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by Maëlle Viaouët
January 23, 2019

An interview with Yvonne Léon, creator of the eponymous jewel brand Yvonne Léon

Concise. Yvonne Léon doesn’t dwell on what is superfluous. She gives life to what laid buried deep within her. Five years ago, she put herself into motion. Every sketch and draft from her notebook ended up as a jewel. Quite naturally. It happened fluidly, without any particular foresight. Since then, she has opened a shop on the Left Bank. While the opening of a second shop is underway, Yvonne strolls, draws and models what makes a woman fashionable. Let’s meet with a creator for whom jewelry feels like a second home.

“Look and Read…”

 

Capsule Mademoiselle, disponible sur notre Shop
Capsule Mademoiselle, disponible sur notre Shop
Capsule Mademoiselle, disponible sur notre Shop

the interview

TOWNHOUSE (LÉA)

You are today the founder of Yvonne Léon Paris, a French jewelry brand. What’s been your professional path?

YVONNE LÉON

I attended Esmod, a fashion design school. I then multiplied the opportunities of internship, either in the media or in the prêt-à-porter industry. Afterwards, I found my way back to jewelry. Well, not my way back, since I had not been there. Given that my family works in that industry, it seemed obvious to step back into that world.

TOWNHOUSE (LÉA)

What made you decide to reconnect with « your childhood’s jewelry » ?

YVONNE LÉON

I never really left jewelry. At the same time as I built my work experience, I developed projects and creations related to jewelry. To craft jewelry was only the next logical step. I didn’t think to myself: « I stop what I’m currently doing in order to pick jewelry ».

TOWNHOUSE (LÉA)

How did Yvonne Léon become what it is now: a French brand with vintage inspirations as well as a « brand new » look on jewelry?

YVONNE LÉON

Exactly five years ago, I created my own company. It felt quite natural. I designed several models or I recycled models that I had designed ten years ago. I gathered all my ideas into what would become a collection. I’d even say that my collection was made by itself, without any marketing plan. I quickly encountered afterwards important resellers such as Montaigne Market and Browns in London. Lots of doors were opened. There was real demand. The timing was fitting.

TOWNHOUSE (LÉA)

What does it take to « create » a jewel?

YVONNE LÉON

You start with the desire of wearing something particular, of linking the product to a definite outfit or moment. That desire can absolutely stem from a painting, an object or a range of colors. I never imagine a product as the missing piece of a collection. Starting from my ideas, I sketch. On the paper, I model what I want to model. I then develop a 3D sample, a maquette, a piece of wax with the volume imprints (just like the wax from the dentist) and the jewel comes out of it.

Regarding distribution, I organize my collection meetings around the Fashion Week. Otherwise, I correspond by mail with the clients who pass orders.
What’s different with the way Yvonne Léon proceeds is that I wear the jewels that I make, I try them, I check whether they can be worn or not. I live with them. I make the jewel my own. It’s not just something that I design and then sell afterwards.

TOWNHOUSE (LÉA)

How did you find your trademark?

YVONNE LÉON

An Yvonne Léon jewel is a jewel that pleases both me and my team. That I want to make. That has a playful character. That makes me smile. That is well-designed when it comes to volume. That acknowledges vintage inspiration, including in the way we craft the gold. We keep on trying to multiply the ways the jewel can be worn.

Our DNA consists in mixing genres, such as a crab with a viviane. Our particularity as a jewel brand also comes from the fact that our earrings are sold individually. The client can choose to wear one or two depending on her style. If she is more into a classic style, she will buy the full pair.

TOWNHOUSE (LÉA)

You admitted that you come from a family of « creators - jewelers ». What is creativity to you, then?

YVONNE LÉON

When I was a girl, I used to see my father making models out of modeling clay. He would set stones on it. It may have influenced me. I am not sure.
In a way, my father has been a role model. He is behind the diamond below-the-ear. He made it for my mother in the 80s because she wasn’t ready to pierce her ear a second time. That technique provides movement, added creativity. It is a family creation, which I reworked afterwards with bees and pearls.

My father’s opinion still matters a lot today. His expertise as stone setter provides me with a very technical feedback. He gives me advice on the volumes, so that they can fit better to the ear.
(hesitations)

What I don’t like to do is witnessing what others are making. It will unconsciously inspire me with ideas. And that isn’t creativity. Creativity is listening to oneself.
I prefer to have free rein. The more directed I am, the more difficult I find it to create.

TOWNHOUSE (LÉA)

When your inspiration fails you, what do you do to find your way back?

YVONNE LÉON

When it happens, I don’t think about it. I carry on. I focus on other things. I don’t force myself. There is no rule, even though going to flea markets helps me to recover.

TOWNHOUSE (LÉA)

What do you do when you wake-up?

YVONNE LÉON

I drink a lot of coffee in the morning. I bring my son to school. I go to the office and at the end of the day, I leave it (laughs). Oh, I almost forgot: on the way to work, I always take a coffee, in a neighborhood coffee of the 1st arrondissement.

My schedule changes every day. Depending on the emails received, we dress a never-ending list of tasks. That’s how we fix our priorities and objectives. To create a collection, I save specific hours to avoid getting overbooked. Or sometimes, I can also design the collection from home. To launch a collection, I can work on it one week or one month, it varies. Most of the time, I realize about four collections per year. There’s no ground rule since we always welcome novelties. I don’t want to limit myself to collections. I want to be able to launch production whenever I want to.

TOWNHOUSE (LÉA)

What brand or creator do you tend to praise and recommend?

YVONNE LÉON

Too much! In prêt-à-porter fashion, I like Jacquemus for the smartness of its cuts. I notice the craftsmanship behind the cuts. I also wear Acne. It’s original, uncommon, and wearable. I very much like Barrie, additionally. I am in awe of their stitching, it’s refined!

TOWNHOUSE (LÉA)

What is your perspective on jewelry and its industry?

YVONNE LÉON

Mindsets are changing. Men aren’t expected to buy jewelry for their spouse anymore. Women indulge themselves, and to them, a jewel is now a common accessory.

In the future, I imagine that jewelry will be more affordable. People will consume it differently; perhaps they will consume it more because they will renew it more. I can already observe this with my clients, who are loyal customers. At first they want an individual earring, then a ring, then a second earring. I also notice that they wear the jewel that they buy, they don’t lock it in a casket.

TOWNHOUSE (LÉA)

What’s your motto (which you repeat all around you) ?

YVONNE LÉON

Nothing ventured, nothing gained!

Opening the shop was a challenge, the timing wasn’t exactly fitting. Eventually, we decided to pursue it to the end. We did that one year and a half ago. The icing on the cake. It was important for the brand to grow and to have its very own shop.

TOWNHOUSE (LÉA)

What does your desk look like?

YVONNE LÉON

It really is a mess, but I always find my way around it. I don’t stray from it, I’m always close by. You can always spot on it a cup of coffee, cookies or something equivalent.

TOWNHOUSE (LÉA)

What is the Yvonne Léon jewel you never take off?

YVONNE LÉON

It is the feuilletis. It is a long white-gold and diamond chain with vintage inspiration. I wear it constantly, during the day as well as in the evening. I take it off for bed, of course. This model goes well with everything. It’s one of the first jewels I’ve ever commercialized.

TOWNHOUSE (LÉA)

What does the future hold for Yvonne Léon Paris? Some secret we could share around?

YVONNE LÉON

We would like to open a second shop, preferably on the Right Bank. This project is underway!

One year ago, we also launched a capsule collection with nine-carat gold, which is more affordable but remains within the spirit of the brand. This line doesn’t use diamond as much, and the alloy is different, yet of the same quality. The capsule collection’s content gets richer with each season and new collection passing. There always is renewal going on.

TOWNHOUSE (LÉA)

Would you have some advice to impart to creative people interested by entrepreneurship?

YVONNE LÉON

Do what you enjoy doing!