“It was so much in the world of fashion that at first I didn’t want to join in or have anything to do with it,” Gaia Repossi tells me over the phone in her cashmere-textured timbre. The ‘it’, she is referring to is her family business Repossi Joailliers, a fine jewellery atelier that has been steeped in renown ever since it was founded by her great grandfather G. Pietro Repossi in 1920. During the 1970s, Gaia’s father Alberto Repossi took control of the house, proceeding to produce iconic 1980s pieces that were particularly Italianate in design. Growing up in such a glamorous environment, Gaia gently observed the behind the scenes goings-on: from watching Alberto sketching late at night in his studio, to her elegant mother accessorising glossy cocktail gowns with her husband’s work. Eventually, despite her initial reservations, Gaia took on the role of creative and artistic director in 2007 at the age of 21, guiding Repossi in a direction far from the ostentatious glitz once so associated with the house. In a luxury market so difficult to navigate with a truly contemporary and quiet sensibility, it’s safe to say that what Gaia Repossi has succeeded in since her appointment is no mean feat.
“For me, there is a strong correlation between contemporary jewellery design and its history. It is important for me that it has a lot of depth” – Gaia Repossi
The answer to how Repossi achieved such a revolutionary move toward producing the beautifully sensitive and conceptually driven fine jewellery we see from the house today can perhaps be found in her academic background (the creative director studied for a masters in architecture and social anthropology at The Sorbonne in Paris, prior to following in her familial footsteps). “And I have a real interest in fine art too, I also studied painting at the École des Beaux-Arts,” she notes. “I’ve integrated my studies into my profession later in life. Anthropology in particular also helped me to look into artefacts of remembrance and their relation to the human experience. For me, there is a strong correlation between contemporary jewellery design and its history. It is important for me that it has a lot of depth.”
And depth it has in abundance. For the work Repossi produces undoubtedly connects with a contemporary reality in a manner that hasn’t been seen before in the realm of fine jewellery. “I make work with the modern woman in mind,” she explains. “It’s for women who work and women who have power over their own autonomy. Women who won’t wait to get engaged to buy a ring, but will invest in a timeless piece with a new self-governing attitude.” Repossi also tells me that whilst they have maintained the nuts and bolts of traditional French craft, she also works closely with a team of architects in her atelier. “Jewellery doesn’t really have that technical level of design, and we’re bringing a parallel in,” she says.
The parallels are clear enough in Repossi’s highly engineered designs: from the way that diamond ear cuffs climb cartilage like scaffolding, to the employment of a hinge mechanism in rings and earrings, mirroring the opening and closing of doors. One of Gaia’s personal heroes, the Dutch architect and theorist Rem Koolhaas, has a huge influence upon the house of Repossi. As she recounted to Laura Bradley in AnOther Magazine’s S/S17 issue: “When we first met, Rem looked at the Repossi stacking rings and said: ‘this is architecture’”. Fittingly, Repossi selected the Villa dall’Ava (a residential project built by Koolhaas’ architectural firm OMA in the late 1980s), to shoot the brand’s latest campaign with Juergen Teller and Julia Nobis.
“There will always be a surprise in what I do, that I can promise” – Gaia Repossi
Repossi tells me that Nobis (who is an accomplished pianist) soundtracked Teller’s instinctive camerawork by playing the grand piano belonging to the Villa throughout most of the campaign shoot’s duration. “I think there was an immediate interest for Juergen to work with us because he had never shot jewellery before”, she says. “But there was some fear to begin with, for a fine jewellery brand to use a photographer who is so raw and direct. In the market it is a bit of a risk. But I think he made a very sophisticated campaign that we’re very happy with.” Most certainly, it is Repossi’s ability to take these kinds of risks that has propelled her family name to one of the most revered fine jewellery brands of our time, consistently striking a delicate balance between looking forwards and keeping the corner of an eye upon a storied past. And so Gaia Repossi ends our conversation by simply reiterating her innovative nature: “there will always be a surprise in what I do, that I can promise.”