With its 60-year artistic legacy that is venerated worldwide, a new film pays homage to Goossens’ legendary savoir faire and visionary creativity.
Despite the brilliantly talented French artisans that we know and respect who are producing exceptional couture jewelry, they are simply too few. It means that their meticulous handcraftsmanship has become a very precious commodity to the great couturiers.
This explains why, in 2005, after more than 50 years of collaboration, Chanel bought Goossens. After all, their relationship already stretched back to 1953, when Coco Chanel first began commissioning master craftsman Robert Goossens. The happy event could, therefore, be likened to a very lengthy courtship that finally resulted in marriage.
Chanel had been born in a French poorhouse – a fact that she never forgot. It explains her penchant for blending fake with genuine jewels, and doing it with unabashed élan: “When you make imitation jewelry, you always make it bigger” was her maxim. This sporty, wearable look was epitomized by the boxy, tweed ‘cardigan jacket’, accessorized with multiple ropes of faux pearls and gold chains – it made what had gone before seem frumpy.
Robert Goossens was a genius at creating pieces using avant-garde ideas and methods. Having started as a metalwork apprentice, he went on to learn the art of jewelry making in the workshops of the best Parisian jewelers. Three years into his own business, Chanel discovered that his work complemented her approach to fashion wonderfully. Over the next five decades, his workshop would produce bold and visionary jewelry that incorporated Chanel’s favorite motifs, giving her designs a bejeweled flourish. Camellias (her favorite flower), large Byzantine crosses and rosary-style necklaces (a nod to her childhood spent in a convent) featured among the designs, all richly embellished with SWAROVSKI ELEMENTS.
It is this remarkable story that prompted Swarovski to release its film, Goossens Paris, Haute Couture Costume Jewelry, in April. Narrated by Patrick Goossens, son of the founder and its director today, it gives a rare glimpse of the venerable Parisian costume jewelry house. Goossens fils and his sister Martine are passionate curators of the brand's iconic heritage. Still located on the ultra fashionable Avenue George V in the heart of Paris’s most upscale shopping district, the showroom is a wonder of gleaming masterpieces. This is a gilded world where Goossens brings stunningly beautiful ideas to life. They choose not to produce seasonal collections, preferring to focus on unique creations and limited editions, as well as working with the greatest designers of all time. These have included Yves Saint Laurent, Cristóbal Balenciaga, Rochas, Dior, Grès, Sonia Rykiel, Guerlain, Marc Jacobs and, in 1992, Thierry Mugler, for whom Goossens made a staggering bodice resembling body armor, encrusted with 50,000 SWAROVSKI ELEMENTS. Some of these pieces are seen in the film.
There is no secret, says Patrick Goossens, only three golden rules: master the techniques; remember that you are the keeper of ancient knowledge and have a duty to pass it on to the next generation; and lastly, learn how to adapt the craft to suit modern circumstances. As custodians of an ancient art and artists of superlative flair, Goossens is simply peerless.
See the film here.