Five minutes with Francesca Amfitheatrof

The woman in the driving seat at Tiffany & Co

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Can you believe that, in its 177-year history, that Tiffany & Co has never had a female design director? Until now, that is.

Francesca Amfitheatrof - a 44-year-old Brit who cut her teeth at brands as diverse as Chanel, Fendi, Garrard and Marni - stepped into the role to much fanfare earlier this year and her first collection has just arrived in stores. You can’t fail to have noticed the ads, which display a bold, modern aesthetic centered around that iconic ‘T’ – refreshingly new, and yet still distinctively Tiffany.

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ELLE sat down with the woman with one of the world’s most coveted jobs for a chat.

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So – wow. Big job. All eyes on you. What was the starting point for this, your first collection?

The starting point was how to synthesize what New York and a Tiffany woman is to me, today. So I took the ‘T’ as a graphic form - not so much as a branding element, but more as a graphic architectural form - and worked with it in every possible permutation. I always think that New York women look free. They have a sort of spring in their step. So I took that and played with it, so that I could adapt the ‘T’ in a way that’s more engineered and more design-led.

Some of the materials used look really new too…

The main part starts with metals: there’s a lot of gold, there’s quite a lot of silver, then there’s ceramic. It’s a bonded ceramic, so it’s very strong. And then there are diamonds. The diamonds are in these box settings; they’re either rose cuts or princess cuts. There’s a lot of particular engineering in the pieces to make them appear very effortless, but at the same time ­– hopefully­ – they’ll become very distinctive and unique to Tiffany.

What’s your earliest memory of Tiffany as a brand?

My earliest memory of Tiffany is about a table-top. There’s this book called Table Settings for Tiffany – it’s probably from the 60s. It’s an amazing book, out of print and quite rare now. It asked maybe about 30 people around the world to set a dinner service. Andy Warhol does a prism lunch, and it’s just bread and water, but it’s beautiful Tiffany settings. Then Elsa Peretti does a ‘caviar in front of the fire with champagne’, and then there’s a sort of Prince and Princess Lobkowicz and their house in Normandy with beautiful table settings. It’s very funny. And to me, it epitomizes what Tiffany is, which is an establishment and aristocracy with great, social people, but also very creative, artistic people.

If you had to choose an era that’s the most influential to your work, what would it be?

Funnily, when I first started doing jewellery, it was the early 90s and there was no jewellery. It was very pared down, very Helmut Lang, and I remember I would get calls from magazines to shoot the jewellery and it was always like – the arm would get cut off, or you’d barely see an earring. But in a way, to be successful in an era where jewellery really is not part of people’s consciousness taught me a lot.

What item would be in your fantasy fashion cupboard?

All of Haider Ackermann’s a/w 2014 collection. Like, ALL of it. Literally, I’m obsessed with that collection. Have you seen it? Oh my god, it’s so beautiful. I actually wrote to him. I don’t know him. I wrote to him, and I went, ‘you don’t understand ­– I’m obsessed.’ It fits so much with my thinking and doing.

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