Tiffany’s Reinvents Itself for the Selfie Age

Holly Golightly Doesn’t Have Breakfast Here Anymore — But Fashion Bloggers Do

BY // 09.09.16

It’s a classic: “The only thing that does any good is to jump in a cab and go to Tiffany’s,” says Holly Golightly in  Breakfast at Tiffany’s. “The quietness and the proud look of it. Nothing very bad could happen to you there.” But we’re living in a time that is neither Charles Lewis Tiffany’s 1837 nor Holly Golightly’s 1961.

Rather, ours is a complicated age of Snapchat and selfies, fashion blogs and Instagram. How can a legendary American brand, even one that became a silver-screen celebrity, stay relevant?

“Tiffany is becoming a design-led brand,” says Francesca Amfitheatrof, Tiffany & Co. design director. “It’s a shift. It’s a massive, massive shift. But it’s a shift that’s having the right reaction. People are responding.”

Hiring Amfitheatrof in 2013 was Tiffany’s first swing toward defining itself as a more contemporary, creative brand. Her career has not been limited to jewelry — or to major household-name companies: She has designed furniture and lighting for Muriel Brandolini, co-founded an agency that represents contemporary artists, and worked as an art consultant and curator. When she launched her debut T by Tiffany collection that year, it was a wild success, adding a notably more modernist element to Tiffany & Co.’s stable of collections.

Francesca Amfitheatrof
Francesca Amfitheatrof

But more was to come. This spring, during Tiffany’s annual Blue Book Gala celebrating its exclusive collection of one-of-a-kind jewels, held at the Cunard Building in lower Manhattan, an unexpected guest arrived. Her black-tie attire consisted of black lounge pants and sneakers. You could spot the red hair a mile away. It was Grace Coddington, fresh from her final days as a longtime creative director of Vogue. It seemed an unusual appearance for Coddington, as a majority of the 300 guests were top Tiffany clients, many of whom had purchased a piece from the Blue Book collection during the two days prior.

Some were unrecognizable dignitaries and jewelry-buying billionaires, hailing from the U.S. to Asia and the Middle East, save for a few celebrities such as Naomi Watts, Reese Witherspoon, Diane Kruger, and Jessica Biel, and socialites Lauren Santo Domingo and Eve Hewson, daughter of U2 front man Bono. A few weeks later, news broke, and it all made sense: Coddington had signed on as a creative partner for Tiffany & Co. Adding one of fashion’s most recognizable — and most innovative — figures to its roster was a fashion coup of major proportions for the company.

Grace Coddington at Tiffany Blue Book Gala
Grace Coddington at Tiffany Blue Book Gala

Several months later, in late July, Coddington posted a witty illustration she’d drawn on Instagram. Six characters surround a photographer; his lens is aimed at a woman posing in a Tiffany-blue set. The caption: “Having fun with the team on set photographing Lupita Nyongo for Tiffany & Co. fall campaign. I’m the one with the red hair!” The photographer was the legendary David Sims, whose images of models wearing haute couture in Versailles became famous when behind-the-scenes footage of the shoot was featured in the documentary The September Issue. As for the illustration? It depicts the photo shoot for Tiffany’s Fall 2016 campaign — a moody, artful departure from the brand’s past marketing efforts. With the slogan “Legendary Style,” this will be the first time Tiffany has featured celebrities in its ads.

From the hiring of Coddington to Amfitheatrof’s art-driven vision, it’s all part of a larger effort to reinvent Tiffany & Co. — to make it more fashionable. This summer, CFDA Award-winning designer Reed Krakoff was brought on to reinvigorate Tiffany’s gifts, home, and accessories collections.

“We’re in a moment of evolution,” says Amfitheatrof. The evolution has much to do with need to make a seemingly stagnant brand refreshed, relevant, and profitable. But it also has to do with a change in the zeitgeist. “Women don’t want to buy jewelry that just sits in a safe, or that feels old. Women are interested in enjoying their jewelry,” she says. “There is more style around jewelry. More design around jewelry. It’s evolving.”

No surprise, then, that Amfitheatrof’s aforementioned Spring Blue Book collection for Tiffany was called “The Art of Transformation,” with otherworldly pieces drawn from nature, the ultimate symbol of growth: A brooch shaped like an octopus clutches a gargantuan pearl; magnificent bib necklaces prove feats of craftsmanship with their malleable, figure-forming, diamond– and rare-gem-covered designs. Even the famous six-prong engagement-ring setting, which Tiffany invented and debuted 130 years ago, underwent a transformation. “I do future classics to have a bit of fun with the diamonds,” says Amfitheatrof of the 8.5-carat ring, the setting swathed in pavé diamonds.

The idea of creating future classics is in Tiffany’s DNA, says Amfitheatrof. “Before, when you traveled, you’d take a Saint Christopher or a four-leaf clover. I was just asking our design team, ‘What are those pieces in the future? What are they going to be?’” Even the actual classics — designs that have been retired — are getting new life in the Out of Retirement collection, where archival pieces are rereleased. Suddenly, an interlocking set of gold and wood bangles, a flask in the shape of a fish, and a silver pillbox resembling a Chinese food take-out box seem new again. How can one, after all, look forward without first looking back? With a history like Tiffany’s, you can’t.

“We have always had moments of great modernity,” Amfitheatrof says. “Charles Lewis Tiffany brought diamonds to America when nobody wore diamonds. People were wearing paste. His son was inspired by the artistic milieu in Paris. We’ve had so many great designers throughout the history of Tiffany that have revolutionized jewelry.”

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