The Intrepid Appeal of Paloma Picasso

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Paloma Picasso by Andy WarholCourtesy of Christies

Paloma Picasso may carry one of the most famous surnames of all time, but her prolific career in jewellery and fragrance design speaks for itself

It’s not enough to be the progeny of one of the most important artists of the 20th century – the course of Paloma Picasso’s life proves that you must put your name to good use, too. With a career that includes jewellery design, fragrance and a dazzlingly connective social life, she has carved out an identity free of her father’s shadow, proving that it’s possible to take something so loaded and make it all your own. 

Even her first name has its own mythic origin story. Two years before Paloma Picasso was born, her father had painted a white dove for the Communist Party Peace Congress, an antonym for the image of war put forward in Guernica. When she was born on April 19th 1949, the name he chose for his daughter was ‘Paloma’ – the Spanish word for dove.

Defining features…
Paloma Picasso’s life has been characterised by a drive to define her talents on her own terms. “When you have such parents and such a name you don’t want people to associate the two,” she explained in an interview with Washington Life. “When I got to be 14 or 15 it started making me feel very nervous. For a number of years I wouldn’t touch a pencil for anything other than writing, I was so afraid I might become an artist.” Yet she started making jewellery in her teens, later collaborating with Yves Saint Laurent on elegant, decadent costume pieces typical of 1960s Paris rive gauche. Later Saint Laurent would use Picasso's upscale flea market wardrobe of 1940s party dresses and fur coats as inspiration for his 1971 ‘Scandal’ collection. This didn’t prevent her from having an equally significant friendship with his great rival Karl Lagerfeld at the same time, wearing dresses from both designers at her wedding in Paris in 1978.

Seminal moments…
The 1980s saw Paloma settle in New York, designing jewellery for Tiffany and hanging out with Andy Warhol and Isabella Rossellini. When she started making fragrances in 1984, Paloma wasn’t content with just her name on the bottle. She also appeared in the ads herself, looking powerful and womanly, at once a symbol of both old-world Europe elegance and a more worldly, modern sophistication. Her dark eyes stare out from magazine pages and billboards with her iconic pout painted in her signature vivid red. In a conversation with Andy Warhol in Interview, she maintained that she only ever wore two shades on her lips: either Revlon’s “Certainly Red” or “Love That Red”. It marked her out as a fiercely feminine and instantly recognisable sex symbol, photographed by Horst, Arthur Elgort and Herb Ritts during that decade

She’s AnOther Woman because…
Rather than settle for an easy life as a beautiful socialite, marrying well and inheriting a chunk of her father’s fortune (estimated to be over $200m in the 1990s), she always pushed herself to do more, create more. By building a world of glamour, art, friendship and creativity around her, Paloma made sure that the Picasso family name would go much further than the definition offered by her father’s career.