“It’s a fantasy, darling!” sang Catherine Baba, eccentric stylist and tastemaker extraordinaire, from her desk at the Gripoix glass workshop. Tomorrow, Baba will debut her first ever jewelry collection, a collaboration with Maison Gripoix, which, established in 1868, is most famous for its early work with Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent, and Elsa Schiaparelli.
Baba, who’s renowned for her styling work with Givenchy, Balmain, Dazed & Confused, and Vanity Fair (just to name a few), her glamorous vintage aesthetic, and her ability to pedal her bike around Paris in sky-high stilettos, has been working on the 12-piece collection since January. “It’s been a difficult birth,” says Baba, explaining that the jewelry is inspired by her own extensive vintage collection and the Romantic and Decadent periods. The works of Yeats, Oscar Wilde, Lord Byron, and illustrator Aubrey Beardsley are infused in each plated-gold and glass bauble.
“She will make anyone look like a diva,” says Baba, gesturing to a blue, red, and absinthe green (”it’s the color of the poets’ drug”) harness-cum-belt she calls the Phoenix. And when the jewelry is worn as intended—that is, piled on—it could make anyone seem like Baba reincarnated. The designer wears her creations just so while gliding around the stone studio, where her Salomé headpiece, named after a work Wilde wrote for Sarah Bernhardt, is being finished with a blowtorch. Her 1920’s silk peignoir, which she describes as her “workwear,” is cinched with the collection’s winged belt. Peacock-inspired blue earrings dangle around her painted face, and her Dragon pendant, finished with a tassel (”we love a pompom!”), completes her decadent look. Her left hand boasts the Vanity ring, a functional accoutrement that cleverly opens to reveal a mirror. “This collection is for my life. I can’t put everything in my little clutch, so it would be nice to wear some of my makeup,” she says, pulling out the Venus cuff, which doubles as a powder compact. The Geisha necklace, made of chain-mail gold with a red glass teardrop, also has a function—it’s an ever elegant lipstick holder. But Baba, who proudly admits she’s designed the collection for herself, asserts, “These pieces are playful but they’re not just gadgets. They’re couture, darling!”
Photos: Michele Silvestro