From The Art & Design Issue: Francesca Amfitheatrof

tiffany-design1The moment Holly Golightly stepped out of a yellow cab in the opening sequence of Breakfast at Tiffany’s, a black dress and pearls—especially ones that come in a little blue box—became the height of chic. Even now, 55 years later, the look still wows. But what gives Golightly her enduring cool-girl cred is the nonchalance with which she wears her jewels: strolling down the street at dawn, sipping coffee from a paper cup, a croissant in hand, buttery crumbs everywhere.

It’s this same breezy attitude that makes the latest jewelry collections from Tiffany & Co. feel so of-the-moment. “The woman I’m addressing has a great ease and is very chic,” says Francesca Amfitheatrof, Tiffany’s design director since 2013. She devised the new Tiffany T Two collection of banded rings so they can be playfully stacked and layered, perhaps even worn with jeans and a t-shirt. Never mind that some are set with rows of sparkling diamonds, knocking the stuffy out of fancy goods is the idea. For the pricier Tiffany Prism Masterpieces collection, Amfitheatrof looked to the colour and cheek of pop art and disco to create rings and pendant necklaces that would look at home dangling over the dance floor at Studio54. That every piece is expertly crafted to maximize the tonality of the gemstones isn’t the point. “They’re bold and fun—you want to wear them on a great night out,” says Amfitheatrof. “They’re for a woman looking for jewelry that will bring her joy.”

As the first woman to hold the post of design director at Tiffany’s (and a style star in her own right—in 2015, she made Vanity Fair’s Best Dressed list),  Amfitheatrof brings a personal perspective on how jewelry makes women feel. “I’m a woman, I’m a mother, I’m a Tiffany client, I wear the pieces, and I know what I want to be buying next,” she says. More and more, women are purchasing those pieces for themselves, and their motivations are much different than they are for men. “I laugh and say men always buy sapphires because they feel safe buying blue stones—and it’s kind of true!” says Amfitheatrof. Women, she notes, are much more avant-garde in their approach. “Women buy jewelry in an emotional way. It makes you feel good. It makes you stand differently and walk differently. It’s an incredible position to be in, really, to be able to give women what they’ve been looking for.”

Amfitheatrof arrived at her position after racking up achievements in the worlds of art, fragrance, fashion, furniture and interiors. She studied at the prestigious Central Saint Martins arts school in London, and then trained as a jeweler and silversmith at the Royal College of Art, where she earned a master’s degree. Soon, she was designing for top brands such as Asprey & Garrard, Chanel, and Marni. She has also developed furniture and lighting for interior designer Muriel Brandolini, and curated art exhibits for Museo Gucci in Florence, Italy. Born in Tokyo to an American journalist and an Italian publicist, Amfitheatrof is a U.S. citizen who has nonetheless lived much of her life overseas until she took the job at Tiffany & Co. and moved to New York with her husband and two children.

tiffany-design2            Seeing Manhattan as an outsider again let Amfitheathrof appreciate it anew. The city quickly became her muse, serving up daily inspiration by way of its architecture, energy and attitude, as well as its role in Tiffany’s legacy. The elongated ‘T’ in her debut T collection was, in part, an expression of New York’s soaring vertical cityscape and the women who navigate its concrete corridors. “T reflected that contemporary woman,” says Amfitheatrof. This autumn, her Tiffany Ribbons Masterpieces collection reworked the classic multi-strand necklace, giving its strings of diamonds and pearls a sleeker, more fluid look. And the New York woman it reflects?  “To me, it epitomizes what Holly Golightly would wear today if she was to walk into Tiffany’s,” says Amfitheatrof. Coffee and croissant optional.