Parisian master craftsmen Jean Marie Nguyen and Paul Marie Menghi, the driving forces behind luxury label Gian Paolo Maria, are famous for their sometimes delicate, sometimes extravagant, but always handcrafted romantic floral jewelry designs.

INTERVIEW New York Fashion Week

A Night at Grey Gardens

The very first item that SWAROVSKI CRYSTALLIZED™'s long-term partners Jean-Marie and Paul-Marie designed – jointly, as it happens – was a clutch bag in cardinal violet adorned with SWAROVSKI ELEMENTS, which they christened ‘Rivoli’. Choosing the name of one of Paris’s most iconic streets, home to the most fashionable luxury brands in the world, proved to be a bit of a hint of what lay ahead. Because, despite their pre-eminence as one of the world’s top jewelry designers, they love nothing better than to design fabulous one-of-a-kind pieces, completely smothered in SWAROVSKI ELEMENTS, for the catwalk. Afterwards they feel guilty because it’s “too expensive and not sellable”. However, art cannot be put in a straightjacket and constrained: “Creativity should be an exercise without any limits, and we personally like opulence!”

They started in 1992 and were spotted six years later, which was also when they first exhibited at Eclat de Mode: Bijorhca, the Paris-based international fashion jewelry fair. That same year they were awarded the Lauréat des Nouveaux Regards. Later on, the American conservator at a museum of art deco in Paris noticed their work. But it was the late, great François Lesage, the master of embroidery famous for his collaborative work with the crème de la crème of Parisian haute couture, who understood their brand of artistry and encouraged them to stick at it.

Where these gifts came from who knows, as neither has an artistic family background. Jean-Marie reckons he could have worked in interior design or tableware, and Paul-Marie in architecture. The creative process is a well balanced four-hander – although Jean-Marie is always in charge of color matching – which starts with their respective visions, merging as the project gathers momentum. It is an all-consuming, lifelong passion to the exclusion of other hobbies, in fact, they admit to masochistically enjoying working “in a state of emergency”: as with so many creative people across various disciplines, deadline stress makes for extraordinary productivity. They are hands-on and don’t have a big team, taking pride in remaining “a genuine little atelier”. Working as a duo ensures that they head off any possibility of drying up and running out of ideas – feeding off each other’s creativity prevents ‘designer’s block’.

Among their greatest innovations, they believe, is the trophy they designed for Art Show Cannes (the international video photography festival that runs in parallel with the Cannes Film Festival), made with SWAROVSKI ELEMENTS. Crystal is at the heart of everything they do. Right from the start, they were utterly captivated by its magic, its shapes and the wealth and variety of its colors. When developing new design concepts, they watch color trends carefully, but otherwise give fashion innovations no more than a passing glance, applying only what suits their purposes. Their most recent collaboration with SWAROVSKI CRYSTALLIZED™ is ‘Dawn’, a magnificent collection consisting of very fine chains set together like a cascade of water that gives the pieces fluidity and movement. The pieces are embellished with an art deco-style mosaic effect in black jet and golden shadow against bronze metal. Perfectly on-trend for Autumn 2012 collections.

Both are particularly drawn to 1950s-era oriental glamour, citing Hong Kong cult film director Wong Kar-wai’s beautiful and achingly romantic film, 2046, as epitomizing this mood. Unsurprisingly, Asia is their favorite destination and a rich source of inspiration. Ultimately, though, what inspires artists is boundless: Gian Paolo Maria jewelry represents the sum total of its creators’ passions, interests and artistry; the happy outcome is the supremely polished elegance it gives the wearer.

To experience more of Gian Paolo Maria's stunning designs visit one of the glittering SWAROVSKI CRYSTALLIZED™ concept stores or the SWAROVSKI CRYSTALLIZED™ eShop.

Swarovski Crystals Magazine #01 - Everyday Extraordinary

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