As I was reading through the new L’Officiel edition, I noticed that as I flipped through pages of diamond broaches by De Beers, Van Cleef and Arpels, Chaumet, Adler, Graff, Harry Winston and many others, I knew all these brands. In fact, I don’t only know them, I know their stories! I know the story behind Chanel’s signature lion which appeared in the new high jewelry collection, in the shape of beautifully crafted earrings. I know Cartier’s panther, and it’s story inside out. I know Van Cleef& Arpels’s Alhambra. This is when I realized just how much this amazing woman taught me, once I noticed that I appreciated pieces of jewelry for their historical links and modern interpretations.
I have learned many things from many women around me. But I was taught an invaluable lesson from Isabelle Hossenlopp. Every Monday, at 10am sharp, a tall woman of impeccable luxurious, yet simple taste would show up to teach the Storytelling class in room 4 at IFA Paris. She would talk about the stories, images, sounds and people of Cartier, Chopard, Boucheron, Van Cleef&Arpels, DiorJoaillerie and the one she knows inside out, Chanel Joaillerie. You may still wonder what is the main lesson I learned from Professor Hossenlopp. She taught me to dream. To dream about brands and their heritage, to dream of their iconics and people who created them, to have passion in exploring new things about everything, and bringing them to fashion. She taught me to never be narrow minded.
“Lion Royal” diamond earrings by Chanel
When I was 11 years old I got my first Chanel lip gloss. Little did I know that I would have a shelf of books about Gabrielle Chanel, with extracts from newspaper, lipsticks, perfumes and nail polishes today. I could have never predicted that I would become the biggest fan of the brand. Another 11-year old put away her pocket money for some time, to be able to buy her first girl-crush, costume jewelry. As years went by, and her bookshelf got enriched by more and more books about jewelers, Isabelle Hossenlopp fell more and more in love with jewelry. Today, she says she was one of the very lucky women having entered Chanel in the 90s, as an editorial manager for Chanel perfumes and beauty. A woman of great passion for reading books and exploring art was in the right place to bring together her two passions: creating content and reading. Four years later, the manager of fine watches for Chanel, recognized the talent of I. Hossenlopp and put her in charge of marketing for the very new high jewelry collection re-launched in 1991. Seven years of “magic” and love at first sight with stones you don’t have a chance to see in everyday life, working on legitimizing and building credibility for the Chanel Joaillerie division. Diamond pieces, resembling the collection of 1932 by Gabrielle Chanel, finally had the right person to tell their story. The power of activities was described with the right culmination of words.
Her passion for storytelling came from her passion for reading. It all made sense, when she told me that the city she used to live in once made her “bored” as a young woman and books brought another kind of magic. To write storytelling, always reminds Isabelle Hossenlopp of her passion for words. A very interesting talk at the JCK trade show in Las Vegas has presented the latest campaign of the World Diamond Mark called “Part of you”which aimed at gathering stories about “your” diamond. It inspired Isabelle to write her review of experiences. You will soon be able to read this article on her website isabelle-hossenlopp.com.
I learned that there are three things one must look at if they buy fine jewelry. The first is the quality of the stone, which is very hard to know unless you are a gemologist. Therefore, the second way to be assured of quality of the jewel, is to buy “signed pieces”; or in other words a brand which is famous for savoir-faire in the industry. Even if the stone is not the most beautiful in the world, the design, creativity of the piece and signature of the brand will give it high value which can only increase over the years. To the question if she has a favorite brand in high jewelry, she named two different points of view: regarding the storytelling and regarding the stones. Van Cleef&Arpels took the number one position in storytelling, as throughout the years they have had a very clear and coherent image. One can tell Van Cleef& Arpels by it’s finesse, beauty, graciousness and magical stories. Their mysterious set, the Alhambra motif, fairies, butterflies, enchanted nature and broaches always swim back to the surface in their communication. Cartier, “The Jeweler of the Kings”, however, took the top of Isabelle Hossenlopp’s list regarding the quality of the stones. Bvlgari, Dior Joaillerie, Giampiero Bodino and JAR made it to the top of the list as well in terms of creativity and stones. She also mentions Buccellati, an Italian brand famous for the lace style of its ethereal jewelry. Buccellati is a real specialist of textured gold, it incarnates the understated chic.
The peeps of working as a journalist for fine jewelry gets Isabelle Hossenlopp invitations for press events inside houses during Fashion Weeks, and she gets to see the most beautiful of stones I can only dream of. She writes for Maisons with long heritage, which have a lot of material that can beinterpreted through storytelling. However, she also writes for young high jewelry brands, whose name due to confidentiality agreement, she cannot give. The amazing thing about both is that it makes people dream. She is enthusiastic and very imaginative, so her creativity is endless when she has an opportunity to write for young brands. The way it works unless the brand has a long heritage, is that she will interview the owner, who is usually a craftsman, and extract up to three magnetic points which will form the storytelling background.
Isabelle Hossenlopp has a treasure at home : her bookshelf. Cartier was one of the brands who offered her historic books about their brand, and she says that these are her treasure: “I pamper them like my little treasure, nobody is allowed to touch them!”
Having created her impressive career around journalism and words, Isabelle Hossenlopp always tried to find inspiration in things directly related to brands, and things which made her think. One of her favorite writer is Honoré de Balzac because he can analyze a whole society through his words. However, the best inspiration for her work comes from poetry, landscapes, paintings, biographies of painters and architects. It’s simply colors and shapes which best inspireher writing about fine jewelry. As far as art is concerned, her personal preference goes to Art déco, the North European paintings or Renaissance style, where you can see the detail and shining of each pearl, each jewel, lace collars or dresses… as it is very precise in elements, just like it has to be with words.
The biggest advice she would give to a young professional is to be creative. However, being cultured and being able to transmit your passion to others in communication, is the key to success. As we are entering a very mobile world, today’s young people are lacking cultural knowledge at the cruelty of internet. When you have two people in the room, both very creative, mobile and at ease with new trends, the difference is being cultured. The Maison will always choose the one who can represent them better, and inside great Maisons, she notices that her colleagues have impeccable manners. It is very easy to tell if somebody learned by heart history of the brand, or if they know the core of the brand’s values.
Today I came home from a little café at Trocadero and listened to the record of IsabelleHossenlopp’s interview. One line she said made me pause it:
“You must be driven by your passion. But do not forget culture. I always teach my students this sentence of Paul Valery “J’ai beau faire, tout m’intéresse!”. Be interested in everything. If you like jewelry, read about paintings, architecture, fashion… Be interested in art, in literature, in all because there lays the true richness and the real source of inspiration. This will make the difference among the future employees of the Luxury Maisons”.
This gave me the final confirmation that I was looking at the woman I thought she is before this interview: a true super woman, very driven, cultured and successful. She asked me not to make her sound special, but I didn’t have to, she did all the work for me with her words. I am just writing about an amazing woman I have had luck to meet in my life. Madame Hossenlopp, thank you for all the knowledge and advice you have given me.