In old family businesses, heritage will for ever be in question. Having to lead a jewelry house set up in 1920 into this century without loosing its soul, would seem like an impossible task. But to Gaia Repossi, granddaughter of the founder of the Repossi jewelry house, this was a natural part of belonging to the Repossi family. Being born in 1986, it was a very young girl who was appointed artistic director in 2005, but it is a very balanced young lady who comes across in the conversation with Gaia. The benefits of yoga have not only had an effect on her body, but also her mind seems to be in complete balance and with a focus unlike people her age.
You might wonder how you turn a brand originally founded in Turin, Italy, and steeped in an incredible history into a modern jewelry house, but Gaia had the answer. She has focused on a younger fashion-conscious clientele, and in the collaborations with designers such as Alexander Wang and Joseph Altuzarra (today’s stars red.) she has created a perfect poise between heritage and modernity.
Being part of the almost mythical Place Vendome, it’s a fulltime job keeping the atelier above the store running, so finding the time for both university classes and yoga practice is quite an achievement. Hard-working, well-educated, stylish and with a very strong eye for the art, Gaia possesses everything in need for a success story..
Daniel Magnussen: You told me during the portrait shoot that you would do a collaboration with Vanessa Traina. When will this collection be out?
Gaia Repossi: It’s still confidential. Can’t reveal it yet. If there’s no surprise then there is less interest.
DM: So, what made you want to collaborate with Vanessa?
GR: We have been friends since we were sixteen or fifteen. We used to hang out with all the sisters. And I find her inspiring. She has her own androgyne beauty.
DM: You also both seem to like the same designers, Joseph Altuzarra, Proenza Schouler, Alexander Wang, Phoebe Philo etc. Were you also friends with Alex and Joseph before you collaborated with them?
GR: Yes, I met Joseph a bit before in Paris. And yes also Alex. I was very pleased of having both of them asking me to do the jewellery for their shows.
DM: How was the design process when you collaborated with someone like Alex?
GR: Well it was a rush as always in fashion having the pieces last minute, had to run between the ateliers… There was the deadline of the show. We had skype conferences for the design process. We both gave the most professional facet of our characters. We have in common I think this ”workoholic” tendency and stubbornness even, being youngsters.
DM: How did you feel about the final design?
GR: At first I feel as if the brand new pieces I receive are strangers. And then when I have the impression it’s beautiful and different, I’m glad, as if I’ve achieved something. It happened with Alex’s pieces.
DM: Was the design process with Joseph as fast-paced?
GR: Wereas Joseph and I decided earlier. It went slowly and with no rush. We almost immediately found what we wanted. The pieces are as strong but much less tortured. It looks more feminine. I find Alex’s more close to pieces of arts (contemporary).
DM: So how do you start a collection? What’s your first move?
GR: I imagine it worn. I first do sketches of silhouettes of necks or arms with the jewellery. It’s abstract, only I can understand it. Then the technical procedure starts. We have to draw the jewel from the 4 angles, etc. After that I meet the head chief of the atelier who starts prototypes, etc. It takes a while to achieve the prototypes, maybe cause I’m way too perfectionist.
DM: Do you always design what you would wear yourself?
GR: As a creator no. I draw giant earrings, which I love but would never wear. Also I have an ideal of beauty and a vision in mind which is not necessarily myself! I have an obsession with giant cuffs and chokers and also long strong rings. Those are what I like to wear. But it’s always hard for me to cover myself with jewellery. I’ve always been a minimalist.
Though the pieces I do are made to elongate and embellish arms or hands. They’re not made to be tacky. There is also a way to wear them : two same cuffs on each arm, or two long rings one on each hand. Never mix golds (black or pink not together). I find symmetry the strongest expression in jewellery.
DM: What part of the design process do you enjoy the most?
GR: When I imagine the pieces worn while I sketch. I find that we lost how to wear ”parures” this is why tribes and civilisations fascinate me. It’s part of the outfit. Nowadays it’s only a lost accessory which we don’t know what to wear with.
DM: So what would you wear with the ”parures” you did with Alex?
GR: His drapés dresses or leather brown tops (celine) with light blue jeans..
DM: And which shoes?
GR: I also like wearing men’s outfits, I sometimes dress with 3 piece suit and a tie. I love men’s shoes for women, flat Hermes derbies or church’s. Or Hermès ankle suede flat booties.
DM: So at the moment you mostly wear Celine or Hermes?
GR: Yes, and also Isabel Marant suede booties and sandals.
DM: Which women represent your ideal of beauty?
GR: There’s this vision, a general impression of a slender silhouette: Elegant and minimal as a Helmut Newton androgyne figure. I also have in mind ethnic silhouettes covered with jewelry as women in African tribes or arabic and Indian nomads.
DM: Right. You can see those references in your collaborations with Alex and Joseph. I would also love to see a collaboration between you and Dree Hemingway.
GR: Yes she’s a good friend.. and beautiful. She often wears our pieces. She’s already a friend of the House. You never know what happens next ; ) …
DM: You seem to have a great eye for both talent and beauty… When you wake up in the morning, do you have a plan or do you just go with the flow?
GR: Well, I’m a very organized person. My days are planned because I also have to deal with my university master, my meetings at the office and my yoga, etc. For instance I wake up at 6:30 on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays for my morning Ashtanga practice. Then I go to the office. I have generally 4 to 6 hours a week of university classes, etc.
DM: Are you a tough boss?
GR: I’m known to be stubborn. I’m extremely demanding. I see work as a fight and a struggle. But a certain behaviour and education brings respect from my people.
DM: How many people are working with you?
GR: 9 persons, 3 in the press, my Press Agent is amazing and helps me in A.D., 1 atelier chief, 2 ateliers artisans and 2 who follow the production and my agent that organizes my image.
DM: Do you still see yourself designing jewelry in 10 years?
GR: This is a hard question. It’s true that I’m stubborn in work and tend to push myself higher constantly. So I hope I will have reached all of my goals.. But I don’t want to sacrifice my private life.
DM: What are your goals in term of future collaborations?
GR: To always learn something from other visions of beauty.
DM: Which are some other visions of beauty you love?
GR: I love Helmut Newton’s androgyny vision of beauty, Noiret for Cinema, Tadao Ando, Cy Twombly for the abstract vision of space. Eclectic Coco Chanel had her own silhouette in mind.
DM: Do you just want to do one collection for each of these collaborations and then move on to another vision of beauty? Or you want these collections to be ongoing?
GR: I’d rather do only one collection, it’s easier and it has a stronger impact on public. But I like basics and ongoing collections, I just don’t fit in this rush of all the couture Houses for collections, prefall, resort, etc. I think you need time to work beyond your own expectations. So I’d rather have them ongoing.
DM: So when the time is right, we’ll see another collection from you and Alex?
GR: I don’t know.. Those things happen when you expect them less.
DM: I hope to see another one. So which fashion magazines do you like the most?
GR: I find fashion magazines boring. Most have nothing to say. I like when you find unexpected things. I like being shocked, when magazines break their own rules. I find yours interesting visually, I found Industrie good and Interview magazine is way different you don’t know whether it’s fashion or newspaper. I like hybrids.
DM: Which stylist and photographer have made the best image using your jewelry in a magazine?
GR: Mmmm, hard to say, well Karl L for several shootings, Carine Roitfeld obviously did so many great. Riccardo Tisci. Lots of younger stylists like Jane How.
DM: What’s on your mood board right now?
GR: This is confidential! But I’d say rather ethnic and Helmut Newton 70’s, always androgyne (powerful women strong eyes). And greco-roman references (antic roman cuffs and snakes).
DM: So Is Repossi a Turin or Paris brand now?
GR: Paris. Friends I met recently thought I was French.
DM: Because now your accent is also French English?
GR: I don’t have any french accent. I speak both French and Italian fluently. It’s cause they say I look Frenchy.
DM: Do you have any Italian designers left in your closet?
GR: No.. not a single piece. Strange.. Do Missoni bikinis count?
DM: I’m not sure. Did you live in Turin at any point or has it always been Paris?
GR: I never lived in Torino, I grew up in South of France. But I have a beautiful souvenir over there. Most of my beautiful family is there.
DM: Are you a good cook? Do you prefer Italian or French food?
GR: Of course I’m a good cook. I do Italian. French for deserts.
DM: So what’s a signature Gaia Repossi dish?
GR: Fresh tomato basil pasta. As simple.
DM: And all organic?
GR: Of course!
DM: I also expected that. So which other jewelry designers do you like?
GR: Verdura. Berberian and nomads silver jewelry. Roman and greeck cuff and upper arm cuffs and bangles.
DM: What else what are you working on at the moment?
GR: 5 projects for 2011. I’m working on a lot of things at the moment, three high jewelry collections, I’ll start dealing with big stones and awfully expensive pieces. In a totally other area, I’m doing a mass market project, which is still confidential. A collaboration with a friend which is a earth protecting and environment project (recycle cheap jewelry), and also a re-edition project of our 1930’s and 1940’s jewelry in honour of my grandfather who just passed away. I’m working hard to prepare September before leaving to the jungle (yoga retreat in Sri Lanka).
DM: For how long have you been practicing yoga?
GR: Since I was fifteen, I am a big addict. Ashtanga is my favourite practice. I’ve been practicing in India. In New York there are also good classes. I meditate quite a lot also.
DM: Any other members of the Repossi family practicing Yoga?
GR: I’m the only yogi of the family but my best girlfriends also practice. But I’m way the most stubborn with martial regular practice!
DM: So how often is that?
GR: Everyday, sometimes twice (morning and evening) when my schedule is lighter. Except on Sundays.
DM: Did you learn about India from your father?
GR: Yes, his whole inspiration has come from Indian jewellery since he was a kid.
DM: How has that influenced you?
GR: Well, I myself am more interested in nomad and ethnic Indian or berberian jewelry. But my father’s is a school for volumes (elongated cuffs, elongated rings,etc.).
DM: Are your father still involved in the design of some of your collections?
GR: No, I now work on my own. But he’s wiser then any artisan from the atelier and his help on technical worries is sometimes precious. He still creates unique awfully big and expensive pieces on request.
DM: What was it like for you as a child. Were you playing dress-up with jewelry all the time. Or did your interest in jewelry come later?
GR: Yes my mother used to leave her jewelry in her bathroom. I remember myself watching them. But as soon as I got older I had the opposite reaction. I was wearing nothing at all. My goal was to become a painter. I’m still painting and I found my way in the company! I just launched myself without expectations..
DM: So painting is your real passion?
GR: Yes, it’s part of myself. I have an atelier in Paris.
DM: Do you collect art?
GR: I don’t really collect art. Though I have unknown canvas.
DM: Which artists inspired you growing up and while attending Sorbonne?
GR: My first big shock was Picasso. I starred at his paintings when I was a teenager. And began copying his artworks. Afterwards masters like Michel Angelo were printed in my mind for those drawings of strong Madonnas with large necks and expressive eyes. I used to go to museums and draw for entire days to ”train my hand”. I also practiced with alive masters such as Vellicovich, my grandma’s brother in Turin who’s been teaching at the Torino Fine Arts School for 30 years and sculptor Penone in Paris (Fine Arts).
DM: What did they teach you?
GR: My grandma’s brother taught me to draw with a stick under my wrist. He gave an academic taught. And my fine art teacher taught me abstraction.
DM: Tell me more about the re-edition project of your 1930’s and 1940’s jewelry in honour of your grandfather.
GR: It’s inspired by art nouveau. He used to admire Lalique. Though his work was more art deco, I want to enlighten those pieces cause I find art nouveau the highest refinement in jewelry technique.
DM: And you mentioned an upcoming mass market project. Why do you want to do that?
GR: It was the project itself that seduced me not really the idea of a mass market. And it remains small because it’s a capsule collection.
DM: But you also want to reach a new audience?
GR: Not necessarily ,as long as people like what I do.
DM: Tell me more about this Earth protecting and environment project with a friend (recycle cheap jewellery)
GR: It’s with a friend who is very concerned with environment. It’s to protect the African east coast. I will be able to tell you more in October.. Confidential for the moment.. I promised to be discreet..
DM: Have you had thoughts about doing men’s jewelry?
GR: Yes, some of my pieces could be worn by men. I have a vision of androgyne women.
DM: Could be interesting to see a collaboration between you and Hedi Slimane if you ever decide to do men’s jewelry. Building on your other collaborations.
GR: I can’t do so many collaborations.. Though I admire the way he brought his vision to reality.