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French Jewellers, Fred, Welcomes Home Family's Granddaughter

By Caroline Suganda

Fred Samuel's granddaughter, Valérie Samuel, returns to the family's jewellery business as its president and artistic director.
 
Fred
Fred Samuel's granddaughter, Valérie Samuel, returns to the family's jewellery business as its president and artistic director.

For French jeweller Fred, the Force 10 bracelet is an icon in its own right. The late founder, Fred Samuel, was inspired by a gift that his son, Henri (who was a European sailing champion) gave to his wife — a braided sailing cable fastened with a buckle in the shape of a carabiner. Samuel was inspired by the design and his take on this personal gift was a bracelet made up of 1,500 hand-woven steel threads (this makes it super strong), finished with a buckle fashioned from yellow, white or pink gold, and sometimes, set with diamonds. The bracelet has been selling in the boutique since 1966.

Samuel came from a family of jewellers — his parents were jewellers in Argentina. Samuel, who moved to Paris, started his own maison on Rue Royale in 1936. He was known for two things: His love for the French Riviera that inspired many of his creations, and as the go-to jeweller for spectacular jewellery set with large diamonds and coloured stones. His jewellery even made it on to the set of “Pretty Woman” — that stunning necklace of 23 diamond-encrusted heart shapes, each cradling a pear-cut ruby, gently hugging Julia Robert’s neck. Samuel’s warm personality and meticulous attention to service had also quickly won over clients, including celebrities such as Marlene Dietrich and Barbara Hutton, as well as royalty.

In 1996, the brand came under the umbrella of the LVMH group. The maison
 continues to bring together and perpetuate the late founder’s love for the sun,
 sea and light through its brilliantly bejewelled collection. The Force 10 bracelet
 continues to be a key offering of the house. Its interchangeable buckle, which
 allows for numerous combinations to be effected, has even inspired a fine jewellery collection based solely on its design. The Pain de Sucre ring, inspired by Samuel’s drawings, was launched in 1997. This ring, with interchangeable centre stones, offers versatility and wearability, and it has become one of the iconic jewellery pieces of the house since 2013.

This year, 82 years after the brand was conceived, Fred comes full circle as Samuel’s own granddaughter, Valérie Samuel, steps into the roles of vice president and artistic director of the brand.

CAROLINE SUGANDA: What is your first memory of Fred, the brand?


VALÉRIE SAMUEL: I have so many beautiful stories and memories to share; one is definitely the encounter with a royal family from [the] Middle East. They’re loyal customers of the house, and the amazing moment that we have shared together, spending the Christmas Eve evening together, allowing them to select and buy the most amazing jewels until almost midnight... I will never forget that unique and amazing Christmas. Apart from his passion for jewellery and creation that he passed on to me, my grandfather also inspired me with his human values. I remember that, every Saturday morning, he would go to Ladurée, next to our shop at Rue Royale, to buy croissants for his employees. He was grateful to them for going to work on a Saturday.

FredOver the years, the maison continues to bring together and perpetuate the late founder’s love for the sun, sea and light through its distinct and colourful collections.
Over the years, the maison continues to bring together and perpetuate the late founder’s love for the sun, sea and light through its distinct and colourful collections.

CS: Let’s talk about growing up with your grandfather. Does your passion for jewellery come from him?


VS: My great grandparents were jewellers in Argentina, where my grandfather Fred Samuel was born. My grandfather followed his own path by creating his jewellery maison in 1936. I had the opportunity to take my first step there (as Fred’s creative and manufacturing director in 1993). He passed on to me his passion for jewellery; he was for me a model, an inspiration and transmitted to me the values of craftsmanship.

CS: How has Fred changed as a brand? What has not changed?


VS: Fred belongs to the LVMH group,
 since 1996. Six years ago, the maison had undergone a real transformation by putting back the founder, Fred Samuel, in the heart of the brand. I am in line with the repositioning of Fred since my grandfather’s DNA is in the core of the concept.

CS: What took you so long to finally return
 to Fred? How has your career prior to this prepared you for this?


VS: I left the house during the acquisition by the LVMH group because I wanted to stand on my own two feet and gain new professional experiences. I have always followed with great interest the various stages of the maison as part of the group, especially when Mrs Wattine Arnault was president. My return is a story of alchemy, encounter and timing. My past experiences (as Lalique’s international marketing director and Swarovski’s jewellery, watches and accessories’ vice president) have allowed me to develop strategic brand vision and best product expression to answer many different occasion and purpose; to develop the necessary expertise to embrace the position of vice president and artistic director at Fred today.

ChingFrom top: 8°0 white gold necklace with diamonds (medium model), S$3,150, Force 10 white gold and turquoise blue lacquer buckle with corderie turquoise blue steel cable (medium model), S$2,520, 8°0 white gold necklace with diamonds, S$19,250, Force 10 yellow gold and blue paraiba lacquer buckle with blue paraiba steel cable (medium model), S$2,355.
From top: 8°0 white gold necklace with diamonds (medium model), S$3,150, Force 10 white gold and turquoise blue lacquer buckle with corderie turquoise blue steel cable (medium model), S$2,520, 8°0 white gold necklace with diamonds, S$19,250, Force 10 yellow gold and blue paraiba lacquer buckle with blue paraiba steel cable (medium model), S$2,355.

CS: Tell us you about your new role.


VS: My aim as artistic director is to build on Fred’s amazing heritage, to create tomorrow’s best sellers and new stories. Since my arrival, I have been committed to animate our iconic collections such as Force 10, Pain de Sucre, 8°0 — among others — by bringing new silhouettes, style and iterations, but also by opening new territories of the brand’s expressions in line with our DNA. More than ever, we strive to constantly bring modernity to our collections, to play with different ways to wear jewellery. I aspire to perpetuate and evolve the heritage of the house.

CS: You mentioned that you want to give the house fresh emotional appeal while keeping up with the house’s traditions. Tell us more about that.

VS: Fred is the jeweller who shares the joy of life and the pleasures of informal
glamour. Fred jewellery is to be
worn every day, to accompany or magnify everyone’s mood, [from] personal feelings [associated] with the interchangeable concept of the Force 10 and 8°0 bracelets, or with the energy and the meaning of interchangeable stones in the Pain de Sucre collections. Those jewels address both women and men as they allow them to match the stone of their rings or their bracelets to the moment, and respond to all styles and desires.

CS: Let’s talk about Fred’s new jewellery under your artistic direction. How have you revamped the Force 10 and the 8°0 collection?

VS: The timeless Force 10 bracelet has been given another new look. Worn as a necklace
 or a bracelet, the cable features a line of bright, glittering diamonds. The latest interpretation in white gold and diamonds is glittering, imbued with frivolity. The Force 10 continues to evolve with a new variation on its famous buckle. Inspired by carabiners, the buckle is emphasised, multiplied and interspersed with gold links forming the original Force 10 cable. The new 8°0 collection is the perfect mix between heritage and creativity. Heritage because we have kept, from our DNA, the number eight as a sign of luck, but [it] also forms the sea knot. We have new designs with even more harmonious shapes, delicate proportions and also the possibility of wearing many bracelets at the same time.


ChingTop, from top right to bottom: 8°0 pink gold chain bracelet with diamonds (medium model), S$3,100, 3-pattern bracelet with diamonds (medium model), S$5,850, earrings with diamonds (medium model) S$7,450, bracelet with diamonds (small model), S$1,850, double chain necklace with diamonds (medium model), S$6,000.
Top, from top right to bottom: 8°0 pink gold chain bracelet with diamonds (medium model), S$3,100, 3-pattern bracelet with diamonds (medium model), S$5,850, earrings with diamonds (medium model) S$7,450, bracelet with diamonds (small model), S$1,850, double chain necklace with diamonds (medium model), S$6,000.

CS: Onto the business side, what are your plans for the company?

VS: We want to capitalise on our rich heritage and renew our DNA in today’s trends, but at the same time, always keeping our daring and innovative state of mind.


CS: What is the philosophy, do you think, your grandfather built the brand upon?


VS: His passion for jewellery was joined by a quest for the sunlight that illuminated his childhood in Argentina. To this source of endless inspiration, he added his love of the sea, whose power and splendour gave rise to several celebrated chapters in the maison’s history. My grandfather’s natural aesthetic sensitivity, together with his radical view of jewellery as part of everyday life, especially for women, enabled him to build a brand as timeless as it is distinctive. Describing himself in 1936 as a modern, creative jeweller, he staked a claim for modernity based on striking jewellery, pieces with rounded, curvaceous outlines.

Today, the maison honours its founder’s unquestioning love for the bright, bold and beautiful, while demonstrating the maison's mastery of personalisation and the versatility of its jewellery collections.