Too many times I have been told to visit the salon of Taffin by James de Givenchy, and last week I finally got see what all the fuss was about. Situated on Fifth Avenue in the heart of Midtown’s shopping mecca, the jewelry by James de Givenchy is beautifully displayed in a showroom whose curated interior looks as if straight from the pages of Architectural Digest.
The man behind Taffin is, of course, Mr. de Givency. Born and raised in France, it’s no surprise that the talented designer knows a thing or two about style: he is the nephew of the famous fashion designer Hubert James Taffin de Givenchy. After moving to New York in the early 1980s, de Givenchy worked at Christie’s and later at Verdura before striking out on his own in 1996. For the past 18 years, de Givenchy has quietly carved his own niche in the world of contemporary jewelry with his sculptural designs, fine craftsmanship and wisps of jeweled whimsy.
As soon as you enter his appointment-only salon, you get an immediate sense of the man behind the brand. Blessed with an innate sense of style, the salon showcases not only his stunning jewels but a bounty of his favorite objects, all perfectly placed and harmoniously balanced throughout the space. Capsule collections of curios are scattered throughout, among them a series of vintage cigarette cases lies on a desk amongst black and white family photographs and other objets; old fitted jewelry boxes, whose once vivid leather appears to have faded with age, surround a box of Taffin watches on a windowsill; a glass case containing four miniature sculptures of steel trees by Israeli artist Zadok Ben-David rests unassumingly on a ledge near the floor; and a large pot sits aimlessly in a corner, containing three ivory-hued ostrich eggs. The large open room exudes a zen-like quality, a peaceful escape from the busy streets of New York not far below.
De Givenchy’s innate sense of style and meticulous attention to detail is best seen in his jewelry, however. From start to finish, each step receives the highest level of thoughtful care and craftsmanship, beginning with a sketch rendered to scale. The final sketch then makes its way to de Givenchy’s workshop a few blocks away, where the designer spends much of his time in between appointments. In order for the finished jewel to appear exactly as he originally envisioned it, de Givenchy remains highly involved throughout the creation process.
One piece in particular, a kunzite, copper and gold flower brooch, took an irritatingly three months to make due to the precise coloring of the patinated copper. “You cannot rush the process because it takes time to happen naturally,” de Givenchy admits. A floral brooch imbuing a suggestive, feminine mystique, the resulting jewel was well worth the wait.
While it is difficult to pinpoint a cohesive aesthetic from one piece to the next, the common thread of de Givenchy’s work is de Givenchy himself. Whether a seriously bold cocktail ring of a fresh, young design or a pair of playful flower brooches radiant with vivid color, the jewelry by de Givenchy shares a youthful spirit, a sense of vanguard ingenuity, that brings a new dimension to jewelry design today.
More recently, de Givenchy has teamed with Fonderie 47, the company that removes AK47s from war zones and transforms them into rare jewelry and accessories, to create the Phoenix Collection. The concept began with an egg made of overlapping swatches of steel studded with reverse-set diamonds, a symbol of budding possibility, fundamental beauty, and the potential for rebirth.
“I believe that I was destined to make this collection for Fonderie 47; The Phoenix Collection is at once whimsical, cheerful, and powerful. It embodies rebirth and thus is revolutionary in the proper sense of the word,” said James de Givenchy. “I would like the wearer to feel how they are agents of the change that will be made.”
The limited edition pieces, which include a necklace, earrings, rings and bracelets, are crafted from AK47 steel, sustainably-sourced 18 karat rose gold and platinum, and conflict-free diamonds in Givenchy’s New York City studio.
Often referred to as the James Bond of the jewelry world, the devilishly handsome jeweler continues to operate under the radar, discreetly serving his throng of devoted collectors and patrons with his increasingly inventive and youth-infused jewels.