Caroline Scheufele is co-president of Chopard, the Swiss jeweller and watchmaker that has been family-run for more than 150 years. In a market dominated by big luxury conglomerate groups such as LVMH, Richemont and Kering, Chopard stands practically alone. Today, the company is led by siblings Caroline and Karl-Friedrich Scheufele, who share the title of Co-Presidents. As artistic director, Caroline is also responsible for the women’s jewellery and high jewellery collections, her breathtaking creations adorning the necks, wrists, ears and hands of movie stars and tastemakers from around the world and making the Cannes Film Festival a dazzling stage for the brand’s new range of bespoke pieces every year. Not stopping there, she has used this grand stage for a greater cause, introducing the Green Carpet collection of haute joaillerie underpinning the company’s sustainability strategy. She and her team have worked so passionately on sustainability that, within 6 years, they have changed the sourcing processes sufficiently so that now 100% of their gold is ethically sourced. We talk to Caroline Scheufele on this journey to sustainability, what inspires her and the importance of keeping it in the family.
Words by Alton Hetariki. Caroline portraits by JM Sordello.
This is an interview extract. Find out the full version in the Fall Winter 2020 Issue 5.
Chopard is one of the last independent family-owned jewellery houses. In what way is this beneficial?
Chopard is an independent, family-owned Maison which is one of its main strengths. I am very fortunate to be able to work with my family which is a blessing in many ways as well as a real advantage in terms of being able to express our creativity freely. As Artistic Director of the Maison, as far as the creative process is concerned, it means I can give free rein to my imagination. In our workshops, everything begins with a story of hands; and my inspirations and drawings come to life thanks to the expert, patient and inventive hands of our artisans who enable us to create exceptional pieces.
Chopard is a vertically integrated Maison with more than 50 crafts allowing us to control all aspects of the different manufacturing processes in order to guarantee higher quality standards. Our workshops and production processes are constantly improved, and various skills are cultivated.
Another advantage of our independence is obviously that we are not accountable to anyone and can make our own decisions based on what we feel is best with regard to our long-term vision. This independence also gives us great flexibility which in turn enables us to adapt quickly to different situations. For instance, in terms of important corporate projects, such as The Journey to Sustainable Luxury, I think we can thus act faster as a family owned company. We all - my parents, my brother and I – believe this is what sets us apart from other top luxury brands, and we hope it will always be possible to continue working in this manner.
Growing up around the family business must have been exciting as a child you must have many fond memories?
So many beautiful memories... As a child, I used to play in the workshops, drawing, in hundred colours, all kind of jewellery and funny watches that came straight out of my fantasy. Sometimes, my mother allowed me to help her in the “stone room”. For me this was the most magic place in the world, where I could touch and feel precious gemstones. I thus fell in love with jewellery and the design process from a very young age.
I thus fell in love with jewellery and the design process from a very young age.
What inspires you most in your designs?
My inspiration comes from many sources. I travel a lot of the time and this makes every day different. Travelling from country to country, I am fortunate to meet many people from different cultures – and this, along with nature and art, is where I draw inspiration for designing jewellery pieces. These peregrinations are a perpetual source of inspiration for me, but I would say Nature is for me the ultimate source of inspiration. It has been given to humankind as a very precious gift that should be treasured, respected and protected. I strongly believe that Nature has this unique and magical power that transcends us. This is why I chose Nature as the main theme for this year’s Red Carpet collection we are currently working on. Of course, gemstones themselves inspire me strongly, they speak to me. Every design, every collection has a story behind it.
As the artistic director initiating the fine jewellery collections, you have taken bold and innovative steps - from the red carpet to the green carpet collections to using 100% ethical gold in all your creations - have you always had a clear vision for the brand’s direction?
The role of Artistic Director is an integral part of my role as Co-President. I like to create and push the limits further. I am proud of bringing the ladies’ collections to where they are now, especially the Happy Diamonds collection including the Happy Sport watches and Happy Hearts line.
I have always been passionate about what I do. I would say I am a daring person! For example, in 1997, I came across and fell in love with an exceptional high-quality batch of rare deep pink diamonds. I purchased it even though I wasn’t sure how to use them. Shortly before Christmas the invoice arrived on my father’s desk and he was not happy. Over Christmas dinner, he remained somewhat distant from me and ended up warning me “You’d better have a good idea for your awful stones!” The stern admonishment resulted in a particularly appealing Haute Joaillerie collection called La Vie En Rose, a real success!
How has new technology / new materials evolved with your designs and processes over the years?
We are never afraid of using new technologies and new materials in our pieces. We love being adventurous and daring. For example, we often use titanium instead of gold, as titanium can be dyed to really integrate the colour into the piece of jewellery. The second advantage of titanium is that it is extremely light, ideal for earrings!
You also have used body scans for VIP clients?
We used this technology for several pieces, for example for a cuff bracelet we designed in collaboration with Rihanna. Every person’s morphology is different, and it is important that the jewellery adapts perfectly. All body parts can be scanned with the help of a mobile scan device that is linked to a computer. For bespoken jewellery pieces most often body parts like hand and fingers, wrist and neck are scanned and then reproduced in wax by a 3D printer.
By the way, Rihanna wore the famous bracelet on the red carpet of the Cannes Film Festival and the result was just perfect.
It’s fair to say that that online shopping has woven itself into the fabric of our everyday lives even in the fine jewellery sector and it shows no sign of leaving especially now with the pandemic crisis. How much has Chopard adapted for this change in shopping habits?
During the recent crisis we have all been living through, online shopping has experienced a real increase without doubt. Chopard has e-commerce platforms in the US, UK and China, and we are working with online retailers like JD.com Farfetch or Net-A-Porter. This is a real change and we are glad to be part of it, we like to accompany our customers in their changes of habits.
However, after this period of lockdown and confinement, I think that people want to enjoy going out again, heading to the luxury boutiques for a one-of-a-kind and sensory experience. But maybe other people got used to the online shopping and would prefer to even order luxury pieces online via trusted platforms, and have them delivered directly at home. On a personal side, I prefer the physical “touch and feel” shopping experience.
Chopard is inexorably linked to the world of film, not just your partnership with the Cannes film festival but also last year you collaborated on the Elton John movie Rocketman and this year it is the new Bond film No Time To Die. What did you design for the new bond woman?
We have been passionately involved in the world of cinema for many years. We are consistently present at the heart of major international cinema-related events and every year during the Cannes Film Festival we reveal young talents who are awarded with the “Trophée Chopard”, a prize that highlights tomorrow's leading lights. Chopard also regularly contributes to the production of feature films.
I took the opportunity of collaborating with No Time to Die to share my own vision of the James Bond Woman: a determined and courageous woman. Actress Ana de Armas is wearing stunning pieces from the Green Carpet collection, a necklace, a bracelet and a pair of earrings featuring diamonds, and of course set with ethical gold! I also decided to reinterpret Chopard’s iconic Happy Hearts collection by filling the hearts with ethical rose gold as gold is a leitmotif embedded in the James Bond DNA. The Happy Hearts – Golden Hearts Collection is ethical, light, supple and easy-to-wear!
Read Caroline's interview in the Fall Winter 2020 Issue 5. Get your copy here.