Boucheron’s Claire Choisne On Stepping Out Of Her Comfort Zone

Lindsay Judge   |   15-11-2023

Each year, Claire Choisne, Creative Director at Boucheron, looks forward to designing the brand’s high jewellery collection, also known within the Parisian masion as the “carte blanche” collection, thanks to the freedom of creativity surrounding it.

With high jewellery at Boucheron, there are no boundaries or limits on creativity, which is perhaps why, when she found herself bound to her home during the 2020 lockdown, her desire to create something bold and out-of-the-box was greater than ever. Unable to travel or even meet with her team face-to-face, Choisne had to take her inspiration from the internet and the situation she was in. She chose to rebel against the limits of lockdown and created “More is More”, a vibrant, rule-defining collection that takes high jewellery to new levels. She worked with never-used-before materials, bright colours and unexpected surprises to create perhaps the Maison’s most impactful offering yet. Here, we find out more about the challenges and achievements during the creation process of this truly special collection.

Tell us about the story and inspiration behind this year’s high jewellery collection.

We started working on the “More is More” collection in 2020, during the second lockdown. We were stuck at home, unable to go outside. There were too many constraints; we could not do anything. I felt really tired and hopeless. Every year, I love to travel to get inspired, and two days before a trip with my team in Africa, we had to cancel and replace it with a brainstorming session on Teams. Everyone was sad! We went on Pinterest and spent hours looking for inspiration. I needed colours and playfulness to offer joy as a remedy. Through this process, I found pictures of Memphis Milano (the Italian interiors and architecture group that was popular during the eighties); it reminded me of a happy time during my childhood. Using these pictures, we created a mood board, and it became the frame of the collection. I wanted my team and I to design whatever made us happy, in scales that made us happy, expressing whatever we wished to express. After that, it was quite easy to imagine the pieces. When I look back, I think it’s cool, how from a bad situation, you can achieve something so positive.

What are some of the highlight pieces for you this year?

I would start by talking about “Tie the Knot” which was one of the most challenging pieces. We wanted to push back the limits with a gigantic – yet ultra-lightweight – hair bow with red, black and white stripes. To get to that, we used magnesium, a material we’d never used before. It’s a metal that’s ten times lighter than gold. It naturally possesses an incredible resiliency for its weight, which is why it is widely used in the aerospace and medical industries 

However, it has never been used in a high jewellery collection. One of the greatest difficulties is that, unlike a gold prong, a magnesium prong is impossible to repair if it breaks as the diamonds are being set. For the Tie the Knot piece, the gem-setting step using magnesium was much more complex than it would have been using gold. The combination of diamonds and magnesium was a true first.

Another challenging piece was “In The Pocket”, and it’s one of my favourites. It may seem easy to create a high jewellery pocket that you can put on your garment, but in reality, when you start getting into the technique, you realise that a pocket is not like a necklace. A necklace is put around the neck, and it will be fine. A pocket, you have to be able to move with it, to sit down, to put your hand in it and that it supports the weight of a phone. It becomes much more complex to make than a necklace! We found the solution using a textile material, lycra, usually used in sportswear, and we combined it with titanium, four times lighter than gold. The pocket seems rigid on the photo, but titanium screws fix together a system of plates and counter plates printed in 3D and allow the pocket’s articulation. The pocket can be attached to a garment with two magnetised parts, and the fabric is held between these two elements. This structure is covered with onyx, diamonds, and grey lacquer. What I like is that in the end, it doesn’t show. The piece gives the feeling that it was simple and easy to make!

What are some of the biggest challenges you encountered during the creation process, and how did you overcome them?

For this collection, I did not want to consider any constraints because I realise, we usually restrict ourselves on a creative level. So that’s what that creative process was about: not caring about the constraints, going for what we wanted but then, taking responsibility for our choices and finding solutions to make it all work. It is a learning curve, when you use new materials or techniques to achieve your dream, you find yourself with a big toolbox of traditional and new tools that you can play around with in the future. It opens up the possibilities of creation in the industry. For each high jewellery collection, techniques are created that are linked to what we want to achieve in terms of aesthetics. Today’s innovation is tomorrow’s craftsmanship. You never get bored stepping out of your comfort zone!

So, we used several unexpected materials such as magnesium, red bio-acetate, blue Murano glass, or titanium dyed with a cataphoresis treatment to bring out pop colours and incredible volumes. It allowed us to craft the creations as they had been imagined while keeping them pleasant to wear. We made it: the pieces are here, and I’d love to have everyone’s opinion, but I sincerely think anyone discovering this collection will have a feeling of joy. 

The images that accompany the collection are quite different for the brand – tell us about this.

Our campaigns are always a reflection of the dream or the emotion we wish to convey through our collections. As we imagined the More is More collection during lockdown, at that time, the most precious thing for me was joy, which I wanted to express through the campaign. With my creative studio, we used the sketches that we drew on women’s and men’s portraits as a reference to create the campaign because it must be an extension of this story of joy, even further than what only the creations are showing. I’m so happy with the result because the casting, the colourful looks and the backgrounds are exactly what we imagined! It is an extension of this story of joy.

What are some of the positives and negatives of having such freedom around creating a collection?

I am very lucky to have unlimited freedom at Boucheron; it’s a privilege and a mission! Initially, I was unsure if people would accept my style, but over the past decade, my designs have slowly gained recognition, and now I am confident to go forward without fear. It used to be a type of intuition, which has now transformed into a dynamic power. Because I realised it always pays off! Everyone is different: some people are looking for the little black dress with Boucheron Histoire de Style collections, while others love the exuberant and unexpected dresses that we offer with our Carte Blanche collections. With CEO Hélène Poulit-Duquesne, we are lucky to be part of the Maison during a small period of its life and to be able to bring a very small stone to the building. It is our duty to be bold and push the boundaries of high jewellery by innovating and being as free as possible. We don’t want any regret; we want to know that we did everything we could for each collection without any constraint. And we do. Just like our founder, Frédéric Boucheron, we can be pioneers and try new things. It’s funnier and more interesting that way. As a Creative Director, I do not want to stay in this comfort zone; I do not want to hit snooze. I want to continue exploring, continue innovating, and continue to convey emotions through my creations. I intend to focus all my efforts so that the modern Boucheron collections will similarly remain for future generations. 

What is something you would still like to do with the brand that you haven’t done yet?

A lot of things! But I can’t say too much; it will be the subject of future collections.

To what extent do you still believe that high jewellery still has a place in society today?

I am lucky that I’ve been in this industry for over 25 years and at Boucheron for more than 12 years now. Over the last 5 to 10 years, we noticed the emergence in society of a new clientele in high jewellery who are more sensitive to the creativity and the emotional storytelling of the pieces than to the actual value. This trend is linked to the shifting balance toward younger clients, women, and men, especially in Asia and more specifically in China. Beyond the value of stones and materials, the value of our collections, therefore, lies in the deep emotion it offers.

Personally, what I find most attractive in this industry is pushing the limits of high jewellery, and associating traditional know-how with innovation to extend the possibility of creation. I believe that high jewellery is at the service of emotion and poetry, and it is our duty to question the precious. The great benefit of this alliance in design is the freedom to create, which allows us to explore territories of experimentation without setting limits. As a cutting-edge high jewellery maison, we allow ourselves to test and play with new materials or techniques never used in high jewellery as long as they help us express this creative dream. It must precisely fade away to make way for dreams, art, and emotion. I strive to give our best, and I believe that the pieces will find their way to those who will buy them with love. The important thing is to maintain a good balance between traditional techniques and digital technology without setting limits, even if it means looking for creative solutions in other industries.

What do you think women are looking for from jewellery today?

I think that more and more women are buying pieces themselves because they wish to wear them, not leave them locked away in a safe. It is becoming a luxury accessory which allows women to find their own style. It is no longer a status symbol but a style story. At Boucheron, we say that we propose, we never impose but rather propose a wide choice for our clients. For example, in our jewellery collections, the Quatre clip earrings give you the total freedom to compose your own style. They can be worn in a classic way as earrings but can also be seen as versatile pieces and be placed on a hat, the lapel of a jacket, or even transformed into hair clips. I hope when people wear jewellery I design, it can express who they are and their personal style. Hence, a good piece of jewellery is versatile and can be worn daily as a signature of style. Through Boucheron’s collections, I want to help men and women to assume their own style and tell their own story. We open up the possibilities through the design and the way we shoot our campaigns, but the most important thing is that men and women feel good and comfortable with the pieces they wear. 

How do you continue to be inspired and be original?

Personally, working on the same theme and style again and again isn’t interesting for me. My creative process is very intuitive; it’s guided by an inspiration, a moment, a dream.

Inspiration can come from absolutely anywhere and is constantly evolving! Mine is mainly visual; it can be a trip, a movie, a photo… many different things. The important aspect is to keep your eyes open to the world to catch these inspirations. I love nature. I spend a lot of time in Portugal surrounded by nature, and I think that is when I’m most creative and inspired. When I’m there, ideas pop into my head easily. The moments when I’m travelling are the times that are the best for my creativity. That’s why, before designing a new high jewellery collection, I plan an “inspirational travel” trip every year with my team. For example, in 2019, I had the chance to travel to Mexico to see the work of architect Luis Barragan, to visit one of the houses he designed, and to spend some time with one of his former associates. It was a great source of inspiration for the Carte Blanche, Holographique collection unveiled in 2021, to find a new approach around the theme of colours by exploring its link with light.

What is the motto that you live by?

Freedom to create! As a jewellery designer, you have to trust and always listen to yourself, and never give up your ideas to avoid soft or banal designs. Don’t be afraid to have strong ideas; believe in them and always stick to them. There will always be people to prevent us from believing in them, but go for it, because it will bring you infinite happiness!

How would you describe this collection in one word?