Behind Lise Vanrycke’s smile

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Lise was one of the first jewellery designers I met in my previous life, when I was a creator myself, exactly 10 years ago.

At my first Premiere Classe trade fair in 2006, I was her neighbour, and used to observe her with the curiosity of a neophyte, because on her stand everything was absolutely perfect and coherent and because it was never empty from day one till the end.

Lise did brilliantly at every show, arousing desire, longing and all my admiration. I’m built like a big grasshopper whilst she’s more ladybird size, but I’ve always looked upon her as a biggie, and time hasn’t proven me wrong.

For 16 years, Lise has built the Vanrycke brand without a single false move, with constancy and clear-sightedness, without ever straying from her path, and with a gentle tenacity that spells out her strength of character and the affirmation of her choices.

What struck me from the first moment about this girl was her discretion and the kindly look she bestowed on everybody and everything.

The success of her brand changed nothing about her. She still ressembles an eternal teenager who refuses to play the fashion game, yet at the same time reveres it, and this casual elegance has become her signature. She manages the exploit of looking only like herself : a young girl dreaming in the big guy’s playground.

With her long hair, freckles and sparkling eyes, Lise always seems to be smiling. I don’t think I’ve ever caught her in a bad mood, neither during the stress of the fair, nor in the heat of a discussion, suffice to say this is not the case for everybody, especially me : I used to turn into a rottweiler during exhibiton seasons …

As she says so very well, success gave her confidence, and it’s doubtless this feeling of being permanently recognized that keeps her so perfectly well-balanced. She draws her inspiration from life, from the street, from all that she sees and likes. This insatiable curiosity is closely linked to her empathy, and her empathy is closely linked to her creation.

I’d wanted to do the portrait of Lise in March, because I’d worked with her team a bit in my mission as buyer for the shop Macle created by Selim Mouzannar in Beirut. I’d found her extremely professional, formidably efficient (the only brand which delivers 3 weeks after ordering, with hardly any balance, quite a performance!) And her communication was impeccable : her instagram feeds of photos of pretty actresses wearing her jewellery are her best ambassadresses. As for her marketing documents, they’re all in her image: sober, elegant and effective.

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At that time, Lise was in full launch of Styloïde (the famous bracelet which emphasizes the bone in your wrist, which I talked about in my news at the rentree, available exclusively at Colette!) She was so obsessed by this product, the fruit of 3 years development, that she spent the whole lunch chatting about Styloïde, describing from A to Z the complex phases of its technical development, communicating to me gaily her enthusiasm for the project.

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By the end of lunch, my head was full of Styloïde, but I didn’t know anything more about Lise. I realized that that was completely symptomatic of her personality: extremely discreet about herself, indefatigable about her jewellery.

I let some time pass, and then I returned to the battle, because I thought the subject “Lise” deserved a bit more attention.

We met again in July, I found her downstairs from her office at the hairdresser’s Rodolphe, where she admitted that the colour expert had just rescued her hair from becoming dreadfully blonde. Undoubtedly the real Lise still has a teenager’s obsessive-compulsive disorders, it’s been ages since I gave in to risky, capillary fantasies … it can be hilarious … at least, for others!

She took me to Da Rosa, a charming cafe/tea room on the rue de Mont Thabor, which she’s adopted as her HQ, and there I discovered the girl who hides behind the teenager with the Mona Lisa smile.

She told me a lot about her childhood, about the inheritance of precision and for work well-done which had been passed on to her by her parents, a father photographer and mother a painter specialising in cartography, who used to set out her maps, Indian inks and graduated rulers in the evening on the dining room table.

I have a feeling that it’s from this family cocoon and from the precision of her mother’s work that Lise first discovered her yearning to draw. She speaks with admiration about patience and rigour, two fundamental values which she’s always had and which guide her.

Obviously she desired to study art, and dedicated herself to visual arts at university, where she was passionate about drawing, portraits and screenprinting. She tells me that as soon as she left the faculty, she rented a garage with 3 friends to create objects, for her it was jewellery, always a sure thing.

Regarding this period, and in fact all others, I think that Lise remembers only the good things, because for her, everything links together so splendidly.

Her brand started off in 2000, just after the creation of the concept store Colette (1997) and the Premiere Classe fair (the same period), and she was destined to be a member of this pioneer generation who’s going to impose a really new style in jewellery.

Before 2000, there were the brands from the place Vendôme and the big popular costume jewellery brands like Agatha, and that was it. The choice in jewellery was conventional and very boring, all the girls from the same social group wore the very same thing.

Following the instigation of creators such as Lise de Vanrycke, Marie-Hélène de Taillac, Frédérique de Ginette NY, Aurélie Biderman and Marie Poniatowski of Stone, lots of very talented, young newcomers arrived in the field, whose jewellery immediately sold like hot cakes. Lise was lucky enough, with also the talent, to be a part of this gravy train, that was called at first “guiltfree jewellery”, an absurd and irrelevant label as far as I’m concerned, jewellery never having been a source of the slightest complex whatsoever in my book…

She showed her first collection of jewellery in a rented shop on the rue du Jour, which later became a Zadig et Voltaire boutique. It worked, so she decided to participate in the Premiere Classe fair. At that time, there was a strict selection policy to have a booth at the show : creators had to propose an accessory on a theme.

Premiere Classe made them work on an idea for a piece of jewellery relating to the body. Lise thought up a bracelet which would emphasize the unnoticed small bone on the outer side of the wrist, the first Styloïde was born, the brand Vanrycke was accepted at Premiere Classe and Colette, and off she went in a regularly ascending trajectory which continues even today.

What made the success of Vanrycke at first were fine silver pieces, unusually-shaped medallions, an appealing message, a chain that fastens in an unexpected way, a signature item of a coloured mini tassel, understated, graceful and affordable jewellery, that looks good on the skin, that we’d like to accumulate ad infinitum.

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Lise tells me she was always motivated by the desire to make coherent, effective, practical, comfortable things, that one could wear daily. I believe that’s what people appreciated first of all in her jewellery and I remember the success of her heart outline necklace, made with gold thread, which all the girls used to wear. Nothing particularly revolutionary, but its essence was a bit different, just a feature, the thickness of the thread, the proportion, in brief, a detail which accentuates all the charm of Lise’s jewellery.

The brand grew, changing its name from Lise Vanrycke to Vanrycke, which resonates more clearly, moved from silver to pink gold, from the bohemian East of Paris to the prestigious perimetre of the place Vendôme, and for the past 3 years has moved right up to the top of the range using micropave diamonds, the highlight of which is the Styloïde bracelet, launched exclusively at Colette on September 15th.

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From the trajectory of the brand Vanrycke, we can read Lise’s story between the lines.

Its name is taken from Stéphane, her husband, who has worked with her daily from the start.

Her creations are the expression of her innate sense of purity and perfect balance, gleaned from masters of minimal art, such as Carl André whom she admires, and include Charlotte Perriand, Pina Bausch, Mies Van Der Rohe, and the virtuoso of light James Turrell. When she listed all these big names of design, I was a bit surprised, as I only vaguely know of Mondrian (and this thanks to the hair lacquer Studio Line by L’Oréal, the major capillary accessory of my youth).

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The Styloïde, which she’s launching now, is on the cusp between jewellery and luxury watch-making, a sort of journey into her past, a recollection for the future, she says. It reuses the idea of her first Styloïde, from her beginnings, and the memory of the watch with a metallic elastic bracelet, a present from her father to her mother, which she always wore on her wrist.

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When Lise had the idea to redevelop her first Styloide to become a comfortable, ergonomic, perfectly elegant bracelet, she made a connection between the two of them, working hard to find technical solutions which would result in this unique and incredibly modern bracelet.

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The evolution of her jewellery acknowledges the evolution of her desires, within a demanding style from which she has never budged. Her instinct guides her, she draws all the time, especially in Paris cafés, quickly sketching her ideas into Moleskine notebooks, her “ideas almanach”.

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And she’s watching, all the time.

She looks at people, pretty girls passing by in the street, their graceful vitality. She also looks at fashion, which she goes through with a fine-tooth comb, especially Hedi Slimane and Isabel Marant, whose work she admires particularly.

And then when the right time manifests itself, she locks herself inside her office in the evening, when all is quiet, takes out her graph paper, slide gauge and Pentel mechanical pencil, and draws the piece of jewellery with maximum concentration, as close as possible to reality and the constraints of production.

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In this phase she doesn’t not dream any longer, she anticipates, calculates, proportions, as she says, efficiency is her priority. She no doubt reverts to being the diligent child concentrating on her copy, to whom we cannot talk any longer and who will only get her breath back once the drawing is totally finished.

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Perfect, ready to be produced, without a shadow of doubt.

She tells me that in the beginning she made all her moulds herself, but now she subcontracts, admitting with pride that her supplier adores her, her drawings are so precise, there are so few retouches to make before arriving at the correct prototype!

From listening to her, I realise to what extent my own jewellery creations are rather do-it-yourself. Mine are quite ham-fisted and I realize when Lise speaks to me about her own work, that jewellery-making is above all a work of precision, an activity where the unpredictable is the devil.

Moreover, for everything to do with her brand, Lise admits to me that she never delegates, declaring with this original sentence: ” I prefer doing it myself, otherwise it’s going to annoy me, and I’ll get acid reflux!! “

I can glimpse there a tiny part of what could constitute perhaps the only thorny feature of her personality: she is totally uncompromising. From the merchandising material, which she draws herself, to the Syloide lookbook which she directs and whose photos she has taken herself, Lise is the complete art director. Moreover for this posting, she wouldn’t let me release anything, no unchecked portrait, no hastily snatched photos, she sent me perfect photos of her Pentel pencils, her notebooks and of her Mother’s watch which inspired the 2016 Styloïde.

It’s almost 4pm on this beautiful, scorching July day, I’m still sitting with Lise on the terrace of Da Rosa, chatting while everyone else has gone back to work.

I admire what she has built, her constancy, and the paradox of delicacy and determination which emanates from her gracious persona.

I think that we could have stayed there hours more discussing the demands of creation, the incredible concentration that she feels is necessary to design accurately a piece of jewellery. A similar state to that which I experience (or that I inflict upon myself, constraint or pleasure? That is the question) with my writing.

But the comparison stops there! Lise laughed, admitted to me that she never reads, that she has no sense of smell, and that everything to do with her is concentrated on the image, offering her this intense sense of observation, an esthetic scanner with which she analyses the world.

I left her, with a glance at her Styloïde, a scintilla of magical light on her wrist, wishing that she’d make me a smaller, more affordable one, a Styloïde for a big grasshopper fascinated with ladybirds !

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