When does romance cease? A beautiful thing extinguish? when cheapened? Mass-produced? When ruefully pounded like red bean mochi into tiresome cliché? In this edition’s survey of cycles and phoenix risings, the hope would be that if true, if sincere, it doesn’t. It endures. Let rise o’er the horizon, then, the exquisite, undulating jewelry of Parisienne designer, Tatiana Verstraeten, who—following stints with designers Maison Michel and Anthony Vaccarello—cultivated a sixth sense for the beautifully eternal under the guidance of the late Karl Lagerfeld, commencing in 2011.
After designing headpieces and fine jewelry for a number of years alongside Chanel’s revered crafts people, Verstraeten parted ways and subtly launched her own line of limited, yet dramatic pieces during Haute Couture week in early 2019. Since then? A doggedly independent global hustle from award ceremony to film festival to gem consortium, editorial on personalities like Oprah and Emilia Clarke, red carpet moments on Cate Blanchett, Florence Pugh, and Laura Dern, and the ups and downs and adrenaline of going it on her own. “Definitively,” she remarks when asked why she feels light—be it the gossamer sun streaks of California or the reigning set design of the City of Lights—favors her creations, “My designs are literally made to catch the light and make it dance. Most of my pieces need to be worn to be fully enjoyed, like couture, because they move and come alive on the body.”
Indeed, Verstraeten’s designs warrant intimacy. What appears exemplary craft—all made in France, with ethically derived metals and KPCS diamonds—but craft nonetheless, seems to catch aflame when met with motion, to animate like the Seine on a piercing spring day. Alas, while Verstraeten would attest that to her, personally, “the journey is as important as the goal,” the high-art jewelry journey is not without its briar patches. To render something exceptional and limited in 2020 is not always glamorous. It’s hard and it’s tiring. But for her, there is only one path to forge. “The archives of every jewelry house are stunning, fantastic,” she says, “but what they offer today is mainly very commercial. This is understandable, as high jewelry is not really ‘in the street’ anymore—certainly not the way it was before—and so the big houses focus on the mass luxury market, with must-have pieces promoted by huge marketing campaigns. And sadly we lose the essence of creativity.” Still, the lining is silver, or perhaps rose gold. “It’s probably why there is space for new designers like me, new stories,” she says, smiling, “I don’t want to compromise my creativity. Even the tiniest piece, the entry price piece, should be special and interesting.”
I ask Verstraeten, whom we’re photographing in Hollywood in her own designs during February’s Oscar Week, if the hype juggernaut of Tinseltown ever feels limiting, or dull, considering the vantage point of Paris’ Place Vendôme. “I don’t see any limitations,” she says resolutely. “Hollywood is a wonderful red carpet for my pieces. I’m passionate about cinema and I’m honored to be asked by so many great actors to wear my jewels. I would even want to work closer with the film industry if I could.”
Finally, we can’t evade a moment of reflection—be it in memoriam or that bouncing from a chandelier-like set of Verstraeten’s earrings—concerning Mr. Lagerfeld, and the cycle of legacy he leaves. She affirms, when questioned if she’s ever experienced a sense of rebirth: “When I started designing with Karl, I had just broken up with my boyfriend of seven years, and as we were working together, it was also a breakup with my work and future. I felt quite naked and lost suddenly. Karl offered me the chance to rebuild myself through something that was entirely mine—my talent, my strength. He was just so special.”
Photographer: Mario Kroes.
Styled by: Gorge Villalpando.
Hair: Avian King using Oribe at The Rex Agency.
Makeup: Kendell Cotta using KOSAS at The Rex Agency.