As a family owned business, Chopard has upheld its commitment to protect and preserve the earth by championing sustainable luxury through responsible sourcing. Friend of the maison and Oscar-winning actress Marion Cotillard chats with co-president and artistic director Caroline Scheufele on what sustainable luxury really means, pushing the red carpet to go green and the annual Cannes Film Festival.
Do you remember the first time you met and could you share your memories of this moment with us?
Marion Cotillard (MC): I think the first time we met was at the Trophée Chopard ceremony.
Caroline Scheufele (CS): It was definitely in Cannes and you were awarded with the trophy… It seems like just a few months ago!
What did the Trophée Chopard mean at that point in your career?
MC: Chopard had always been very supportive and so it was a beautiful way to reinforce our existing relationship. I was such a young actress at the time, and I have always been very grateful that Chopard supported me almost from day one.
What do you remember about this moment?
CS: I think neither of us were quite at the level we are now, so it is nice to reflect on how we have grown together since then. I was very proud that Marion won the distinction because I am a big fan, and two years later she received the Oscar. What a beautiful career!
Six years ago, you started Chopard’s Journey to Sustainable Luxury, at a time when very few people were talking about this theme. Can you tell us what first drove Chopard to develop this concept?
CS: My first thought was that luxury should be transparent. I believe that when you have something unique and special – and I have the pleasure and honour of working with the most beautiful gemstones on our planet and of course gold which is one of our key materials – you must use it for the best. I met Livia Firth some years ago at the Academy Awards Ceremony where her husband won an Oscar. While we were chatting, she told me about her commitment to the cause of sustainable luxury via her agency, Eco Age, and suddenly, she asked me: “Where does your gold come from?” I responded: “From the banks I suppose, I don’t really know”. That encounter immediately gave me the feeling that we had to do something.
How did you react when you first heard about the Journey?
MC: Caroline is a visionary and I think what she did with Chopard reflects what she felt in her heart when she realised that some pieces were missing. In a world that is changing so fast and sometimes in a very wrong way, this sets a very strong and important example, by telling the world that luxury can be fair and responsible. I admire Caroline for this because she knows that when you are the first to adopt certain principles it is a risky endeavour, especially when people who buy your creations are not necessarily sensitive to such issues. She really opened a door for customers to be aware of what they buy and where it comes from. I think this is really important. And I am of course grateful to Caroline for this commitment!
CS: It is good to know that there are no children working in the mines Chopard works with; that we are careful about the planet when the mines extract gold; that the mines are secure; and that miners have a fixed salary so they can take care of their families. In the end, when you have beautiful products and you don’t know how you got there it doesn’t feel right. In 2014, I also decided to start producing the Palme d’Or, a global symbol of success, from responsibly-sourced gold. It was an opportunity to draw media attention to our commitment.
Going back to you being a visionary, how did the industry react when you announced your Journey?
CS: When I first started, they all kind of looked at me, as if saying to themselves: “Well, let’s see what she’s going to do”. The principles are now in place and many of the big banks that work with mines have increasingly focused on ESG (Environment, Social and Governance) investments because a lot of people want to go in the same direction. I think there’s less amused scepticism around now. Thank you, Marion, for saying that I was a visionary, because it was indeed a risk and we also had to train our employees. Imagine when we got the first 60 kilos of ethical gold from the mine in Columbia! Producing the first models in ethical gold was a challenge for us, as we had to segregate their manufacturing processes in order to ensure that this gold was not smelted with traditional gold and thus maintained its distinctiveness. So, things were initially quite complicated, but now the whole factory is working this way and we have somehow managed it!
Concretely, what does Sustainable Luxury mean?
CS: Sustainable luxury means first and foremost respecting the planet and humankind, as well as a certain way of using products in a world where everything happens very fast and people don’t always realise what they are buying. I think we should be more attentive to what we do. So that’s what it means to me; how about you, Marion?
MC: I think the people who buy luxury, who live in luxury, can really do something about it. When you can afford luxury, you have to use that kind of freedom to really educate yourself about where things come from. Caroline, you mentioned that you had to train Chopard employees, but I think that by extension you have to explain to customers and the people who love Chopard. I see it as a beautiful way of raising awareness about something that is very important and that affects all of us.
Do you remember the first time you saw – and wore –creations in Ethical gold?
MC: Yes, I do remember. I’m so grateful to Caroline and admire her so much for not listening to people who don’t care about certain things, telling her not to take this path. It is very important to be stubborn, and she is. When I saw the first examples of models made with ethical gold, it was very moving. I saw it as a door opening onto to something different, involving more awareness about these crucial issues.
How did buyers react to those first pieces?
CS: Interestingly, when Marion wore the first pieces made with Ethical gold – a diamond cuff and a nice pair of earrings marking the very beginning of the Green Carpet Collection – and started to explain the Journey to Sustainable Luxury, a Korean actress said: “I want to buy them now” and did just that. This confirmed we were moving in the right direction, and that if you educate people and explain the project, they no longer hesitate to adhere. Now, when I spend time in the atelier and the Haute Joaillerie department, I see so many Artisans working with passion day in and day out! They enjoy talking about the Journey to Sustainable Luxury and how proud they are to be part of the project. So, we’ve come a long way and we still have a lot to do, but Rome wasn’t built in a day.
MC: I think that if you have the choice between luxury that comes with awareness regarding how things are made, and luxury that implies not caring at all what is going on in the world, most people will choose the fair way. This implies that those who create luxury should keep that in mind and do something to offer a transformation of how we behave as consumers, especially when it comes to luxury. It is something that also expresses the culture, the beauty of a country, a city – and I think that’s important.
Have you had a chance to visit one of the mines you work with?
CS: Definitely, I’ve already seen a couple of them and most recently a diamond mine. It’s very interesting because you see the change in the countries.
Could you introduce us to the Green Carpet Collection?
CS: Within the Haute Joaillerie Red Carpet Collection which is launched every year in Cannes, there is a section that we call Green Carpet which comprises models made with 100% Ethical gold as well as responsably sourced gemstones, whether diamonds, emeralds, Paraiba tourmalines or black opals. Every year we try to extend the project and add a new stone to the collection, but we depend on the sustainability of the mines where we source our gems.
Do you have a favourite piece?
MC: There are so many that it is kind of hard to choose one, but I have to say that the first Green Carpet Collection jewellery set that I wore was very special to me, so that’s the one I would pick.
Marion correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t you design a piece? Could you tell me more about it?
MC: We exchanged ideas for a model featuring black opals from the Aurora mine in Australia, a family owned and run mine that provides sustainably sourced stones. I loved working on this with Caroline because she is so creative. Doing this together is both fun and touching, because it is about the way she sees things, and the way she wants Chopard to evolve… We’ve done it again since and will doubtless do so again.
Did you also enjoy it?
CS: I liked it a lot because I always love to get outside opinions and input, and especially from Marion because she is beautiful as well as has great taste. She looks at things from a different angle than mine, which makes a winning combination that is also great fun!
How long do you think it will take to turn the Red Carpet totally green?
MC: I think this is something that we need to aim for: if you only take half measures you will never push limits back. It is well worth setting the bar super high. We have a long way to go, but at least some creative and amazing brands are already taking this path, so I think we all need to aim to do the best we can.
Has it gone faster than you thought when you first started?
CS: Things are moving as fast as they can, which I would say is pretty fast. During the last Trophée Chopard ceremony in 2019 I was talking with Pierre Lescure and Thierry Frémaux and I told them: “You know, you should also think about your carpet, maybe you could make the Cannes Film Festival red carpet the same way we did ours for the Chopard party, with recycled fishnets?” That would be a great message, with all talents attending the Festival thus walking a sustainably made red carpet.
MC: Caroline is such an inspiration, because the more you move ahead, the more you discover, the more you educate yourself and share what you’ve learnt, the more inspiring it all becomes. Perhaps they had just never thought about the red carpet for example, and she goes ahead and tells them there’s a different way to do things, especially when it comes to an object that will just be thrown away the next day… I think it’s important that she shares what she’s learnt and encourages them to see they can do it themselves if they can just take the opportunity to change things.
And it could be an opportunity to create a trend. Has anyone talked to you about that?
CS: Well, a lot of things are also happening in the fashion industry and many designers are beginning to share this vision: so, I think over time, as you said before, when you have the choice you will definitely go for that and it is happening across all industries. The more everybody does, even in a small way, will gradually make a difference
From a current perspective, do you think this is a matter of offer or demand?
CS: I think it is both, as well as a communication issue. We still have to spread the news about what we call the Journey to Sustainable Luxury, so that the more people talk about it and become aware of it, the more others will ask about it and the more people will have access to it.
Chopard has really become strongly involved in the Cannes Film Festival, including producing the Palme d’Or that everybody longs to win. Why did you want Chopard to be so engaged?
CS: Personally, I was always a big fan of film-making and even as a kid I loved going to the cinema. So, when we opened our boutique on La Croisette some 23 years ago I thought we should stage the opening during the Film Festival. So I went to meet Pierre Viot, who was the Festival President at that time… We were talking and I said I wanted to organise an official evening with our tiny boutique on La Croisette and asked him if that would possible with the Festival, to which he replied: “Yes, of course!” The Festival had in fact just celebrated its 50th anniversary with another brand, so I was sniffing around a bit, and then he said: “Perhaps you can talk to our other Official Partners” and I replied: “You have partners? What about watches and jewellery?” When he responded: “No, we don’t have anybody in that category”, I started to think further and suggested: “Maybe we can do something for the longer term, because diamonds belong on the red carpet.” That was obvious, since they really make the beautiful actresses sparkle even more brightly. I spotted a certain trophy on the bookshelf behind him, I asked: “Is that the Palme d’Or?” and then he placed it in front of me and I made a further query: “This year is your 50th anniversary, who is producing it?” When he said: “I don’t know – some small atelier in Paris”, I ventured to ask: “Could I put forward a proposal and show you how this Palme d’Or could be more glamorous?”, and I literally left Paris with the Palme under my arm. That’s how the relationship between Chopard and the Cannes Film Festival started.
What are your best memories of Cannes over all these years?
CS: I have plenty; I could write a book or make a movie. There are a lot of happy anecdotes and funny stories, and I’ve often thought to myself that it would be great if a director could shoot a movie while the festival is actually happening! A film about everything that goes on officially but most of all backstage, in the various hotels: the drama, the happiness, the laughter. The first year I was here I stayed at the Majestic in a small room with a small safe, and nobody really knew Chopard, so I brought Swiss chocolate and put it in all the rooms. Then there was this actress who, when I showed her the jewellery, said: “So you are the one making the chocolate, right?!” I said: “No! We make jewellery!” That memory stuck with me, as well as the first time I walked the Red Carpet – a breath-taking experience.
And you, Marion, what memories do you have of the first time you were here in Cannes for the festival?
MC: The first time I came here was with French TV channel Canal +, for a project they had created. I don’t remember its name, but there were ten of us and they took us to Cannes, where we had to do a little movie, and I was so impressed by everything. The second time I came was for the film Taxi, and that was the beginning of my relationship with Chopard. It was the first time I had ever worn such incredible jewellery, and I remember thinking that it was very nice of them to give me the opportunity to wear such a stunning piece on a Red Carpet. I was so young at the time, having done only two or three –movies – and they’ve been here with me ever since!
You’ve appeared on the red carpet multiple times, but how is it when you are there to promote a movie?
MC: The Cannes red carpet is very special: I’ve walked it for 18 straight years now and it always brings the same feeling of joy that is hard to describe. It’s not stressful but has a kind of mystery to it that never wears off. Each time I’m on this red carpet representing a new movie I’m like the same kid with stars in my eyes. It is kind of funny to have this same feeling over and over again that never becomes just a matter of routine. It’s always something new, especially because with most of the movies I have had in Cannes it was the first time for the directors and the other actors, so you see the magic weaving its spell on all those people and it thus remains as fresh as ever.
And another question for you: how do you feel when the closing night comes?
CS: Well it has been 22 years now and as I told you, I’m a big fan of cinema who I used to go and see every closing night and every movie. These days I hardly manage to get there because we have so much work, projects, customers and press to deal with. For me every year is new and different. You have this fantastic atmosphere and I think it is great that selfies are banned on the red carpet because there are dozens of photographers, you’re all dressed up and it’s all very chic, so if everyone were to end up taking and posting selfies, you would lose the impression of mystery.
And what about the end of these annual ceremonies, when you see all these film directors holding the Palme d’Or which Chopard has crafted? That must be something special!
CS: A great documentary has been made about it, called La Légende de la Palme d’Or” and featuring 10 directors who have been awarded the Palme d’Or and share insights into “their” moment, when they received this trophy. It is very special to all of them and it is interesting to see what how they felt during this unique moment.,
Cannes is also very special for you, Marion?
MC: Definitely. As I said before, there is always the same magic, I always feel very lucky to be here and I think I always will. It embodies such an intense passion for cinema and a chance to discover new artists from all over the world! I think it’s very unique and that makes it very special to have access to this unique and magical dream. I remember when I was a kid, I already thought this festival was very special and it was a kind of dream to show a movie here.