Giampiero Bodino to Come Out of the Shadows for the Biennale des Antiquaires


Cartier, Panerai, Jaeger Lecoultre, Montblanc … over the past 30 years, Italian designer Giampiero Bodino has played a key role behind closed doors adding a contemporary flavor to these established luxury brands. After years in the shadows, Bodino quietly stepped forward last November with the backing of the Richemont Group which had set up his eponymous brand in the discreet and uber-elegant Villa Mozart in Milan. Participation in the Biennale des Antiquaires, a real coup for such a young brand, is set to thrust Bodino into the limelight and is bound to make the brand a well-known entity amongst jewelry collectors.

“I’m very lucky. They asked me to show them what I was doing, I sent a dossier to the committee and they said yes,” the designer says about his inclusion in the prestigious Biennale.

For Richemont, the world’s second largest luxury group — owners of prestigious brands like Cartier, Piaget and Van Cleef & Arpels — setting up a new brand was uncharted territory, as it had in the past grown by acquisition. And for Bodino, who had been overseeing all the group’s brands for over 10 years, his eponymous label represents the beginning of a new journey in which he has complete freedom to create what he likes “from the heart”, and also enables him to present his vision of what a high jewelry customer’s experience should be in the 21st century: a one-on-one session with the master himself leading to the creation of a bespoke piece.

“This project is not a marketing project, done on a table, based on various calculations,” says Bodino, “It’s just the idea of a visionary person, Johann Rupert (chairman of the Richemont Group) who enjoyed what I did for the company and told me he wanted something new. For years he had been telling me ‘go-go-go’ and for years I’d been telling him ‘no-no-no’, because I was too busy with the Richemont group, designing watches, jewelry, pens. I was very happy doing what I was doing. For me, things happen when the moment is right, and the moment is right now.”

Bodino started his career in Turin in the late seventies as a car designer under the wings of celebrated automobile designer Giorgetto Giugiaro at his creative agency Italdesign Giugiaro. In 1981, after chancing upon some of Bodino’s sketches, Gianni Bulgari offered the young designer a job in Rome. Bodino describes his 10 years in the Italian capital as being “as important as an apprenticeship in an atelier,” not only because of his regular visits to the jewelry workshops where his pieces were being created but also because he could further nourish his boundless appetite for art and architecture, living in a city with some of world’s greatest museums and basilicas. Bodino is also an accomplished figurative painter and will have a solo exhibition at Fabbrica EOS gallery in Milan in October.

Bodino moved to Milan in the early nineties and started working closely with Franco Cologni, then director-general of Cartier, and as a freelance designer for many different brands including some of Richemont’s. His first official assignment at Richemont was as art director at Panerai where he oversaw the re-launch of the brand before becoming art director for the entire Richemont group in 2002.

“In this role, he has successfully transformed very specific and consistent styles whilst showing great sensitivity to each maison’s individuality,” wrote Rupert in the foreword to a book dedicated to Bodino’s journey and vision for the new brand.

Throughout his time leading Richemont’s artistic force, Bodino understood “the importance of listening,” and respecting each maison’s DNA without imposing his own taste or falling to the “easy temptations of trends.”

As for his own maison, Bodino says he doesn’t really care about having a distinctive style or establishing codes. “I think it’s up to somebody else to define what are the codes and characteristics of my designs. For me, it’s about instinct. I need to do things that I like. I have a lot of ideas and when I really like something, I do it,” he explains.

One common thread throughout the high jewelry creations of the passionate antiques and art collector is their reflection of his profound knowledge of Italian culture and history. “Giampiero is different from others as he has the ability to interpret and understand the noble Italian artistic and cultural heritage and from this to create something really unique and strongly contemporary,” Rupert wrote.

“I never really work with a specific theme in mind and my creative process is very organic,” the designer explains, “but the basic inspiration behind everything is Italy and what I like. Each piece is related to a little memory I have, a detail I saw. I don’t recognize people easily, but I recall details for a long time in my mind.”

So far, Bodino has created 64 pieces and these are available for viewing, by appointment only, at the 1930s Villa Mozart, which acts as his creative studio and a salon for his in-the-know clientele. While Bodino plans to create many of his own pieces, he likes nothing more than talking with a client and creating bespoke jewelry, “I’m very comfortable creating for a client. It’s more difficult, but it’s also a personal pleasure.”

Bodino is a jewelry designer who loves contrasts and colors: emeralds are teamed with amethyst, rubies with black spinels, purple amethyst with yellow citrines. Perhaps surprisingly, as a painter Bodino keeps to a completely monochrome palette. “I guess the two sides of my brain, the jeweler and the artist, are very separate,” he laughs, though adding the two must clearly influence each other somehow.

For the Biennale des Antiquaires, Bodino will be presenting 43 new pieces taking viewers on a “Grand Tour” of Italy’s cultural heritage. Certain pieces evoke the corals found in the Mediterranean waters while others plunge into the country’s rich history of Byzantine mosaics, its refined renaissance with carved chalcedony cameos, and more opulent baroque period with scrolls of diamonds and tanzanite beads.

“My story here is really more about what I like than what I’ve done for somebody else,” he says in reflection.

First published in Blouin Lifestyle Magazine (Sep edition)