Interview with Hamdi Chatti of Louis Vuitton

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Last month in Paris, Louis Vuitton unveiled its fifth high jewelry collection, Acte V, inspired by the spirit of Art Déco and its geometric shapes, and playing on the letter V — as part of the company’s distinctive logo as well as being the Roman numeral five. The collection subtly features a V shape as a central design highlighted by diamonds, while incorporating large stones such as a rare triangular 87.92-carat black opal, a 20.03-carat spinel and a 20.94-carat Burmese sapphire.

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Back in the 1920s, the company was one of the key players in the Art Deco movement as Gaston-Louis Vuitton, the grandson of Louis Vuitton, chaired the Exhibition of Modern Industrial and Decorative Arts in Paris in 1925. Blouin Lifestyle talked about the latest collection and the company’s positing in jewelry and watchmaking with Hamdi Chatti, vice president, watches and jewelry at Louis Vuitton Malletier.

How would you characterize Louis Vuitton’s high jewelry collections?

Amazing colored stones. Every stone that we buy for our collection has to be amazing; first in terms of color, then in terms of size and in terms of cut.

Lorenz Bäumer had been designing your high jewelry collections, but not this time?

No, we did it with our internal studio because the starting point was from our archives. We wanted to design a LV that doesn’t look like the usual LV and we actually started from a design of Gaston-Louis Vuitton (the grandson of Louis Vuitton who took over the house in 1936). He was very interested in Art Deco and the V shape. So we started with the V which we wanted to express on a second degree, so that you don’t see it right away. Our designs are always organic and in this case we started with the Opal stone we had bought in Australia.

Art Deco seems to be having its moment once again as a few jewelry houses are mining the period?

I think it’s by chance that we did the same. Having said that when we first launched our high jewelry (in 2009), we did seriously question whether we should start with a collection related to Art Deco because we have full archives for the period. But we felt that starting our adventure with Art Deco for high jewelry was not the right choice because we thought people wouldn’t think it had been inspired by what Gaston-Louis had done but by the period in general. So we decided to move away from it, but after five years now we can come back to it.

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Will you continue to collaborate with Lorenz Bäumer?

Absolutly!

Where do you envision your jewelry brand will be in five year’s time?

We do things differently, and by definition our traditional Louis Vuitton customers like what we do, but we’re also hoping to attract traditional haute joaillerie customers who would look at other brands. And by the way, I think those traditional brands also have very exciting offerings.

Louis Vuitton only set up its watch business in 2002. How would you assess the development of the business so far?

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It’s been good journey. I believe we’ve established a very strong design with the Tambour watch. Clients come to us because of that watch. We’ve also established a new take on watchmaking, not only with design but also with mechanical features. In 2011 we launched the Tambour Minute Repeater travel watch. It chimes out the time in a second time zone — you cannot read that second time zone, only hear it. Another example is the Tambour Spin Time, which was launched the following year. This watch has 12 small cubes on its dial and every hour you have the cubes rotating telling you the time in a second time zone in a 24 hour format. It’s a totally new take on watchmaking.

Do you think it’s important for a relatively new watch brand to innovate?

Absolutely. Timekeeping has existed for centuries and watchmakers have constantly been inventing new things. Our way is to find a more playful, sometimes romantic way of showing time, in a very serious technical way. One important point is that our watches should have a link to travel.

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What have you released this year?

We brought out the Escale Worldtime watch where we have a hand-painted dial which displays 24 different time zones all synchronized without hands thanks to three rotating dials.

Are you doing everything in house?

Yes, everything. We now have a manufacture in Geneva and all our movement are developed in house. We bought La Fabrique du Temps three years ago and they are doing the complications for us. They’ve designed the Spin Time for us and it’s a very serious watch for 15,000 euros.

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Are you planning on developing another iconic shape?

Yes. But we will take the time needed. I think another two years.

as first published on BlouinArtinfo.com