Pierre Hardy is the creative director of Hermès jewelry. His latest collection, Les Jeux de l’ombre, debuted in New York this fall. The 53-piece collection is made up of one-of-a-kind precious gemstones and metal pieces.
“A shadow is never completely black,” Hermès jewellery design director Pierre Hardy adds. “Depending on the light source, it takes colour.” Hardy is referring to his latest high jewellery collection, Les Jeux de l’ombre, which just arrived in the United States after debuting in Paris this summer. He is citing artists such as Caravaggio, whose use of chiaroscuro took the technique to a new level, as well as less obvious practitioners of the style, such as Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein. “My favourite painter of all time is Caravaggio,” the designer says.
Hardy, a native Parisian, studied the plastic arts at L’Ecole Normale Supérieure de Cachan before starting his professional career as a shoe designer at Christian Dior. In 1990, he was hired by Hermès to supervise footwear, and in 2001, two years after launching his own unique shoe line, the French luxury firm expanded his responsibilities to include jewellery. His 2010 introduction of Hermès’ Haute Bijouterie collection—high jewelry—set the foundation for the maison to convey its codes via one-of-a-kind precious gemstones and metal pieces.
“Shadow assisted [Caravaggio] in dramatising and announcing the subject, leaving the rest of the backdrop in the dark and focussing on the light,” Hardy said of the Italian Baroque artist’s Bacchus work. But the classics were not the only source of inspiration for the designer as he created the 53-piece collection, which has Hermès motifs like as the whip and the chain reimagined as necklaces, bracelets, rings, and earrings. Most notably, each object’s settings include an extra layer of gemstones designed to simulate the shadow created by the piece when illuminated.
Color is revealed in Les Jeux de l’ombre through a variety of stones that Hardy claims were typically chosen for their saturation of colour more than their source. He made a particular effort, in fact, to steer clear of a conventional gemstone combination (ruby, blue sapphire, emerald, and white diamond) noting, “I sought to develop an iconic colour spectrum for Hermès, which is recognised for its use of colour in silks, leathers, and beauty. The colour palette and hues are quite distinct.”
At the same time, the designer is keen to eliminate any hazy or ambiguous conceptions of shadow. “There’s nothing more visual than a silhouette,” he says. “The topic conveys several impressions: colour, movement, and hues, but the shadow is a visual cutoff that conveys so much information. It has an extremely perfect form.” Hardy employed pavé black diamonds on a chain pattern comprised of white diamonds to imitate his shadows, and black enamel and jade to mirror what the stones themselves cast. He noticed the phenomenon while searching for diamonds, noting their density and transparency, and photographing them with his phone. “The white light generated a colourful prism reflection; it was magical and gorgeous, like a rainbow,” Hardy says.
It was most visible when spessartite garnets and yellow diamonds were used in their raw, unpolished, uncut states, and matched with an interpretation of the shadow via ombré pavé on rings or hanging streams on earrings composed of coloured diamonds. Hardy can’t pinpoint the precise moment he recognised the new collection’s theme, but the completed items’ metamorphosis from concept to reality made a lasting effect. “What’s wonderful about expensive jewellery is that you just have to make it once,” he says. “There are relatively few inventions in which nothing is impossible.”
This emotion also characterises how he assisted in the conception of Les Jeux de l’ombre’s inaugural presentation in New York this autumn. When the designer saw Lina Lapelyté’s choreography, he was reminded by Marilyn Monroe’s legendary dance routine in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. “I adore the sensation of pink, crimson, and black—very vibrant and dark all at once,” he says. “I wanted it to be more current and cooler, yet it’s really dramatic and huge.”
Lapelyté and her 18-member group devised a composition that was far more personal and engaging shadow theatrical staging when given creative licence to interpret the diamonds. “It was more like a cabaret, when the distance between the stage and the audience is reduced. “It was near enough that you could see the jewels,” he recalls. Hardy stops short of referring to it as a cooperation. “Everyone has a job,” Hardy continues. “”I didn’t think about directing when I asked an artist to make and sign a painting.” Considering the designer pursued dancing in a prior life, his ability to step back supports the humility he’s renowned for and even delivered him a bit of a surprise: “The intriguing outcome is the shock in the meeting of the two distinct dreams, personalities, and points of view. I was completely unprepared for the conflict that occurred.”
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