Tuesday, July 21, 2015

L’École Van Cleef & Arpels: Jewelry as Character: Plot & Personality

I felt so lucky to be able to attend not one, but two, Van Cleef & Arpels talks last month at the Cooper-Hewitt Museum, given as part of the L’École Van Cleef & Arpels, visiting New York from Paris for the first time. The second Van Cleef & Arpels discussion I attended was called “Jewelry as Character: Plot & Personality.” This discussion was moderated by Stefano Tonchi, Editor-in-Chief of W magazine, and the two panelists were the fashion writer and former Vogue Paris Editor-in-Chief, Joan Juliet Buck (the only American to ever hold the post), and the multiple Tony Award-winning Broadway costume designer, William Ivey Long.

There were more people at this event than the first one I went to and it was being filmed and photographed by its very own paparazzi!

One of the event photographers.

The talk featured slides of many different films where jewelry was prominent, whether playing a key role, such as in To Catch a Thief, or simply making a statement about who the character was, like Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s or Daisy Buchanan in The Great Gatsby—either the one from 1974, or the newer version of 2013!—or Madonna’s character in Desperately Seeking Susan.

L to R: William Ivey Long, Stefano Tonchi, Joan Juliet Buck, with Audrey Hepburn as a backdrop!

I loved the range of slides they showed, from the pavé engagement ring on Kristen Stewart as Bella in Twilight, to the jaw-droppingly beautiful Tiffany jewelry on Carey Mulligan as Daisy in The Great Gatsby, to Marilyn Monroe’s “diamonds” in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes during her iconic rendition of “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend.”

How fun that they included Madonna’s over the top jewelry from Desperately Seeking Susan.

Since this was a bit more of a free-for-all style of discussion, not as controlled as the first lecture, it’s a bit harder to pin down. The slides provided a visual for the audience as the conversation quickly moved from topic to topic. Stefano, Joan and William had great chemistry and the conversation jumped all over the place, with comments sometimes added by the jewelry writer Ruth Peltason, the moderator of the first VCA lecture I attended, who was also there, seated in the front row (in a cream blouse, on the sofa). This talk was very lively and fun, with a lot of the hilarity brought by the talented and droll Mr. Long. What a treat to have a glass of champagne and listen to him tell funny stories about costuming on Broadway!

Below are some of my favorite tidbits from the evening:

No way could the slideshow leave out Marilyn’s ode to diamonds in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes!

Love that they included Bella’s ring from the Twilight series, made by a small jeweler, Artisan Designs.

Mr. Long said what he did for actors was to “give them confidence” through costumes, so they could forget about what they are wearing and focus on creating their character on stage. He also noted that the director has the ultimate say about costumes and jewelry on actors.

Mr. Long and Ms. Buck both spoke about jewels sewn onto costumes for the purpose of quick changing backstage between scenes, whether it’s for Broadway or the opera, and Ms. Buck pointed out that “You don’t wear big jewels when they are sewn on the dress too.”

Ms. Buck spoke of a film director who always put a big necklace on the main actress in his films, since she was the star and he wanted to indicate this to the audience by the use of a large necklace. Interesting!

Love how the lady in the foreground is getting pretty comfy on that couch with her wine and her slump!

Ruth Peltason noted that, depending on the role, Elizabeth Taylor sometimes wore her own jewels in her films.

When questions were taken from the audience, I asked if the panelists thought there would come a time when jewels would overshadow the gowns on the red carpet, specifically at the Oscars or Cannes. Mr. Tonchi responded that fashion houses like Louis Vuitton make jewelry as well as clothes and that they, like famous jewelry houses, want “to take back space that fashion has held.”

Who could forget the Tiffany & Co. jewelry from the 2013 version of The Great Gatsby?

Or the glamorous jewelry on Mia Farrow in the 1974 version of the same film?

Glad they included Grace and her faux diamond necklace from To Catch a Thief.

I had forgotten about Sharon Stone’s jewelry-loving character Ginger in Casino until this slide came up!

My favorite thoughts on jewelry came from Ms. Buck, who noted that “So much of our lives are on 2D screens.” And because of that, she surmised, “Jewelry carries love, jewelry carries dreams.”

What a gorgeous sentiment!

It was another lovely evening and fascinating discussion. Mr. Tonchi, Ms. Buck and Mr. Long were a terrific trio (sometimes a quartet with the addition of Ms. Peltason) and I wish they would host a discussion a few times a year—it was entertaining for the audience to listen to them bounce ideas and stories off one another. If you ever get a chance to attend a Van Cleef & Arpels discussion, whether in Paris or New York, I highly recommend the experience.

And if there is a film you particularly love that features jewelry, let me know which one!


Coulda shoulda woulda said...

It's funny BC movies rarely feature jewellery and costumes don't concentrate in jewelry so I am finding it hard but in real life Wallis Simpson and Liz Taylor had great prominence in wearing them and appreciating them. Lately it seems there has been a shift to fast and quick that no real investments are made in this dept like the old days? Thanks for sharing your time there xx

Pam @ over50feeling40 said...

You get to go to the coolest events, Jill! Lucky to be in NYC!

GSL said...

You do have exquisite taste in jewelry Jill but even your adored V-C & A pieces couldn't rescue those Gatsby movies even if they did yield a few stylish scenes.

Jill said...

Hi Naomi, I so agree with you--it would be great if there were some Hollywood ladies who actually OWNED the jewelry they wear on the red carpet. It would be amazing! I think those days are over. I am having a hard time thinking of even one leading Hollywood actress that has a collection anywhere close to what Liz had. xx

Jill said...

Hi Pam, I think you would've liked this VCA lecture too. It was a lot of fun. xx

Jill said...

My dear GSL--those were Tiffany pieces on Carey Mulligan in the 2013 'Gatsby' and you are right, the movie was not good and the costumes and gems couldn't save it. I think 'The Great Gatsby' is a book that just cannot be turned into a good film. It just can't. It's too internal, there is too much going on that Nick knows as a narrator that can't make the translation onto the screen and still have the audience suspend its disbelief. xx

Heather Lindstrom said...

Hi Jill,
I remember commenting on this post previously, but I don't see it here. What an amazing collection to experience. Thanks for sharing the style and beauty of Old Hollywood with us in our #stylefocus Lifestyle Linkup this week! I hope you are enjoying your summer!
xx, Heather

Glenda said...

Events like this make my mouth water...the information given is priceless. You lucky woman!

Jill said...

Hi Heather, I linked both of my VCA lecture posts to your post. I hope that is okay! xx

Jill said...

Hi Glenda, you would have loved this lecture, it was one of the most fabulous events I've attended in NYC and I've been to a few! It was a treat to hear Stefano, Joan and William talk to each other, and the audience, about jewelry in film. I wish they would get together every year and give a lecture about some topic or another. They have great chemistry! xx