Since creating her brand Akillis in 2007 Caroline Gaspard has always gone against the rules. Her unconventional jewellery design and bold choice of stones have led to Akillis redefining the concept of modern jewellery.
Combining the finest materials with French know-how and out-of-the-box innovative techniques, Gaspard has created a line of instantly recognisable jewellery pieces. Many of her designs are unisex and can be worn in several ways for many occasions, making them versatile as well as unique. An adventurer at heart, Caroline’s unisex designs are both daring and unconventional. She takes inspiration from unexpected objects around her and turns them into beautiful, elegant jewels.
The brand’s latest collection “Tattoo” continues Gaspard’s exploration into unusual sources of inspiration with pieces mirroring the image of a tattoo on the skin. The collection is a tribute to the tattoo artistry of the Maori culture who traditionally defined themselves with symbolic tattoos on their skin. The collection features second-skin pieces that make a bold statement. Here, we meet with Caroline Gaspard to discover more about the latest collection and the plans for Akillis in the Middle East.
What has been happening in the world of Akillis over the past year?
We took advantage of the lockdown period to fine-tune and launch our new website and e-commerce platform in May 2021. We also continued to work on the expansion of our iconic collection Capture, with the launch of a thinner version called Capture Light. And we introduced new styles to our famous Bang Bang collections. On the business side, we worked towards increasing our distribution in the Middle East, with the opening of a “shop in shop” in Dubai Mall later this month, and two new openings in Doha and Kuwait in a few weeks time.
Can you tell us a little about the new Tattoo collection and why you decided to introduce this collection to your offering?
With the Tattoo collection, I intended to create an outstanding collection. It began with an idea aimed at the younger generations who are looking for something that truly speaks to them. To enhance your personality, what could be more natural than a tattoo? A jewellery tattoo touching the body, fashioned like lace to reveal the skin through sparkling strokes of calligraphy.
We know you are very daring in your designs – what inspires you the most and where do you get the ideas for your jewellery pieces?
I love to get inspiration from everyday life experiences. The people I meet, the trips I go on, different cultures, landscapes, atmospheres and feelings. I can also be inspired by the shape of a stone. From these initial inspirations, I then introduce the Akillis rock spirit.
What is it about the Maori culture that interested you?
During my travels to Polynesia, I was captivated by the Maori culture and the heroism of the warriors. They distinctly called to mind the great Greek warrior Achilles; the brand’s namesake for nearly 15 years. I enjoyed playing with the graphic style of the tattoos where the sharp lines comprised of themes like harpoons and shark teeth, tempered by the soothing roundness of waves. Together, they are Ying and Yang, peace and peril, a duality that lies at the heart of the brand.
What do you think women are looking for from jewellery today?
Women today are confident, and dare to show their true personalities. They can be fashionistas, mothers and businesswomen all at the same time and they want jewels that express this dichotomy in their personality.
Can you tell us a little about the choice of stones and colours used in your collections and what is your favourite stone to work with?
When I first saw Paraiba Tourmalines, I fell in love with them. I really believe that stones have powers. Tourmalines have energising properties that bring a sense of peace and well-being. It’s instantaneous – as soon as I see and touch these stones I feel positive vibes.
Tell us about your creative process and when do you get most inspired?
Each step of the process is very important and exciting for me: from the moment of inspiration, where an idea starts germinating, to delving into the execution of building the pieces and seeing how my vision comes to life. The whole process is inspirational and filled with learning.
After a difficult 18 months – how do you think women are looking to the world of jewellery and what do you think women want from jewellery today?
I believe jewellery and high jewellery should be worn every day. I am not a fan of jewels that are left in a safe and worn only for special occasions. Women especially, the new generation, are really into mixing jewellery pieces with casual clothing. It allows them to convey a message and assert themselves.
What in your words, makes Akillis unique?
My goal in founding Akillis was to create a resolutely modern and disruptive jewellery brand. I love the notion of unisex jewellery: partners should be able to share their favourite pieces. I wanted to bring jewellery into a new age, an age in which the French jewellery tradition would embrace ultra-modern design while pushing back technical limits as far as they can go.
How important is sustainability at Akillis and what steps have you taken so far in this field?
Of course, we pay extreme attention to the materials we use. Our diamonds are guaranteed by the Kimberley Process for example. We are also on the verge of completing our RJC certification that will attest to our complete responsible attitude to both sourcing and manufacturing.
Can you tell us a little about Akillis in the Middle East and when can we expect to see you back here?
The Middle East has always been a market of interest for the brand. In fact, the second largest sector of clientele at our Parisian flagship store are Middle Eastern customers from Dubai and Saudi Arabia. Akillis has been rapidly growing in the region over the last three years and it is the second region in terms of sales volume after Europe. We are now dealing with some of the biggest companies from the GCC who are selling our collections in the UAE, Bahrain, Qatar, and very soon Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. We had our first high jewellery event in the region last April in Dubai, which highlights our investment and focus on this region. I am planning to come back by the end of November to attend an event where Akillis is nominated in seven categories.
What else is in the pipeline for the rest of the year?
We recently launched a capsule collection in collaboration with Jitrois. Jean-Claude Jitrois and I cultivated our common ideas of paradox and proposed a partnership to create a collection of opposites. The iconic styles of the Jitrois house have changed their look where elegance is seen from a new angle: Ethno-Rock. We are also working on new collections which will hopefully be ready by the end of this year. These projects are still under consideration but will remain faithful to the spirit of the brand and its aesthetics.
What are the personal and professional mottos that you live by?
My main motto is to go beyond my dreams and always dream bigger as everything is possible in life if you work for it.
What is something you would like to achieve that you haven’t done yet?
We are working to increase the brand awareness of Akillis, and are keen to gain the same recognition in the Middle East, as we have in France.
What is a message you would like to send to your customers and friends in the Middle East?
Thank you for your support and love for Akillis. Please continue to express your own personality through our jewellery. Akillis has a lot more coming up for you. Stay tuned!