Louis Vuitton presents its Acte V high jewellery collection on the island of Capri
Flight of fantasy
If I had to think up the material embodiment of the word 'escape', it would most certainly be Casa Malaparte, a house built by Curzio Malaparte, the Italian journalist, writer, dramatist and diplomat, who took the pseudonym Malaparte, loosely translated as 'the dark side', in defiance of 'Bonaparte', which literally means 'good side'. The house was conceived in 1937 by Italian architect Adalberto Libera but Malaparte made radical changes to Libera's original drafts and built it with the help of local stonemasons.
Only a misanthrope, anarchist and a romantic like him could dream up this house, which eventually became his self-portrait made of stone. He called it Casa Come Me ('A house like me') and described it in an essay in 1940 as a 'portrait in stone'. Minimalistic and brutal in style (it was built 15 years before the appearance of brutalism), the house is a sloping terracotta parallelepiped located at Cape Massoulié, overlooking the Gulf of Salerno. Accessible only by boat, one had to climb the 99 steps cut into rock to reach Casa Malaparte.
And it was here in this legendary home that Louis Vuitton had chosen to show the new Acte V collection, aptly named The Escape. We ascended the 99 rock steps to Casa Malaparte (the women were urged to wear flat shoes), which eventually led us to the staircase to the roof, the very same one in which Brigitte Bardot famously ran through in Jean-Luc Godard's Le Mépris. For most of us, Godard's film was, up to this point, the only opportunity to have a peek into the interiors of this house.
Beyond the hallway decorated with furniture made from sketches by Malaparte himself, was a pure white space with stone flooring, a massive polished wooden table with curvy edges and a fireplace, which set the scene of the presentation. Models walked around in black suits and sandals embellished with the letter 'V', and of course the jewellery. It was a scene straight out of a Godard movie: beautiful girls by the windows with a view of the Faraglioni, one of the most famous views in Capri.
The new Acte V collection is dedicated to streamline, the inspiration of Art Deco-style, with its curves, rounded contours and long horizontal lines. There were long necklaces, with tassels of pearls, Newport-style diamond bracelets and earrings curved and twisted into a spiral line. Turquoise Grand Feu enamel, covered with guilloche in a fan-shaped central element on a Beau Rivage necklace, its colours reminiscent of sea we were surrounded by. Another piece resplendent in its extraordinary purity was the Capri necklace, where the depth and size of the central African tourmaline dazzled its viewers in a scintillating aquamarine color. The most impressive of all, though, was the Majestic necklace, with a large triangular black opal its central focus. Its rounded edges were fixed only on the corners, which held this piece open to the light, catching and reflecting in shades of dark purple to flashing red - almost psychedelic in its visual effect.
Emotion is the key word here - the stones used in the jewellery are not just chosen for their size or price tag - they need to evoke emotion, and therein lies their seductive power. The new Acte V collection showcases Louis Vuitton's savoir-faire; even with the sheer size of the gemstones, the jewellery still came across with a sense of lightness, a touch of dreaminess, the embodiment of 'The Escape'.
Dinner that evening was served on the rooftop patio, where we dined on local risotto with local fish caught that morning. "There's no other place in Italy with such a depth of feeling," says Hamdi Chatti, Louis Vuitton's vice president of jewellery and watches. "This is, without doubt, a place that is suitable only for the strong and free spirit." And in that majestic house we sat in, in the fading pink and purple light of the sunset surrounded by the crisp scent of lemon trees, truer words could not have been spoken.