The Brut Sculptural
From Unesco's headquarters in the 7th arrondissement of Paris, the Tour de Mars by the Seine, and the Espace Niemeyer, Communist party headquarters in France (19th), Brutalist architecture, fashionable in the 70s, still very much has its place. Their purely functional construction is recognizable by the total absence of any ornamentation and exposed concrete or brick. One famous forerunner of the movement was Le Corbusier, who led the way in the 1930s with imposing structures, right-angled façades, and identical geometric shapes repeated in the bars of buildings in cities around the world. This movement, both beloved and lambasted in equal measure, has seen a certain fashion revival over the past few years. From film sets and TV series to photo shoots and catwalk shoes - Loewe, for example, organises its shows at the Unesco headquarters each season, and Kanye West presented the latest collection of his Yeezy brand at the headquarters of the Communist Party last March - Brutalist architecture is making its mark, and is also increasingly inspiring jewelry designers. Big names like Laura Lombardi, Julien Dossena for Paco Rabanne, Demna Gvasalia for Balenciaga, Yoon Ahn and Verbal (lead rapper in hip-hop group Teriyaki Boyz) for Ambush, Pamela Love and Tom Wood are all designing pieces as if building an architectural work, with many using industrial inspiration and a very primitive design, in a nod to the Brutalist style. The result is a recomposition of the great jewelry classics. Already spotted on influencers like Camille Charrière, Caroline Daur and Blanca Miró, sometimes intertwined with more delicate items, or pieces in beads or pearls to offset the "brut" effect, these jewels are making their mark as this season's biggest trend.
Taking the ordinary and turning it up a gear is the primary focus of this new generation of jewellers. Symbols of the industrial era, metal chains are revisited and stylized. Paco Rabanne's impressive necklaces and bracelets feature chunky intertwined golden links and are also available as double mesh earrings. Another leading figure of the trend is Laura Lombardi, whose distinctive industrial style is tempered by references from classical art and ancient sculpture. Like the opulent and graceful interlacing of the oversized links in the form of chokers or hoop earrings. Stripping back to the bare minimum is also a theme at Charlotte Chesnais, where modern design and artisanal expertise are combined to create structured, geometric jewelry, ideal for highlighting the purity of lines and shapes. Like tiny architectural feats, Tom Wood's striking signet rings look as though they've been built in silver.
Materials-wise, gold is making its mark, though not always real: Balenciaga's "Thin B Chain" necklace is made of gold-plated brass in a nod to rappers' bling, while their Loop earrings come in silver rhinestones, resin and brass or in copper with a gold-plated finish. If we dig even further into the annals of design, unravelling the influences on the current jewelry trend, this industrial inspiration also owes a lot to a certain Aldo Cipullo, the designer of Cartier's famous nail-shaped "Juste un Clou" bracelet back in the early 1970s. Heavily inspired by industrial design and popular culture, he once famously said "the hardware store is my second home". For jewelry, it was a revolution. And so here we are today, with Pamela Love designing earrings in the shape of sculptural paper clips, and Ambush making pieces in the shape of hearts hanging from safety pins, as well as pendants out of cigarette lighters. Why look any further when we have everything we need right in front of us?
Off-White, Spring/Summer 2020