The Death of Tiffany’s
n one swift move, Tiffany & Co. has transformed from the Queen of Alexandre Arnault’s chessboard to just another Pawn in the LVMH war chest. Could Tiffany’s latest partnership announcement signal the death of creativity within this illustrious jewellery firm?
Pharrell Williams sporting his pair of replica sunglasses at a Kenzo fashion show, January 2022.
This weekend Tiffany’s announced their “engagement” to celebrity Pharrell Williams. However, instead of proposing with their iconic six-prong ring, Tiffany’s christened their partnership with diamond-studded spectacles. Hand-crafted in 18-karat yellow gold and set with over 25 carats of diamonds and two emeralds, these sunglasses turned heads, but they weren’t all in Tiffany’s direction.
A sotheby's specialist holds a pair of Mughal diamond and emerald glasses, October 2021. Image C/O Sotheby's.
Those who weren’t fixated on Tiffany’s announcement were seeing double while reviewing a widely publicised Sotheby’s auction held in October of 2021, particularly Lot No. 213. Romantically named, The Astaneh-Ye Ferdaws (gates of paradise), these spectacles incarnate the Islamic association with the colour green with that of paradise, salvation and eternity. Adding to their poetic beauty, the emerald lenses are purported to have belonged to Shah Jahan, the 17th-century Indian ruler who commissioned the Taj Mahal for his beloved late wife, Mumtaz Mahal. According to Professor Ebba Koch of the Art Institute of Vienna, the lenses possibly served the Shah in healing his extreme mental state of mourning over the loss of his wife, providing him with a glimpse of his future eternal paradisiacal life.
Tiffany’s branded their version of the glasses as, “custom-designed,” but their true origin is indisputable. Adding insult to injury, at the time of this writing both Tiffany’s and Williams have neglected to publicly acknowledge, or educate, their 26+ million (combined) followers on the design’s source, and cultural significance. While the creator of the original spectacles is unknown and certainly no longer earthbound, it becomes our responsibility to determine if this concept is appropriate. Is it ethical to produce a near one-for-one copy of a historical artefact in pursuit of furthering a corporate agenda? Particularly an artefact rooted in spirituality and possibly a historical figure’s grief?
Lot 213, The Astaneh-Ye Ferdaws (gates of paradise) spectacles. Image C/O Sotheby's.
A Missed Opportunity
There could’ve been a better approach to this project. Why didn’t Tiffany’s, a company which thrives off of Americana and named partnerships take this opportunity to collaborate with another American icon like Ray-Ban? It seems like the perfect chance to model a pair of sunglasses off something that might be more synonymous with American celebrity and luxuries such as the Aviators or Wayfarers.
Pharrell Williams sporting a pair of Ray Ban Wayfareres. Spring/Summer 2013.
From Queen to Pawn
I think the answer to my aforementioned question lies in plain sight. The now infamous Tiffany spectacles were used to announce a partnership with Pharrell Williams, but where did this announcement take place? Not in New York, Tiffany’s hometown and epicentre for the past 185 years. But in Paris, home to the LVMH empire; and specifically at a Kenzo (another house within the LVMH holdings) fashion show where all eyes were on Creative Director Nigo’s debut collection.
Vice President of Tiffany's, Alexandre Arnault with Farrell Williams at a Rimowa event in L.A.
And just like that, Tiffany & Co., an American design institution for nearly 200 years, moves from Queen of the jewellery industry, to pawn of the conglomerate LVMH – pushed around the board to further a self-serving agenda designed to build and elevate its holdings’ reputations.
Is The Queen Dead?
We’ve (recently) been here before with Tiffany & Co. but it now appears to be a trend, and I have a feeling that our closely-knit industry will become tired of this continued game of corporate copycat. While I doubt the Tiffany name will ever cease to exist as a result of these actions, I can’t help but wonder something, “will creativity ever return to 610 5th Avenue?”
Tiffany's Fifth Avenue location.
I certainly hope so. I have to say, it’s sad to see a company that was once synonymous with unique expression and forward-thinking design engaged in the lowest form of creative production. The Queen may not be dead yet, but she’s certainly on life support.