post on books and definitions.

Lou Lou de La Falasai vintage earrings. Gripoix glass.

1950s example made for Coco Chanel, based I think on a fine design by Verdura.

Piece made by Gripoix for and signed Gripoix.

TIMELINE:

MAISON GRIPOIX, Paris began to produce poured glass or “Pate de Verre” jewelry in 1869, using a special technique of molten glass and enamel which was poured into the metal. They began with pearls and this sort of “gemstone glass” technique reproducing the jewelry of the elite in costume form and working with the French theater.

Great early example of the pearl effect and fine Byzantine style Gripoix construction.

They became more popular when Augustine began creating pieces for specifically for Sarah Bernhardt at the end of the 19th century to be worn by her on stage. The works were theater style recreations of fine pieces and romantic historic designs.

By the 1920s Suzanne Gripoix continued to cement the brand’s role as an iconic producer of couture costume jewelry, with the creation of jewelry for Paul Pioret, Worth, Chanel, Lanvin, etc. The couturiers wanted jewelry that complimented the various moods and themes of their designs. They were part of the overall look for each season. They invented the most realistic faux pearl for Chanel and brought her costume interpretation of Byzantine fine examples to life. Those deep jewel toned pieces and the beautiful poured flowers have become iconic. However; it was still the glass beads again at this early stage that were very popular. The secret of pouring glass flowers was said to have been passed down from the founder.

Collection BillyBoy* Purchased in the 1970s directly from Mme Gripoix. These are prototypes and samples circa 1950s-60s.

Collection BillyBoy* Purchased in the 1970s directly from Mme Gripoix. These are extremely rare and offer us a glimpse into the history and process of the brand.

Robert Goossens for Chanel.

With Robert Goossens in the 1950s, the poured glass designs became more popular among Chanel patrons and collectors. According to some, Goossens did the designs and sometime metalwork, sometimes using fine examples, for Coco Chanel then they were copied by Chanel in Gripoix glass. His training with Parisian workshops and jewelers made him especially skilled as did being the son of a foundry owner in Paris. It is also possible that the Gripoix glass cabochons were supplied to him based on the design,then glued in later by Goossens. He also produced some similar techniques in his studio, so there is some confusion in terms of production, especially later when he became a sort of individual producer of jewelry for design houses as well.

Goossens for Chanel vintage case, Gripoix details. Signed Chanel. Photo courtesy of BillyBoy*

Gripoix necklace, collection of BillyBoy*

1938 Schiaparelli Brooch. Made by Gripoix. From the collection of BillyBoy* Instagram image courtesy of BillyBoy*

Collection BillyBoy*. Gripoix.

Gripoix poured glass necklace for Jacques Fath. Seen in the text Costume Jewelry for Haute Couture by Florence Muller. This style is often identified as Chanel, but nonetheless it is 50s Gripoix in construction.

Josette, Suzanne’s daughter followed her as head of Gripoix, at which point they were already working with Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, Balenciaga, Lacroix, Balmain…among others. By the 1980s the demand was weakening, in favor of less expensive processes overseas.

Late 1980s example of the Byzantine Gripoix style. Chanel.

Her son, Thierry we believe then sold the brand in 2006 to TWS. The next owner Ms. Keslassy, also had the vision of making Gripoix more known as its own brand and more widely sold. This strategy alone has been a hard one. She worked on making designs relevant and a bit more accessible today, as well as simpler in style. Recently, she left the company and it has come to be owned by an investor who is (anonymous). Some collaborations, such as that with Catherine Baba have led to pieces which merge the history with new fashion styles. Her pieces were inspiring because they drew from Sarah Bernhardt and pushed the designs to results similar to that seen in the 70s and 80s.

Hint magazine image of Catherine’s collection click link to see more.

This is where our interview begins. The new creative director, Fanni Fischer produces one collection a  year in Paris and opens the showroom up to wholesalers of the collection. It is sold directly in their shop in Paris, as well.

Gripoix for Schiaparelli.

Recently there seems to be a uptick in demand as collectors and brands begin to seek out these rare vintage creations. Gripoix has also started to work again with more fashion houses and is seeking to keep to its roots as producers of jewelry for designers. As for couturiers, as less of them exist and are legally certified this question becomes a larger more complex one indeed.

Yet, we must appreciate the art of the creations of the past and Gripoix’s works for couturiers to understand why what happens to the brand today is important and how a new market overall affects that strategy. Let’s look at further examples and probe into the new brand’s intentions with our interview below. Examples of recent “collections” done each season include The Botanical Garden Collection.

Red Currant necklace by Gripoix. Last Season.

 

THE INTERVIEW:


Are any original artisans who worked for the family for more than 10 years still working with Gripoix?

There is one artisan, Thomas Lebouille who worked for the third generation of the Gripoix family before, he learnt the technique there.

Is Virginie Curbilie, who trained was trained at Gripoix still working with you? What is her role?

No, it’s been a long time that Virginie is no longer our glassmaker. There is no training for this profession at school. I learnt this fabulous technique from her by observing her gestures, and after she left, I became the master of glass at Gripoix.

Gripoix Paris image.

Where do you get the glass used, is the quality important?

Our glass sticks came mainly from Italy now. I like the Italian glass it’s easy to work with and they have beautiful colours.

How many creative directors have you had? Who?

Marie Keslassy was our artistic director for a long time. She collaborated with other designers like Elisa Nalin for example. The way how they created the jewels was very new for us. They wanted to realize more fashionable, geometrical shapes and that’s how we modernized the technique too. Sometimes this task was not easy with the glass. Today we use more floral shapes, and ornamental patterns to keep the good quality and the naturally curved shape of the glass.

Could you give us a sense of how the pieces were signed through the years?

Gripoix never signed the pieces. It’s been more recently that Gripoix Paris exists as a brand individually and signs the jewels. Gripoix was the supplier of the big fashion houses, the design came from the designers and the amazing technique and realisation from Gripoix. The other reason is that it was not so important at that time to put the logo on every piece, not like today…

Also, do you still have the drawings and sketches? What is left of the old archives?

We have a few of them but not from the old archives. We have mostly sketches and pictures.

Could you give us a sense of the main design elements used on antique Gripoix pieces from the early 19th century, do you have any images of such pieces?

At that time the main characteristic of the custom jewelleries was the imitation of the Byzantine jewels. To have this aspect they mixed the jewels with metal stamps, which came from a supplier called ‘Janvier’, they are in Paris and they still have beautiful pieces from that period. They have a huge collection of metal stamps, more than 1000 references. An amazing place to visit when you are in Paris. Also, they used the glass to imitate the precious stones. To get this finishing they created the jewels with ruby, emerald, sapphires, topaz colours, with an irregular, called baroque surface.

Describe Robert Goossens’ role in the history of the brand as you see it?

I’m so sorry, but this question is very hard for us, as we don’t have any information about this. I think it’s only Goossens and Chanel who could clarify this question or someone from the Gripoix Family.

What makes your technique so special, I’ve seen the color card- I’d say that is one aspect?

Our technique is special because of the glass work. There are only a few artisans around the world who can ‘ flow the glass’ in this way, directly in the metal. It’s a very old ‘savoir faire’ what we are meant to pass from generation to generation.

Fanni what led you to Gripoix?

The magic of the glass. I always wanted to learn this technique. As I’m also a jewellery maker and designer, I tried to do jewels with the glass before at home, but I couldn’t as I didn’t have the right materials for. When I learnt that this is Gripoix’s speciality, I knew that I should work here, that this profession was made for me.

Gripoix Octopus by Schiaparelli. Gripoix, Paris photograph.

Who are some current fashion houses you intend to work with or are working with today?

In the past 3 years, we had several collaborations with Schiaparelli and today too we are working on a very nice project with them. We worked also with YDE, we made very nice scarabs for them. Also we might have a collaboration with another well known fashion designer, but this is a top secret for the moment;)

I know you said you are working on recovering the history and archives, does that include vintage or rare Gripoix examples? Are there any pieces still in the archive? Did the family keep those pieces or that information?

Yes, we are trying to rebuild the archives for this we are using the informations from the auctions and we have a lot of reparations with vintage pieces, that we include each time in our datas. Mostly we are building new archives, we have drawers and we keep good records today of the drawings and sketches, like this I hope we can help the generations after us.

Do you have any past sketches we can see to better understand the process? Who usually does the sketches?

Yes. We have a creative team of professional drawers. Also, we like to work with interns. They are very creative, quick, fresh brains, and like this we always have a new member in the team. It’s always nice to have an active life in the workshop.

Take us from concept to the final product?

First we find a nice shape or a vintage piece what we would like to rework. We build a collection, for this we do a lot of sketches and colour trials. The way of the colour use is very important as this is our DNA. After we use the drawings to do the prototypes and if we are happy with the result of the metal part, we can flow the glass directly in the pieces. The last part is the guild, 24 Carat on the jewels, and of course we put the crystals or pearls after the gold finishing.

Books and articles to get you started:

Patrick Mauries. Maison Goossens Haute Couture Jewelry. Thames & Hudson.

Patrick Mauries. Jewelry By Chanel. Bulfinch.

Florence Muller. Costume Jewelry for Haute Couture. Vendome Press.

Ariel de Ravenel. Natasha Fraser-Cavassoni. Lou Lou de La Falaise. Rizzoli.

Jean Leymarie. Chanel. Skira / Rizzoli.

Alice Pfeiffer. Glass, with Class. Fashion and Style. New York Times.

Couture. The Great Designers. Caroline Reynolds Milbank.

  • This post is an attempt to research more specifically the history and future of the brand. I would love to talk to someone in the family, but could find no contact. I hope they have the drawings and images or samples, my intention here is to highlight the importance of preserving the Gripoix  design archive.

 

Find: Super Chanel Runway Cuffs Via Katy Kane

Okay, so at the weekly finds we focus on accessories that make us dream, deals, couture and whatever inspires. The fashion accessories that blew my mind this week were : a pair of runway Chanel cuffs in leather and metal listed by veteran shop Katy Kane on 1stdibs.

Katy’s client attended haute couture shows regularly in the 80s and 90s and purchased these right off of the runway. Honestly, it doesn’t get much better than these! Right now the 1980s vintage designer accessories are picking up steam with collectors and wearers showing renewed interest. The big golden CC and powerful look are a no brainer for the Chanel lover.

You can see them linked here for more info.

KKChanel

Katy Kane image, via her 1stdibs storefront. You can shop them here.

 

Finding Lou Lou De La Falaise

                                                                    -The Glamorous Romantic-

Lou Lou de La Falaise

Lou Lou de La Falaise The Glamorous Romantic, rights reserved. From my copy of the text.

I knew of Lou Lou de La Falaise through her work with Yves Saint Laurent and via old photographs. Possibly my favorite image is of Lou Lou and Yves styling model and icon Willy Van Rooy. That moment captures her work philosophy, fashion style and tells you she is the cool girl. Not in the cliche way, but in a very natural fluid way.  She’s an it girl because her style seems to flow from within towards the surface.  Lou Lou was born of a complex and beautiful model mother, which the book by her name covers quite well. Her father was a French count.

Lou, Lou, Willy Van Rooy and Yves, 1980.

Lou, Lou, Willy Van Rooy and Yves, 1980. Image from text, copy also provided by Willy as seen in our interview with her.

However, through the descriptions in the book (such as that of Kenneth Jay Lane), I also became very interested in her strict, but stylish, creative, muse of a grandmother- Rhoda. Rhoda had two hobbies central to Lou Lou’s own personal character; jewelry making and gardening. But you’ll have to read the book for more about Lou Lou’s formative years! Her personal, love life and career sort of intertwine in the book giving us an idea of how she arrived at YSL’s house so to speak. The journey is so well described by Ariel de Ravenel and Natasha Fraser-Cavassoni…

Her relationship with Yves Saint Laurent was a deep and meaningful partnership, which produced so many outstanding fashion accessories and beyond, so the book really is a truly hypnotic read. I found her years spent working after YSL and her work ethic overall very inspiring. The images of her creations for Yves are illuminated by how she actually wore jewelry throughout the images accompanying the text.  The photographs of her style are much welcomed and absolutely essential.  The book is not to be missed (Pierre Berge’s forward for instance) and provides wonderful quotes from fashion icons concerning Lou Lou, as well as building a foundation for readers concerning why she was so essential to one of the most beloved and talented fashion designers that ever lived.

YSL LOU Cuffs

Lou Lou de La Falaise The Glamorous Romantic, rights reserved. From my copy of the text.

To quote the book and Yves:

“I tell myself that I am truly fortunate to have had Lou Lou at my side all of these years because there isn’t a day that goes by when she doesn’t fill me with wonder” (Lou Lou de La Falaise, 132).

Lou LouTurkmen1

*IMAGES: Credit-Lou Lou de La Falaise The Glamorous Romantic, rights reserved. I have included my favorite photos from the book in this review. I am drawn to her ever present vintage/antique Turkmen silver cuffs which she mixed with other accessories, seen in two images included. However possibly my favorite cuffs she did, were for YSL haute couture. These in my mind are some of the most telling pieces she designed. They mix that chic, modern and bohemian aesthetic perfectly- that I also ascribe to and love so innately.  They are large, not to be missed, a bit wild, yet refined…..

It is at this point I pause… I found that the complete review had already been done so well, as the book released in October of this year. Our blog relaunch was in wild swing at that time so rather than not post I did want to highlight this book I enjoyed so much.  For a more detailed description: click here.

The Costume Jewelry Collection of Barbara Berger: Taking on the World of Fashion Jewelry

Trifari, 40s Fruit Salad Bracelet.PHOTO CREDIT: © Pablo Esteva

What attracts us wearers and collectors of jewelry to costume pieces? Many important costume jewelry collections are owned by those who can certainly afford the real thing, Barbara herself was the daughter of a diamond merchant/jeweler.   One is free to re-imagine themselves when they wear it. That is why I wear it and the bigger the better. I personally have always thought why wear jewelry if you can’t enjoy it or see it?  I love ethnic designs/statement pieces and Iris Apfel has always been an icon to me. I came to find out this adoration of the statement piece and Iris, I also shared with Barbara as well. Costume jewelry lets the design and intention really shine. As Barbara pointed out, “the construction is often similar to that of fine pieces”, She painted an image to me during her talk, that she feels there seems to be no bounds to it and that it sort of is freeing or liberating. 

Elsa Schiaparelli, 1938.Ostrich pendants. Circus collection.PHOTO CREDIT: © Pablo Esteva

Barbara Berger has put together one amazing collection and David McFadden, Chief Curator, and Harrice Simons Miller, Guest Curator along with Dorothy Globus, Curator of Exhibitions have organized one stunning show.  Harrice Simons Miller is a consultant to Christies and was brought in to appraise and catalog Elizabeth Taylor’s costume jewelry as well. She wrote the first book I ever bought about collecting and valuing costume jewelry. Collectors may also remember her fab book on Kenneth Jay Lane jewelry!

Miriam Haskell, late 50s example from the Berger collection. Also featured in Miriam Haskell Jewelry by Cathy Gordon and Sheila Pamfiloff. It is a sort of Haskell holy grail piece. PHOTO CREDIT: © Pablo Esteva

Barbara’s life work and passion spoke for themselves at the opening and her discussion with the curators at MAD museum New York. This collection has never been shown in the United States.  I was there, practically running in, as the doors opened on the show.  The full scale of her archive reaches beyond 4,000 pieces and growing. The exhibition houses 450 well chosen iconic examples including jewelry by: Lanvin, Miriam Haskell, Valentino, Coppola e Toppo, Pucci, Kenneth Jay Lane, Countess Zoltowska/Cis, Oscar de La Renta, Mimi Di N. Balenciaga, Maison Gripoix, Marcel Boucher, Trifari, Pierre Cardin, Chanel (she owns one of the most important collection of Chanel jewelry),David Mandel, Lawrence Vrba, Iradj Moini,Joseff-Hollywood, Robert Sorrell, Elsa Schiaparelli and many more. The list includes fantastic vintage examples and recent new designers.  If you are a collector or wearer you may have become a little dizzy at the thought, I know I did when I entered the show. I was literally drunk on jewelry from costume to couture to everything in between.

Chanel feather necklace, Barbara Berger collection. Sarara Vintage image.

Barbara, began collecting after her mother’s death at about age 13. She acquired Chanel earrings at a Parisian flea market. They reminded them of her mother, her style, essence and way of putting herself together.  From the beginning, you can see that fashion jewelry meant something to her on a personal level. She remembers where she got each piece and their stories.  She falls in love with the presence and aesthetic of each example of the jewelry she purchases for the collection. It has to speak to her, be a statement piece, scale and size matters….. She made it clear at her talk that she doesn’t just buy a piece for the collection because it is signed, it has to have that something that makes it great.  She wasn’t focused on the history but the essence.  She even admits that for the exhibit she left the historical research to Harrice.  

As Barbara stated at the “All the Brilliant Facets” talk:

“The size of the jewelry is important, because jewelry gives a woman power, it has to be dramatic. A woman has to feel she can take on the world.  I collect dream jewelry”. (Barbara Berger, All the Brilliant Facets”).

Mimi Di N, 60s-70s. PHOTO CREDIT: © Pablo Esteva


Barbara’s passion as well as creative insight
 can be seen through this very extensive collection. She will be donating some examples to the 
Museum of Arts and Design at 2 Columbus Circle, permanent archives in NYC. Now with the publication of Fashion Jewelry the Collection of Barbara Berger, published by Assouline,  Barbara has a beautifully photographed accompaniment to the exhibition. I purchased a signed copy of the book at the exhibit and it is indeed a visual feast.

Cover jewelry by Daniel Von Weinberger, 2008-9.PHOTO CREDIT: © Pablo Esteva

During her talk at Mad on Thursday, she and the rest of the panel involved, including Harrice, illuminated the history of the collection and how it was organized.  Harrice’s story of how costume jewelry, as a phrase, was born through Hobe’s relationship with costume design/film was interesting. “It was jewelry for the costumes, made for Florenz Ziegfeld”  she said.  Barbara also painted a colorful story of her life through jewelry.  Many of her friends, interesting comrades, and fellow jewelry lovers were present. Designers whose jewelry is in the exhibition Iradj Mioni, David Mandel and Robert Sorrell were counted among the attendees.  Iradj and Robert were very interesting to talk to in their own right and I can see why Barbara counts them among friends.  It was clear the designers themselves are important to her, as she included living and contemporary makers in the exhibit. The show represents around 80 designers.  She wore stunning large Iradj earrings and one of her own designs in the form of a brooch pictured below, as she talked to the audience. 

Barbara Berger, left with me before the discussion, image Sarara Vintage
Chanel piece from the Mad Museum exhibit. Berger collection. Sarara Vintage image.

Barbara’s credo spoken at the talk was to mix fine with costume jewelry and to try to always wear earrings. “Ears are a very sexy part of a woman’s body”.   She mused about the hunt, the creation of her collection, and the genius of Miriam Haskell. 

Frank Hess, Miriam Haskell 1954.PHOTO CREDIT: © Pablo Esteva

                                                                   The Exhibit:

Entry way image, contemporary designer body armor style necklace. Sarara Vintage image.
William DeLillo necklace, vintage 1969. From the exhibit. Image Sarara Vintage.
Exhibit entrance, displays. Sarara Vintage, rights reserved.
Pucci by Coppola e Toppo necklaces, 1960s. Sarara Vintage image.

My impression from the beginning was that they created a jewelry show that relayed the history and passion of costume and fashion. The displays were so well done, hanging examples in cases allowed one to see the pieces from all angles, large necklaces were hand knotted onto plum backdrops and hung seamlessly, cases allowed the pieces to be viewed without distraction or clutter.  There were even drawers full, a bonus selection to look through so to speak, covered in lucite cases. I do want to make it clear that the pieces in the drawer are not part of Barbara’s collection, which was also mentioned to me at the talk as well.  They belong to the museum’s permanent collection just to keep it clear as you view them. 

1960s Pierre Cardin and Paco Rabanne examples. Barbara Berger collection, MAD museum.
Valentino, 1970s. Made by Coppola e Toppo. Exhibit example. Sarara Vintage image.
Stunning 1920s-30s examples. Barbara Berger Collection. Sarara Vintage image.
1980s Chanel pendant, one of my favorite pieces. Sarara Vintage image, right reserved.
Miriam Haskell. Barbara Berger Collection. Sarara Vintage image.
David Mandel, 2000. Necklace detail. From exhibit. Sarara Vintage image.
Paco Rabanne, vintage necklace 1980s-90s. Barbara Berger exhibit.
Chanel section at the exhibit, various Maison Gripoix for Chanel examples featured.
Maggy Rouff, 50s-60s. Made by Maison Gripoix. Another favorite of mine from the exhibit. Sarara Vintage image.
Maison Gripoix, 2000. PHOTO CREDIT: © Pablo Esteva

I hope you enjoyed the exclusive images from inside the event and quotes by Barbara from her talk. I hope to finish up an interview with her at a future date, when she is back from her travels. Stay tuned as I’ll repost another article if that comes to fruition.  My advice if you are captivated by the images and depth of the show presented here, would be to take a boat, plane, carriage, walk no run to the show before it closes.   I have included various examples not in the text, and there are many others in both the text and exhibit still to see. The exhibit is truly a break from the mundane into a fantasy world of paste stones, cut glass and beyond. Follow me on instagram to see even more images from the show and a slew of designer and couture jewelry as they come into the shop




MAD Museum press release and information:


Fashion Jewelry: The Collection of Barbara Berger will be an eye-opening presentation of necklaces, bracelets, and earrings, many of them one-of-a-kind, drawn from the world-renowned collection of Barbara Berger. Featured designers include Kenneth Jay Lane, Lanvin, Missoni, Oscar de la Renta and Pucci. The exhibition will be on view at the Museum of Arts and Design from June 25 through September 22, 2013 (a portion of the exhibition will remain open until January 20, 2014).

Fashion Jewelry: The Collection of Barbara Berger is organized by David McFadden, William and Mildred Lasdon Chief Curator at the Museum of Arts and Design, in collaboration with jewelry historian Harrice Simons Miller, as guest curator.

Support for Fashion Jewelry: The Collection of Barbara Berger generously provided by Miriam Haskell, with additional support from KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, the official airline of MAD.

PUBLICATION

The exhibition is accompanied by a lavishly illustrated publication on the Berger collection published by Assouline in 2013 titled Fashion Jewelry: The Collection of Barbara Berger. The book includes forewords by Pamela Golbin and Iris Apfel and an essay on the history of fashion jewelry in the Berger Collection by Harrice Miller.

*** ORIGINALLY Published 7/11/13- part of the archives transferred from our original blog site.