Since the beginning, Boucheron has been a High Jewellery Maison that pushes the boundaries of innovation and design. Always looking for new ways to share its values and creativity through limitless designs, unusual materials and experimental techniques. No one is more embracing of this than Artistic Director Claire Choisne.
Each year the Carte Blanche High Jewellery collection allows Choisne full freedom of expression and the opportunity to go one step further with innovation and creativity. This year’s collection Ailleurs takes inspiration from nature, offering new ways of interpreting some of the earth’s most beautiful elements with pieces that are both timeless and modern. Here we discover more about the collection and the upcoming moments for the Maison.
Tell us about the new Carte Blanche, Ailleurs collection at Boucheron.
Each July, we reveal our Carte Blanche, meaning “freedom to create” in French. This collection allows us to focus on innovation and creativity and to push the barriers of jewellery. This year, we unveiled the Carte Blanche, Ailleurs collection that pays tribute to the raw beauty of nature.
The collection brings together some interesting new elements and materials – what can you tell us about the inspiration?
The Carte Blanche, Ailleurs High Jewellery collection was imagined in early 2020, when the whole world was in lockdown, which was actually a good time for creativity and imagination. I was in a safe place, in Portugal and at that time, my dream was to escape and travel. Not being able to travel for inspiration with my team was a challenge, but working on this collection allowed me to travel through my imagination. The good thing is that there was no creative limit, so it was like a spiritual journey. I realised that by travelling through imagination, we could also maintain a close connection with nature and appreciate its beauty.
The name of the collection means Elsewhere in French. This elsewhere is somewhere in nature, which has always been a source of inspiration to Boucheron and myself. It comprises five imaginary worlds, without any geographical constraints nor creative limit: “Sand Woman”, “Leaf Woman”, “Pebble Woman”, “Earth Woman” and “Volcano Man”. Each of them offers a different atmosphere and sensations.
For this collection, you have turned to materials that are perhaps out of the box or unusual for a high jewellery collection – what are some of the challenges you faced surrounding this?
Since the beginning, I knew this collection would be a great challenge. But I also knew I was surrounded by incredible individuals; our craftsmen are genius. Indeed, contrary to the Carte Blanche, Holographique High Jewellery collection that used one technique for all the pieces, we had to develop new techniques, and identify
and source new materials for each piece. As the collection is all about innovation and creativity, we faced many technical challenges when crafting the pieces since many raw materials were a first for us. For example, the rattan is a flexible material, so we had to make it hard to be worked with, pebbles were hollowed out to avoid being heavy, identical shells had to be found for the earrings and the Jack brooch, and butterfly’s wing pigments had to be stabilised. We ended up finding a technical solution for almost all of them. The best part is that when I discovered the result of the final pieces, they matched what I originally had in my head. I was so happy. It’s funny because when you see the pieces, you forget all the issues, the work and the challenges, you only appreciate the emotions. I felt relieved and joyful. This collection was full of emotions and surprises.
Can you share a little about the campaign that accompanies the collection?
I believe that the story is complete only after we have both the jewellery and the visuals, so I worked closely with the communication team on the campaign for six months, to ensure that we shared the same vision. Visuals featuring human models are crucial to telling stories. For the photo shoot, I explained in great detail to ensure that the team fully understood the worlds rendered by each of the five themes of the collection. I made specific requests regarding the colours. I also emphasized that “Ailleurs” is an imaginary world, so there is no need whatsoever to be consistent with a certain region or existing place on the planet. The most important thing to me was to have the viewer sense that the stories were of other worlds distant from Earth, so we freely created a style of alien-like hairstyles and clothing. I’m so happy with the result!
Is there a particular piece in the collection that has a special story or is of particular significance to you?
I would say the butterfly pieces. It took us six years to develop the technique as I was planning to use them for the Nature Triomphante High Jewellery collection in 2017. The difficulty consisted of finding a way to fix the wings without any metal because I wanted to see through the wings, contrary to the flower petals of the Fleurs Eternelles rings that were applied on titanium. Once the wings had been chosen (Ideopsis Vulgaris – a non-protected Indonesian species), they were scanned in such a way that we could reproduce their exact scale and create a bespoke gold framework capable of supporting them. Then, we developed a protective resin which did not alter the colour of the butterfly. Finally, our craftspeople undertook the delicate task of setting diamonds to affix the butterfly wings to the gold framework. I’m so happy we persevere and made it work! That’s why the main challenge as a jewellery designer is to not be afraid of your ideas, even though they sometimes seem a bit crazy or seem impossible to come true at first. Feel free to put forward your ideas and stick to them. Find people who share the same spirit and dreams, talk to them, and work together with them. If they also want to push the boundaries and try something different, then eventually, you’ll get there.
Nature continues to be a key source of inspiration for your collections how do you think nature and the world of jewellery are so closely intertwined?
When looking back at our archives from the time of our founder Frédéric Boucheron, the most beautiful pieces are about nature. We found some very realistic images of crops from the archives of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, that he created in the most realistic manner possible, contrary to other Maisons who magnified and reinterpreted it. For example, some may focus on the image of flowers, but we find vegetation from the fields in our historical collection, as well as works on the themes of the ear of wheat, thistle, and ivy. Today, in order to pay tribute to our founder, we hope to keep his respect for natural aesthetics and to be more daring to create in unusual ways such as using petals, wood, and even some non-precious materials from nature.
Personally, the theme of nature is also one of my favourite ones, especially flowers. I pursue beauty as a designer, and for me, the most beautiful things on Earth are the ones created by nature, and this beauty is precious to me. My most personal and creative achievement is the Nature Triomphante High Jewellery collection, the dream to grant eternal life to the beauty and vitality of nature. It took us nearly three years of work to produce nine rings which give the illusion of being flowers which will last forever. We also collaborated with a ‘petal expert’ who did more than ten years of research in stabilising petals herself. We then affixed our real petals to the titanium flowers which had themselves been scanned from real flowers. In this collection we have totally reviewed the technique of creation: normally we draw, and we make gouaches that we then give to the workshop. During the creative process, the studio has not used a single pencil, we have found technical means to achieve our dream: by scanning the petals, by wrapping the real flowers around the finger we have taken the opposite of what we normally do.
That’s why our Carte Blanche collections keep on questioning a sense of beauty, even beyond the sense of precious. Through hard times, nature is probably the ultimate comforting place. It’s been here forever so it conveys a feeling of safety. Also, the beauty nature offers is genuine as it was not created by human hands. I think the quest for authentic beauty is more important in times of crisis, as we want to get away from the artificial world.
Can you tell us about the men’s offering in this collection?
First, it’s important to say that, at Boucheron, we think beyond gender at every single level. To me, High Jewellery is a way to express your personality, regardless of gender, and we develop genderless collections to offer today’s men and women the freedom to express their personalities and style through our creations. The important thing is to remain as free as possible in the design and think beyond gender. A few years ago, we started to think about men, and we started to be even more creative. As long as it is natural and not overdone, we will continue to put pieces on men.
For the Volcano Man parure, I started to think of the atmosphere, I imagined it to be a bit hostile, with a contrast of black and white. Then, I thought about the elements that would fit in this world: a wolf, an octopus, burnt wood, a meteorite, etc. All this made me think of a more masculine world, hence the fact this world is embodied by a man. While these pieces are shown worn by a man, they could perfectly fit for a woman too. That’s what being an inclusive Maison is all about. This being said, I am so happy because I just heard the Octopus earring and the Wolf ring have been bought by a man!
Tell us about your drive to always do something different and how do you get inspiration or creative drive when creating a collection.
For me, High Jewellery is at the service of emotion and poetry, and we must question the precious. At Boucheron, while using diamonds and precious stones is rather easy and it is quite mandatory, finding a way to arouse emotion is more challenging. I believe High Jewellery is a love story between a person and the jewellery piece. If someone understands the message and the creativity, she or he will fall in love with this kind of piece. And I’m convinced that our clients have a genuine attraction to this poetry and are sensitive to the messages we convey to them.
That’s why my approach is to be as free as possible when it comes to the creation, in the themes that we choose. I always start with a dream. What inspires and fascinates me is the freedom of the means used to achieve this dream. Sometimes, the dream can be achieved with precious gems or simple techniques and in this case, we will not reinvent them. However, we allow ourselves the possibility to test and play with new, unexpected materials or techniques never used in High Jewellery, as long as they allow us to express this creative dream. I will also say that all this is a continuation for the Maison. Frédéric Boucheron was a pioneer when it came to creation and technique from the very beginning in 1858, he was the first to use rock crystal and to mix it with diamonds, which was audacious at his time. And today, we perpetuate this tradition of innovation and daring by maintaining this freedom to create. Last but not least, I have the chance to work with Hélène Poulit-Duquesne, our CEO. She loves innovation as much as I do and she’s not afraid to give me the freedom to create, even for things that seem crazy. I am very grateful to be so well supported.
At Boucheron it seems anything is possible in terms of creativity – is there anything you would like to do that you haven’t done yet?
Yes a lot of things, but I can’t tell you more because they are the subject of future collections. Once again, Boucheron will push the boundaries of High Jewellery and create emotional and poetic pieces. What I love is the never-ending technical challenge, of finding a way to make a piece of jewellery you’ve never made before. In the next decade, I don’t want to stay in this comfort zone, I don’t want to be bored! I want to continue exploring and innovating, and continue to convey emotions through my creations.
Where do you travel to when you want to be inspired?
Inspiration can come from absolutely anywhere! A destination that particularly marked me is Singapore, where I went to visit one of the most extraordinary botanical gardens ahead of the creation of the Fleurs Eternelles. India has also strongly influenced my creation. I was lucky enough to meet Maharaja of Jodhpur who gave me a tour of his palaces, his private collections and of the museum he owns in town as part of our Bleu de Jodhpur High Jewelry collection in 2015. Having the chance to hear from him about India, Jodhpur, its culture, etc. was priceless. Indeed, it allowed me to avoid clichés, and to be accurate throughout the collection and it reassured me of my vision. All I learned back then also helped me while creating our Histoire de Style, New Maharajahs collection unveiled last January. I also had the chance to travel to Mexico in 2019 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 which we unveiled in 2021. It enabled me to find a new approach around the theme of colours by exploring its link with light.
The important aspect is to keep your eyes open to the world to catch these inspirations. Personally, I love nature. I spend a lot of time in Portugal surrounded by nature and I think these are the moments when I’m most creative and inspired. When I’m there, ideas pop into my head easily. These moments when I’m travelling are the times that are the best for my creativity. That’s why before designing a new Carte Blanche High Jewelry collection, I plan an “inspirational travel” with my team!
What can you tell us about Boucheron in the Middle East and can we expect to see you here any time soon?
The Middle East is a historic and crucial region for Boucheron business-wise, especially in the High Jewellery and the Serpent Bohème collections. We have been operating in the region for the longest time – we are one of the oldest jewellers established there, since the early 2000s, and it still represents a huge potential. I have had the chance to meet some of the Middle Eastern clients and it is always wonderful. I discovered women who sincerely love jewellery and High Jewellery pieces in particular. They also have the audacity to wear pieces that can sometimes be voluminous. I would even say that they almost have an innate sense of how they will be able to wear them and associate them with their styles. Talking with them, you can feel this love for jewellery. As a Creative Director, it’s always a real pleasure to create for them.
The Carte Blanche, Ailleurs collection is flying to Saudi Arabia from November 7th to November 10th for the occasion of the second edition of La Maison event in Riyadh. La Maison is a global concept, aiming at showcasing and celebrating all the facets of Maison Boucheron – style, innovation, heritage and French art de vivre – while balancing heritage and innovation. It will be the first time that the Carte Blanche collection is shown in the Middle East. I can’t come this year but I would love for your readers to see the collection in person.
What can you tell us about what else is in the pipeline for the rest of the year and next year?
I am currently working on many projects! It takes a long time to produce a High Jewellery collection, so my team and I have already designed the Carte Blanche collection for 2023. The pieces are in production as we speak. We are also making the drawings for 2024 and I just found the theme for the collection in 2025. It is also the case for the Histoire de Style High Jewellery collections. It is a very long process so you can’t work only on one collection at a time. That’s why I am quite busy right now working on six collections at different stages.
How would you describe this collection in one sentence?
The Carte Blanche, Ailleurs collection is an imaginary journey through nature.