Luck appears in the form of numerous different guises. For the Chinese, red is an auspicious colour; the ancient Romans considered the fascinus, a phallic symbol, to be lucky; as for the Irish, the shamrock is a sign of good things to come. In the eyes of French jewellery house Fred, luck is a golden talisman that takes the shape of two interlocking loops.
To celebrate the 80 years that have passed since the founding of the brand, Fred is introducing a new chapter that revolves around luck. The new collection, christened 8°0, comprises leather bracelets attached to gleaming gold clasps that bring to mind the infinity symbol or a horizontal figure eight.
The celebrations take place at the Hôtel Cap Estel in Èze, located on an isolated peninsula that snakes out into the Mediterranean Sea. Once the summer home of a Russian prince, it became a popular haunt for celebrities and jet-setters when it was transformed into a hotel in the 1950s.
Displayed in an expansive room and enclosed within glass vitrines, the 8°0 bracelets bear an uncanny similarity to the brand’s bestselling Force 10 design. The latter features a gold buckle, shaped like a cross between an anchor and a sailor’s carabiner, connected to a resiliently corded interchangeable steel bracelet woven by the makers of marine cables. (Earlier in the year, the brand added gold link chains to the assortment of multi coloured steel braids, as a more glamorous option.)
“It is true that there is a visible similarity. Like the Force 10 collection, these come with interchangeable bracelets, which is one of the signatures of Fred. I think maintaining consistency is important,” explains CEO Rachel Marouani as we chat on the balcony of her penthouse suite. She also makes reference to the popular Pain de Sucre collection that allows the wearer to remove and change the centre stone at whim. “Force 10 will remain. We love the collection because of its links to the sea and sailing; 8°0 explores a new territory that revolves around luck,” she adds.
For the last 80 years, the French Riviera and the Mediterranean Sea dominated Fred’s creative universe. Eponymous jeweller Fred Samuel, who founded the brand in 1936, moved to Paris from the coastal town of Mar del Plata in Argentina at the age of 16. Having grown up with the Atlantic Ocean as his backyard, Samuel remained deeply attached to water. The thalassophile found himself naturally drawn to the charms of the French Riviera as it brought him a sense of gaiety and joie de vivre. Nautical and marine elements reverberated through the brand’s designs, most notably in the bestselling Force 10 bracelets. Other collections, such as the Baie des Anges and Belles Rives (named after famous landmarks along the Cote d’Azur) also feature design details clearly inspired by the sea.
“The French Riviera will always be about Fred’s spirit: It’s because of the sea, the light, the people and the exclusivity of the area. We are the jeweller of the Riviera,” says Marouani. However, even if the significance of an 80th anniversary milestone warranted the exploration of new terrain, Marouani stresses that it does not mean the new collection is far removed from the brand’s DNA: Binding the collections together is a common design language and an intangible vibe that even Marouani finds hard to put her finger on. “When we look for new products to launch, it’s usually linked to our heritage. (With the 8°0 collection, the team was inspired by knots and the number eight that they found in the archives.) There is also this element of light that is very important to us,” she explains.
The launch of the new collection was accompanied by a new social media campaign, #defineyourluck. It was conceptualised by China artist Bolin Liu, who is known for his work that shows him immersing and disappearing himself in environments. Communicated via a video clip and four images are Liu’s perspective of love, success, vitality and liberty — four themes that represent his definition of luck.
“When I first saw the bracelet, I saw it as something perfectly round. It reminded me of a symbol in the Chinese culture that represents infinity and emptiness,” says Liu, who flew in for the occasion. “As an artist, I need to infuse culture into my product. A collaboration cannot just revolve around the commercial side of things,” he continues. Liu draws on the five element theory, a Chinese philosophy that emphasises the interactions of water, wood, fire, earth and metal, to convey his message. The end result is a series of evocative images that shows the bracelets in their natural environment, under the sun and against the Mediterranean Sea.
“We chose Liu because of his audacity. I think he expresses art in a different way. He is also very specific with what he does. The fact that he also plays with different colours is something that I felt was in line with Fred,” explains Marouani on the brand’s decision to collaborate with Liu. She first learnt of the artist when she saw his work at a friend’s apartment three years ago.
Marouani also picked a Chinese artist over all the French artists because she wanted a different approach — Oriental, to be specific — that could challenge their creativity. “We are a French company and naturally, have a French way of thinking. However, since we are in the process of developing the brand outside of France, I was very interested to find out how someone from Asia would see things,” she explains.
Since Marouani assumed leadership of the brand in 2012, global expansion has been her first agenda. “My biggest challenge is to keep to our DNA while at the same time, expanding commercially into new markets,” she says. Outside of France, the brand’s key markets are Japan, Korea and China; in the last two years in China alone, it opened boutiques in the cities of Shanghai, Beijing, Shenzhen and Hong Kong. The Russian and Middle Eastern markets are next, before they re-enter the American market with a proper strategy.
On the product front, Fred recently expanded its Pain de Sucre collection to include a new signet ring design; similarly, there are indefinite plans to expand the 8°0 collection. Marouani also lets us in on the possibility of an iconic design making a glamorous comeback: “It won’t be a re-edition because that’s not in the spirit of the brand but we are thinking of how we can make it different and modern.”
Modernity, wearability and everlasting designs will always be the impetus behind Fred’s creations. “I don’t want to be 80. We are celebrating our 80th anniversary and that is an important occasion but I don’t want to be an old woman. I want to be modern since 1946,” she says.
When the dress code politely requests for guests to kick off their heels, most do so cheerfully, throwing abandon to standard etiquette and protocol that comes with social functions. Dancing on the grass barefoot under the moonlight with a glass of rosé in their hand, no one looks a day over 21.