In the opening scene of the 1961 classic, Breakfast At Tiffany’s , an insecure Holly Golightly, (the stunning Audrey Hepburn, pretending to be a wealthy Manhattan socialite in order to nab a rich husband,) looks longingly into the display windows of Tiffany & Co., New York, resolute that one day, she’ll have the independent means to shop there.
Fifty-three years later, it’s a new era. Francesca Amfitheatrof, Tiffany & Co.’s first female Design Director in 177 years (with an uncanny resemblance to the late Audrey Hepburn,) is on a whirlwind global tour to launch her first collection, Tiffany T. And although the rising star’s curriculum vitae may read like a film script, her vision of the modern, confident, independent woman, for whom the collection is aimed, could not be more down to earth:
“It’s for the cool woman about town who’s well-informed and has a handle on what’s happening, what’s now. She’s clever and smart and is very certain of herself and her sensuality,” says Amfitheatrof.
The daughter of an American journalist and Italian publicist, Francesca Amfitheatrof spent her childhood in Moscow, Tokyo and Rome. She earned her Masters of silversmithing at the Royal College of Art, London in 1993, then apprenticed with a master craftsman in Padua. She was plucked straight out of college to design a collection for the Italian brand Alessi and was soon commissioned by Fendi, Chanel, Marni and Wedgewood to design jewelry, accessories and housewares.
“Because I grew up all over the world I was really affected by the beauty and art that surrounded me all the time and was able to immerse myself in music, art, film and theater along the way,” reminisces Amfitheatrof. “I particularly love Asian art and ceramics. There’s a real sensitivity to form and a very pared down and clean aesthetic.”
Living in London with her husband and two children, Amfitheatrof also co-founded RS&A, an agency representing the work of contemporary artists. Serving as an art consultant and curator for major collections, Tiffany & Co. wooed her to New York.
For the past year, she has hit the ground running; learning the iconic company’s extensive product lines then researching and interpreting their legendary collections to create the annual ‘Blue Book,’ considered the bible of Tiffany’s 250 exquisitely designed gemstone pieces.
“Obviously we have Elsa Peretti and Paloma Picasso. We have endless women who have really left a mark on this brand, and that’s been a huge influence on me, she admits. “But I wanted to do a collection that could stand for itself – to be visibly Tiffany, be recognizable, but also to be the perfect chain you throw on every day, the perfect bangle that you can throw on with your other jewelry,” she says. “The kind of jewelry that just lives with you. The more you wear it, the more you love it.”
She began like a structural engineer – exploring the ‘T’ motif through sketches and creating minimalist, sculptural interpretations for necklaces, wide cuffs, bracelets, watches, earrings and most recently, rings. Concentrating on 18-karat yellow, rose and white gold – several inlaid with diamonds – some pieces are also available in sterling silver.
“The T- Collection is incredibly fresh and streamlined,” says Rob Ferguson, Group Director of Tiffany Canada West. “Even our in-store displays for Tiffany- T have undergone a transformation with an art gallery-like aesthetic Francesca prefers, using raised plinths to showcase the Collection . Like her vision, it’s really starting to gain its own momentum.”