Irène Studio: The World in the Palm of Your Hand

How many times have you heard a designer declare that architecture was the source of inspiration for their collection? More than once, I’m sure. But it would be no exaggeration to say that the way in which this inspiration manifested itself for Marie Genon, the founder of Irène Studio, was innovative. A former scenographer who worked on the most extraordinary fashion shows imagined by Karl Lagerfeld and realised by Stefan Lubrina, Marie has combined her experience of working outside the jewellery profession with the craftsmanship of the renowned Parisian atelier Bermudes. Together, they have created three debut pieces that feature in Act I of the Scenography high jewellery collection, inspired by the world-famous Grand Palais, one of Paris’ most iconic monuments.

Why exactly did this building serve as the inspiration for these three Scenography jewels: a brooch, cuff bracelet and cocktail ring? To find out, we must travel back in time...

Irène Studio moodboard

“The starting point for the establishment of Irène Studio was Karl Lagerfeld’s Fall / Winter 2012 ready-to-wear fashion show and its quartz-studded décor at the Grand Palais. The project then gradually came to me over the course of eight years, while I was working on fashion shows and set designs. The level of precision and detail required grew more sophisticated and the methods more precise. Working with metal in my previous profession, which is part of the mock-up process, allowed me to achieve precision when it came to jewellery and was what pushed me to enrol at the Haute École de Joaillerie in Paris. I wanted to hone my technical skills and bring ideas to life using precious materials.”

It could be said that the brand was born when sketching jewels was no longer enough for Marie. That moment when she decided to follow her heart to tell a story, the narrative of which is focused on precious stones viewed through the prism of her many years of work with one of the most talented designers and artists of the 20th century.

Irène Studio The Glass Roof opening ring from the Scenography collection

The first part of the Scenography collection – Act I – is a jewellery interpretation of the glass roof of the Grand Palais that embodies all the passion, courage and creative impulse of the beginning of the last century in Paris. It can be seen in the three pieces in different ways: in the ring as a reduced-size model (1:5,000), and in the cuff and brooch as a reimagined architectural drawing. Marie has in essence reinvented the great palace in white gold, diamonds, rock crystal, colourless sapphires, aquamarines and emeralds.

The supporting “frame” of the bracelet is inspired by the scaffolding, captured in photographs during the construction of the palace in 1898, on which vines climb and streams of water flow downwards (note how the aquamarine cabochons run along gold “rails” and even make a soft sound reminiscent of falling rain). The bracelet’s crowning element is a four-sided star, which mimics the silhouette of the Grand Palais’ central dome, realised in white gold and covered with a mosaic of hand-carved rock crystal pieces.

Irène Studio. The Glass Roof opening ring in the making

Incidentally, you will notice that the most interesting details on the cuff and brooch are not displayed on the exterior but incorporated into the reverse of the pieces. If you look closely through the rock crystal, you can see an incredibly detailed drawing of the palace dome, depicted in cut-out gold. This is a real innovation because the technique used for such delicate work has not, in principle, been used in jewellery before – it was borrowed from the world of scenography and was Marie’s idea. After several months of experimentation and a lot of trial and error, the craftsmen at Bermudes succeeded in achieving the desired result.

Creating the Scenography opening ring was also no easy feat. The stone carver put considerable effort into recreating the voluminous dome in tiny rock crystal elements. Inherently quite fragile, it required great skill, patience and time to cut more than 30 elements, each a couple of millimetres in size, out of the rock crystal. The next step was to set them in gold, with several parts cracking in the process, requiring them to be cut again. But thanks to Marie and the jewellers’ pursuit of perfection, someone will now be able to own this masterpiece of a jewel. The last of the three pieces is a delicate brooch, set with a 1.00 carat diamond in the centre – a tribute to Karl Lagerfeld, who regularly wore Belperron brooches on his tie.

The Dome brooch in white gold with rock crystal and diamonds by Irène Studio

Now that I have introduced you to Act I of the Scenography collection, I would like to add a couple of words about its creator. Born in Belgium, Marie Genon relies exclusively on GIA certified diamonds from Antwerp that meet the Kimberley Process criteria. Irène Studio turned out to be very personal for Marie, which is clearly mirrored in its name: Marie lent it her middle name, which is also the name of her artist grandmother. The principle behind Irène Studio is a thorough study of each stage in the jewellery-making process, uniting emotions and techniques to reflect what we see around us. In so doing, Marie has, in effect, made the whole world her stage, with Act I of this virtuoso performance the three exquisite jewels from the Scenography high jewellery collection.

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