French jewelry company Van Cleef and Arpels arrives at SouthPark mall and brings with it a dossier of style. Van Cleef and Arpels is partnering with Neiman Marcus to make their jewelry, watches and perfumes accessible to a wider range of shoppers. The exclusive, world-renowned boutique selectively chooses where it will set up shop—New York, Hong Kong, and Paris to name a few—and, as a result, Van Cleef and Arpels’s arrival affirms Charlotte’s great taste in style.
The boutique began as the love child of Alfred Van Cleef and Estelle Arpels, married in 1895. Children of French stone cutters and precious stone dealers, Van Cleef and Arpels began their Parisian jewelry house, or “Maison,” in 1906. Since then, Van Cleef and Arpels’ innovative designs and perfumes have graced the wrists of style icons like Elizabeth Taylor, Grace Kelly and Reese Witherspoon. To Van Cleef and Arpels, jewelry is a high art form, and their pieces have been featured in museums around the world. Artfully-chic Nicholas Bos, Van Cleef and Arpel’s President and CEO of the Americas, gives SouthPark his take on the Van Cleef and Arpels “philosophe.”
Van Cleef and Arpels is such an exclusive company. What does the boutique’s arrival say about Charlotte and SouthPark? Charlotte has taste. We want to make our jewelry and perfumes more accessible to our best customers, and we found that many of our patrons lived in or near Charlotte. Van Cleef and Arpels decided to open its first store in America almost a century ago for this reason. Today, we continue the tradition.
What makes Van Cleef and Arpels’s classic pieces relevant today? I am convinced that pieces of jewelry are always relevant because everyone’s histories are in some way connected to a ring or a watch or a necklace. While a piece of jewelry is worn it embodies aspects of the wearer. When the piece passes to another wearer, it holds those memories but will display them in a different way from the original wearer. Jewelry is a vision of who you are, who you were and who you want to be.
Explain the Van Cleef and Arpels philosophy, “time is renewal.” The House views time as a poetic, romantic and positive cycle. The Maison likes to say, “Spring is always coming.” According to this philosophy, the House designs watch faces that capture the essence of time without restricting it. For example, we have a watch whose face slowly changes with seasons. The change from moment to moment or day to day is imperceptible but suddenly the watch face shows a jeweled orange leaf and you find that it is autumn. One only needs to listen to listen to one’s time to be a part of it.
Where does Van Cleef and Arpels find its inspiration? Nature inspires the Maison’s artists. It’s challenging to bend metal and shape stones on such a fine scale, but the House crafts magnificent works that resemble the movement and ideas found in nature. With Van Cleef and Arpels’s ingenious Mystery setting, the metal that holds stones in place completely disappears. The result is a piece of jewelry that appears to have been created by nature. In recent years, we have also been fascinated by different cultures’ natural representations of luck and the House creates pieces with elements of the four-leaf clover, Chinese zodiac, or the Austrian edelweiss flower.
How do Van Cleef and Arpels perfumes embody the Maison’s philosophy? Van Cleef and Arpels’s jewelry pieces often inspire the perfumes. From the perfume’s scent to its bottle, you can experience poetical interpretations of our pieces and philosophy in perfumes like Oriens or Midnight in Paris. Van Cleef and Arpels uses the best essential oils and natural extracts to represent the sensual aspects of nature in their purest form.
What do you think is one of Van Cleef and Arpels’s most ingenious pieces? In 1951, Van Cleef and Arpels created a necklace for the Duchess of Windsor that is modeled after zippers. This classic Zip Necklace is playful yet sophisticated and wonderfully practical— when zipped, the necklace becomes a bracelet. I love this piece because it expresses the Van Cleef and Arpels essence: seamless integration of design, technique and innovation.