In the September issue of IMAGE Magazine, I was fortunate to interview Francesca Amfitheatrof, the design director of Tiffany & Co who is responsible for interpreting the brand’s 177-year legacy of innovation in modern creations of striking beauty and original style. As the storied jewellery house’s first female design director, the elegant and effortlessly stylish Amfitheatrof imbues modern luxury with an unexpected hint of eclecticism. Here, in this exclusive online interview, she offers an insight into her unique world of work and creative process.
How has the creative process changed since you took over?
“When I first arrived at Tiffany three years ago our high-end jewellery was very different. It was very classic – stones with a surround of diamonds – very elegant and classically beautiful. I’ve given it a different twist. I’ve pushed the design team a lot and I’ve hired some amazing people from different parts of the design world, not always with a jewellery background, so we now are beginning to have a really robust high-end jewellery team. Having gone to art school in England, and having worked for a lot of the fashion brands, I’ve been around studios and always been in the creative world, which is quite different to most American corporations, so I’ve introduced an art-school-vibe, we’ve got critiques on a regular basis.”
What is your starting point?
“I go in with a huge narrative journey and we sketch together, all the sketches are by hand and if we’re creating rings, we do CAD or 3D drawings because we have to create architecture for a ring so you have to support those items, but for most of the others we don’t and I work very closely with the whole team.”
Where do you get your inspiration?
“I look at a lot of contemporary art. I meet a lot of artists, I talk to them. I look a lot at fashion. I’m surrounded by very creative people and look at what’s happening in their lives. I think about what’s going on in the world and how that influences us. I’m very receptive, I’m always trying to sniff around what’s going to be the next thing.”
How do you cope with the demands of your role?
“I tend to give a lot and it just gives me energy. I love what I do, so it actually feeds me. I feel very privileged to have this position and I get very excited about the work that I do. I’m now three years into the position. I’m beginning to learn how to take time. When you’re working for a huge company, everyone wants a meeting. I have two days of the week where I only design. The music goes on, I’m drawing and putting things up and talking about things with the other designers. Those are great days – the ones when you’re producing something, it’s really satisfying. The days that you’re in meetings all day you feel more tired. When you’re making something you’re getting good energy and you go home with it. You’re already satisfied.”
Are you a strategic planner?
“Yes. I already see what’s going to sit to the left and right of the T Collection [Amfitheatrof’s first for the company]. I already know what I’d like to create. It’s not ambition it’s a whole vision for the brand. It was amazing that T was so well received and has become so iconic for the brand. But at the same time, I knew exactly how to position it, who I was talking to, I did the advertising campaign, I worked on the naming, how we presented it to the press, so it was very, very focused. And I think that’s when you succeed, when things are super, super focused.”
Do you design for a global citizen now that foreign markets are opening up?
“The world has changed so much with the internet. It is a global village. The influencers; what we see; what we do; what we listen to; the clothes we wear – everyone has the same information, so I believe we need to talk to women, globally and then clients come to us, we don’t go to them. We need to be solid and very straight and clear and then people will come to us. I went to launch T in Dubai and there were these beautiful women all covered up and then the arm would come out and you’d think they were wearing diamonds and bling, but they weren’t: they were wearing super contemporary, funky, modern jewellery. They have the same influences that we have and it’s narrow-minded of us to think that we know other tastes, actually. Now we’re all informed.”
How often are you asked do you breakfast at Tiffany’s?
“Not that often! I’ve actually had a few breakfasts at Tiffany’s. The Tiffany flagship store in New York is quite a special place. We often host breakfasts above the store for special clients. It’s a really unique experience.”
Tiffany & Co is available exclusively from Brown Thomas, Dublin.
To read the full interview with Francesca Amfitheatrof pick up the September issue of IMAGE Magazine. On sale now.