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Francesca Amfitheatrof is a master of her craft. Trained as a metalsmith, she knows how to work with material and get what she wants from it. That depth of understanding allows her to innovate like few others in a similar position to hers—artistic director for watches and jewelry at Louis Vuitton.
Amfitheatrof’s designs have a sculptural quality, a particular attitude, and a keen sense of how we want jewelry to feel. Since joining the house, she’s reinterpreted the iconic blossom, and recently re-energized the brand’s initials in the collection “LV Volt.” Inspired by female drummers and a particular rhythm, as she describes it, she translated the minimalist essence of the letters into rings, earrings, bracelets, and necklaces.
Noting that L and V are similar in construction, Amfitheatrof played with their gesture, shape, and integration—interlocking them to create a triangle or lightning bolt, as well as weaving them together to make a textural (and highly technical) mesh and functional link. The collection has undeniable energy and movement, celebrating light and refection primarily in gold with accents of diamonds in just the right places.
Whitewall spoke with Amfitheatrof about making jewelry for the spirit of today—without the confines of age, gender, or borders.
WHITEWALL: You’ve said that you need a strong intuition and narrative to be inspired. So what was the starting point for “LV Volt”?
FRANCESCA AMFITHEATROF: It was an emotion—in particular, music and female drummers. It’s about rhythm, a beat—a drumbeat. I was inspired by women. “LV Volt” is about turning up the volume and drumming to your own beat.
WW: The L and V are played with in combinations we’ve not seen before. What kind of architectural energy did you want to convey?
FA: I am always inspired by Bauhaus, minimalist architecture, taking things down to their essence, and that’s what I was looking at.
WW: The L and V are combined to create a triangle and lightning bolt. What interested you in these symbols?
FA: The construction of the L and the V are very similar. It is about the way that the two letters marry together and integrate, one with the other.
WW: You’ve also created a link and mesh with interlocking L and V. What kind of movement were you interested in creating?
FA: This is an extraordinary mesh; it is completely fluid and feels like silk. It has an incredible softness, which is more high jewelry than fine jewelry because of its movement and intricate detail. All of the technical elements are completely hidden so that the graphic element is at the forefront. This mesh is a feat of savoir faire.
WW: What kind of conversation did you want to create between precious metal and stone in this collection?
FA: This is really a gold collection. It is a modern approach, and it celebrates the way the light falls and reflects onto gold. All of the surfaces are rounded, there is a softness to them, and there are slices carved into the gold; in very particular places we have added diamonds to accentuate the details.
WW: How does “LV Volt” transcend gender?
FA: “LV Volt” is a very modern, very clean designed collection, which is contemporary but also timeless. This is a modernist approach that has no gender. When decoration is stripped and essence is brought to the forefront, it becomes genderless, ageless, and has a global appeal.
WW: How did you want to capture a spirit of adventure?
FA: It has to do with how I approach the collection, with different interpretations of the logo, which gives a lot of opportunity for styling and for choice. This openness and inclusivity is part of the spirit of Vuitton, a spirit of exploration.
WW: You’ve said that fashion feeds you. What role did fashion play in the inspiration for this collection? And how do you see it being worn in relationship to fashion?
FA: Jewelry today is an accessory that has become part of fashion. We do not have a traditional approach to jewelry. This allows for individual styling and allows for a personalized conversation; for example, the bandana in gold is a fashion item interpreted in yellow gold.
WW: You’ve said you’re drawn to bracelets and rings, in particular, as they are what the wearer sees most, plays with . . . How do you see these rings and bracelets being worn together?
FA: For example, the upside rings can be worn in different directions, with the open ones on the knuckles, or between the knuckle and the fingertip. You can practically cover your whole hand and style them in lots of ways. With the bracelets, I would style the upside bracelet, with the curb chain and the mesh.
WW: What pieces from this collection are your personal favorites?
FA: I love the upside down pieces, I love the curb pieces, I love the mesh pieces— there are so many! I love the yellow gold upside bracelet with diamond, married with the mesh bracelet, and I definitely want to cover my hands in the upside down yellow gold rings.
WW: Jewelry is so personal—the way it feels against the body, how we unconsciously play with it, what it represents. How do those considerations impact your design approach?
FA: Because I wear jewelry and my love of jewelry is personal, I am always 100 percent involved in how the pieces will feel on your skin. The weight and distribution of weight, the suppleness, softness, and touch are essential for the pieces to become part of your body. It is only by having these qualities that they can. You want to feel the pleasure of wearing the pieces; it is only by having absolute comfort and equilibrium in the design that you will feel that.
WW: You are a metalsmith and have described yourself as having always been drawn to the sculptural. Why is your depth of knowledge in how jewelry is made key to designing new pieces?
FA: Knowledge is freedom. Once you master a craft, you can then constantly innovate, you don’t need to do what has been done before, and you can confidently follow your instinct and create new collections. It also means that you can create more and more pieces that are fresh and new. Knowing your craft with the right amount of depth gives confidence.
WW: How do you personally connect with Louis Vuitton’s energy of adventure and travel?
FA: I am a citizen of the world. I was born in Japan; I am Russian, American, Italian; I work in Europe and live in the U.S. I see myself in the Vuitton woman, and I believe myself to be very much a Vuitton woman. I admire that approach to life where there is a sense of wonder and curiosity that drives you.