Go inside the worlds of art, fashion, design, and lifestyle.
Caroline and Serge Muller are the husband-and-wife duo behind the Paris-based retailer Mad Lords. Regarded for their keen selection of jewelry—from Jacquie Aiche and Maria Tash to Hargreaves Stockholm and Fanny Blanchelande—they’re also known for their cool approach to the market. With a piercing studio and store in Paris, and a shop in Deauville, France, Mad Lords offer hand-selected pieces and the brand’s own collections, too.
But the story of Mad Lords really rests in creativity and human connection. For both Serge and Caroline, whose relationships with art and design is ever-present, their idea of retailing is connected to the designers, their stories, and their pieces.
Whitewall spoke with the Mullers to hear how their label embraces contemporary values, what jewelry pieces they treasure, and how the pandemic reinstated their respect for community and nature.
WHITEWALL: How does being partners in work and life impact Mad Lords?
CAROLINE MULLER: We share everything and none of our projects can take place if they don’t come from the both of us; and, as you can imagine, this is the case in our personal life as well. When it comes to Mad Lords, we both represent the DNA of the brand. It has been built according to our lifestyle, our philosophy, and our passions.
Day to day, there are areas where we merge our energies such as for the jewelry curation and for design, and then there are other areas where we split our energies. In both cases, we consider that the development of the brand is above any other objective. Mad Lords is a family project, so on top of including ourselves as a couple, we make sure to include all members of our team as well as our clients.
WW: Can you tell us a bit about your stores and how they embrace design?
SERGE MULLER: Our first store is a secret spot. It’s hidden in the back of a courtyard and you can’t find it if you haven’t been in contact with one of our team members. When we created what turned out to be our Parisian flagship, we wanted to replicate some aspects of our own family house as that is where we express our lifestyle in a deeper way. It’s therefore very different from a traditional boutique. On top of being a place where we present our jewelry curation, it’s a cozy space designed with decorative pieces that we collected during our trips all over the world. Not only the furniture, but the music, the perfume, and the books available are all inspired by us. We have a particular affection for flea markets and thus some of our furniture comes from flea markets all over the world.
A few years after opening the first store, we opened, next door to the flagship, a piercing studio. This time, it isn’t a hidden store. We have imagined this place as a “mise en bouche,” an appetizer that enables people to have access to our vast piercing jewelry collections, as well as some of the pieces from our core jewelry designers. It’s also a high-end piercing studio where we have selected the most talented and experienced piercers. Throughout the studio, you can find jewelry collections from designers Maria Tash, Jacquie Aiche and our private labels, “Mad Gold” and “Precious.”
WW: How does that differ from your store in Deauville?
CM: Deauville is a place that can be compared to the Hamptons. Most Parisians go there for the weekend; it’s the closest high-end station from Paris on the seaside. The store in Deauville is a mix between our flagship store and our piercing studio. You can find some common collections there but also some collections exclusively reserved for Deauville.
Each of our stores are all different. We hate nothing more than the static replication of an existing concept. It has certain common aspects, but each store will have its own personality and a specific curation.
WW: What is your relationship like to art and design? How does that impact your designs and stores?
SM: I’m from a family of artists. My uncle was one of the most active painters from the famous “Ecole de Paris,” along with Chagall and Modigliani. My grandfather was a cabinetmaker and my father was an art photographer from the Humanist School of Photography. With that being said, we basically transformed this artistic DNA into a project dedicated to jewelry, as art can be expressed in a vast number of different ways. For us, art isn’t limited to the pieces we are offering to sell, it also has a strong influence on the way we design our stores.
WW: How do you approach selecting other labels to sell—like Foundrae, Collette, and Hoorsenbuhs?
CM: We select a designer based on our common values. The relationship we have with them isn’t just a simple business relationship, it’s based on mutual human respect. We establish a long-term relationship when we feel both parties have a strong will to participate in a common venture. On the contrary, when a relationship only takes the business side into account, it cannot be part of Mad Lords. Jewelry designers such as Jacquie Aiche, Hoorsenbuhs, and many others in the U.S. are part of our universe, as they focus on human connections rather than just business.
WW: Can you tell us a bit about the different sub sectors of Mad Lords, like Mad Precious and Mad Private?
SM: We have some in-house brands and have created those depending on our inspiration. The most successful collection is the piercing jewelry line “Mad Precious and Ethical.” That collection is made exclusively with ethical gold, which represents a very small proportion of the gold produced annually. It comes from mines that have a low chemical impact on our planet, in which workers have decent salaries and keep a fair balance between men and women.
We also develop very specific collections with some of the rarest people: artists that are also poets, gemologists, gurus, etc. We have discovered these rare and unique people during our multiple trips around the world—in Mexico, Israel and Lebanon, among other places.
WW: What is your personal jewelry collection like?
CM: There are a few specific pieces I own that have sentimental value to them, so I almost never take them off. On my neck, I have a necklace from my grandmother and another one is from my very first collection: a medal set with multicolored sapphires with an evil eye and other meaningful symbols. I also gradually enjoy adding different pieces from our designers to complete my neck party. I own a Shamballa bracelet that I’ve been wearing for as long as I can remember, along with three Mad Precious bracelets respectively in rose, yellow, and white gold set with diamonds. These bracelets are mixed with my Cartier Love bracelets, an engraved curb chain displaying my husband’s name, and to complete my look, a l’Atelier Nawbar pinky ring with diamonds and turquoise that I never take off.
WW: Can you tell us a bit about some of your latest offerings?
SM: We’re always looking for new designers around the world, but the latest brands we have partnered with are French. We have Fanny Blanchelande, who recreates luxury versions of Brazilian bracelets in 12k gold and precious stones. And we have YV Delloye, who is a tourmaline hunter and a master in the art of stacking rings.
WW: What has deigning amid a pandemic been like? How did isolation impact the way you view self-expression with jewelry?
CM: Following this very long and difficult period, we’ve learned that we must respect nature or else it has the power to become our strongest enemy, and that kindness is the only way to build human relationships.
These two concepts will be a part of our future jewelry designs. Not only will they inspire us, but it will also allow us to pay more attention to kindness towards nature and humans. Love, beauty, dreams and friendship is not a marketing concept, it should be present everywhere, including in our jewelry design process.