Jewellery designer Charlotte Chesnais has carved her own space in the industry.
Unique, distinct and one-of-a-kind, Chesnais has continually placed integrity above all else when it comes to designing.
Can you talk us through your career from the beginning to where you are now?
I started to work at 20 as a junior ready-to-wear designer at Balenciaga with Nicolas Ghesquiere – I stayed there for nine years and this is where I discover and start to work on jewellery. When he left for Louis Vuitton, I left as well and start freelancing for different brands such as APC, Paco Rabanne and Dior. Then I decided to launch my namesake jewellery brand in 2015 when I was expecting my first son.
How did you end up becoming an entrepreneur?
Both of my parents are so I guess it’s a normal pattern for me. I didn’t really think about it as the launch of my brand was a very organic move. But today, managing almost 20 people, I realize what it means and the responsibilities that come with a company.
You launched your eponymous brand six years ago – how has it evolved?
As I said it was a very naive project at the beginning, with a strong wish to make beautiful and new jewellery but no business expectations. But the first collection was successful immediately, and I had to hire someone quite quickly, like six months later. The company has grown, of course, we are sold in 30 countries and have opened our first Parisian store last year, but I would love to keep the spirit of a small house as long as possible.
What is the inspiration behind your designs?
I don’t have direct inspiration, as my work is very personal and mostly comes from my head. But I am very curious when it comes to architecture and sculpture, and it’s not a secret I am fond of Jean Arp, Barbara Hepworth and Pol Burry which probably influence me a lot.
What do you hope people feel when they wear a piece you designed?
My work isn’t conventional, so I guess choosing my jewellery shows a strong personality. I hope people feel a bit special with them, confident and I hope they enjoy wearing my jewellery as much as I enjoy creating it.
There really is nothing else like your designs on the market. Tell us more?
Well, I am glad you noticed it because designing something different and having a very personal proposal is what I have been concentrating on since the beginning. On the other hand, I have to admit that I see many ‘little sister’ brands, that would have probably taken a different direction without my work if you know what I mean.
You’ve previously described your jewellery as “unexpected”. Can you elaborate on this?
The unexpected part happens when you try on the jewellery. What you see on a tray is very different from what you see when the piece is on – there is a real interaction with the body.
What is your design process like?
It’s driven by the fact that my skill for sketching what I have in mind is quite low. To elaborate my pieces directly at the atelier, like a sculptor, I work with craftsmen people, bend, twist, dig the metal and the magic happens!
How have you stayed true and integral to your unique design process?
Going to the atelier is probably one of my favourite things in my job, so I always make sure I have time for this important step. Now I am also exploring a bit with 3D sketches on my computer. I did training during the first lockdown. It can be super helpful, but it doesn’t replace the real mock-ups.
What is a philosophy that you live by in your professional life?
We try to be on our best behaviour every day. Take one subject at a time and never procrastinate. Be regular on the work, to avoid the crazy and stressful moments. Our team is super kind, with great energy, but I value personal life.
What are some of the key lessons you would like people to take from your career?
The best one for me is to have worked in a quite big company for at least five to six years. It’s the best way to learn how the entire industry works.
Looking back over your career, can you tell us about three hurdles you’ve had to overcome?
I wouldn’t speak of hurdles but more of challenges. For example, one of the most difficult things, when a company is growing, is finding a good person that will join your team and keep expanding the structure with you. Also having 3 kids within the first 3 years of the company is quite a thing! even if looking back, I think it set me up to have a good mindset.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, what are your top three milestones to date?
Well, it’s only been seven years so a throwback is maybe early, but I would pick The Andam prize that I have won – best accessory designer in 2015, the opening of my first store in 2020 and my collaboration with Sacai and Byredo.
Do you have any mentors or guides who have helped you throughout your career?
I have been working in the fashion industry for more than 17 years and most of my friends are also coming from fashion. They have different positions, from CEO to PR, or even designer. Some of them have been by my side since the beginning of the adventure, and I know that when I am doubting, I can call them.
This is The Integrity Issue – what does this mean to you?
I am a very faithful person, I believe in a strong relationship with my ateliers, and my resellers. For me, it’s key to stick to your value, to know where you’re coming from and be grateful for what you have.
April’s – ‘The Integrity Issue’ – Download Now
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