Power metal

How jeweller Charlotte Chesnais is shaping a shiny new world

Saturn earrings – a fine gold hoop orbited by another large silver hoop that sits flush against the ear – are so perfectly simple, so startlingly obvious that it’s a wonder no one thought of them sooner. They are the work of the 30-year-old Parisian jeweller Charlotte Chesnais, whose first season is a lesson in brilliant design. She achieves “simple” even if her jewellery is anything but. Chesnais’ label is what happens when the planets of confidence and single-minded vision align, guided, in part, by the hand of Nicolas Ghesquière. As a teenager Chesnais was in a hurry to design and after studying at Studio Berçot and spending six months at Emanuel Ungaro, she joined Ghesquière’s Balenciaga team in 2005. She was just 19 years old.

“I was so young, but very quickly he gave me great responsibility,” she says. Chesnais was handed the Balenciaga Edition line and when the house’s autumn/winter 2009 show needed jewellery, Ghesquière asked Chesnais to step in. “I think he trusted me. It kind of forced me to jump in at the deep end,” she remembers. “We really get on well and we had an amazing relationship for the 10 years we worked together.” Since Balenciaga, she has styled and freelanced for Kenzo, Maiyet and Paco Rabanne, where she is still in charge of accessories. “I felt I loved doing clothes, but that it was more natural for me to do jewellery,” she explains. “Probably because I also love architecture and art, and structure. What inspires me for jewellery is not an image of a woman wearing clothes; it is a sculpture or a piece of art. I don’t want to be pretentious, but I love the artistic side of an object.” Chesnais hopes her jewellery could be as easily admired on a table as on a wrist, and, perhaps unsurprisingly, given her love the work of Constantin Brancusi and Alberto Giacometti, she creates her work in clay first. With an ANDAM win for accessories designer of the year, and stockists that seasoned designers would give their left arm for, Chesnais is well aware that hers is a charmed tale. “Finding what you want to do and being happy in it at 19 is really a luxury,” she says. “I am very grateful for this.” §

All jewellery by Charlotte Chesnais; jumper by Jean Colonna / Text: Naomi Bikis / Photography: Bruno Werzinski / Styling: Nobuko Tannawa / Hair: Maki Tanaka using Bumble and bumble / Make-up: Natsumi Narita using M.A.C Cosmetics / Videography: Sohrab Golsorkhi-Ainslie / Styling assistant: Hakan Demiray / Model: Martina Lew at Next Management London

  • Charlotte Chesnais
  • Charlotte Chesnais