He may be an internationally renowned jewellery designer, but Hervé Van Der Straeten doesn’t wear a stitch of it—not even a watch. “I keep all of that for my work,” he says with a laugh during his visit to Holt Renfrew in Toronto, where his spring/summer collection is making its Canadian debut.
“People will notice them,” says Van Der Straeten of the new pieces—statement baubles whose inspiration ranges from origami to tree branches. “They are dramatic pieces with a playful dimension—there is always a sense of movement.” The collection includes earrings with large, hammered- brass circles and necklaces in coppered, hammered brass with natural rock crystals. “That is one single ribbon of brass,” he says, pointing to a bracelet. “It’s hammered by hand, not cast, so it’s light and comfortable. It’s important to me that all my pieces are fun to wear.”
Born in Paris in 1965, Van Der Straeten studied painting at the École des Beaux-Arts before founding his own jewellery company at 19. He finds the two disciplines similar. “As a kid, I was always sketching,” he says. “When you’re young, you don’t think about jobs like ‘jewellery designer’; you just like looking at something that appears as you’re drawing.”
His eponymous line was a hit, and, in the ’90s, he started creating jewellery for the runway shows of A-listers like Yves Saint Laurent and Christian Lacroix. “They all had different approaches,” he says of the designers. “Lacroix was very trusting. He’d show me the sketches, I’d show up the day of the show with the jewellery and he’d say ‘Bon!’”
By this time, Van Der Straeten was testing other creative waters. In 1997, he was asked to design Dior’s nowiconic J’Adore fragrance bottle. It took him two years and about 50 drafts to reach what he calls the “simplicity and perfection” of the finished product. He also started designing furniture and opened a gallery in Le Marais in 1999.
Guerlain approached Van Der Straeten in 2003 to create the cases for its KissKiss lipstick line. “I was surprised by, for something you bring close to your lips, how many [lipstick cases] had pointy corners and were quite sharp,” he recalls. “I then imagined the way a woman would look for her lipstick in her purse, the feeling she’d have when her fingers found it. I wanted something ergonomic, soft and pleasant to hold.” Van Der Straeten’s design—three rounded gold cubes stacked on top of each other—paid tribute to lipstick’s seductive rituals while epitomizing full-on Hollywood glamour.
Glamour is a subject in which Van Der Straeten is well versed, but, for all of his familiarity with luxury, his definition of taste is refreshingly democratic. “Taste comes from culture,” he says. “If you’re curious, you can learn a lot. That’s what raises your taste level. It’s not about money or owning pieces; it’s about appreciation—taking the time to look and learn.”