The Transformability of Van Cleef & Arpels: A Conversation with the brand's Catherine Cariou



29 April 2013

For the second consecutive year French Maison Van Cleef & Arpels chose to take part in Design Days Dubai as luxury partner and sponsor. In so doing, the brand highlighted its commitment to art and the Middle East. This year, Van Cleef & Arpel’s presented a signature creative concept revolving around the transformable facet of jewelry. Curated by the Catherine Cariou, the display showcased an exclusive selection of creations that can be transformed and worn in multiple ways. For example, necklaces can transform into bracelets or belts while pendants change into clips or earrings. We caught up with Cariou to learn of the aesthetic philosophy behind this remarkable and age-old concept to the brand.

The theme idea of transformability and metamorphosis is a concept which has resonated with Van Cleef & Arpels since the 1930s. “It reflects a current of the times,” explains Cariou. From the brand’s inception during the early twentieth century it set out to cater to a woman’s changing character and role in society. The notion of transformable jewelry was thus a principle aesthetic which Van Cleef & Arpels set out to explore from its founding. Cariou explained the development of the Secret Timepiece which was launched in 1930. A watch full of mystery and elegance, it played with the idea of concealing time from view and thus could be used as both a watch and a bracelet. The piece honors the idea of a woman’s ability to take on several roles at once – one which requires her to act feminine and gracious as symbolized by the bracelet, and the other which obligates her to plan and execute as which might be referred to by the timepiece. In 1939, the Passe-Partout necklace was created once again as a multifunctional item – it could be worn as a necklace, belt or bracelet.

One of the brand’s masterpieces that was on display in Dubai was the iconic Zip necklace. Created in 1951, the piece was inspired by the pants zipper and the idea of fastening two pieces together to make a whole. The piece can be worn in two different ways: open as necklace or closed as a bracelet by sliding up the tassel in the center as one would to close a zipper. “The piece was also meant for a woman who loved fashion and was liberated by the idea of wearing a jewelry item which was at once classic and avant-garde,” states Cariou. Another example of a transformable jewelry piece is the Between the Finger Rings™ which can cover several fingers at once.

The Maison similarly created items which were multi-purpose and catered to different cultures. A perfect example of this is the enrapturing Indian necklace which used to belong to H.H. Salimah Aga Khan and which was ordered in 1971 by H.H. Prince Aga Khan as a gift for her. Following suite Van Cleef & Arpel’s transformable jewelry, the piece can be worn as a bracelet and a detachable clip. It is mesmerizing in its appearance and adornment of countless gemstones perhaps serving itself as a standalone piece of artwork. That’s what this collection has aimed to show as Carious herself emphasizes: that a jewelry item such as these serve as long lasting heirlooms with powers which goes beyond their status as mere jewelry items. True objects of art certainly have that ability – they stand the test of time because they can effortlessly cater to many times, tastes and purposes as do these items by Van Cleef & Arpels.

Van Cleef & Arpels is located in Dubai at The Dubai Mall +971 4 339 8001 and at the Mall of the Emirates +971 04 3472487.