Minimalist vibes make Hortense Jewelry our new favorite when it comes to accessories.

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At some point nearly two years ago (these origin of a ubiquitous style phenomenon can get a little foggy looking back), the “arm party” turned into a “finger party.” Downtown darlings traded in elbow-high stacks of pop-bright cuffs and bangles for delicate arrays of minimalist rings, complemented by barely-there bracelets. The refreshing thing about this trend is that it’s not so much a trend at all anymore — it’s become the way a lot of us simply choose to accessorize. There’s something so effortlessly chic about understated jewelry, and how it actually makes a profound style statement when worn alone and on display.

Hortense Bonneau is one of the designers taking this minimalist vibe from a trend to a classic, love-forever look. Her creations, as a collection or individual pieces, are staples you wear day after day, year after year – the kind of jewelry that becomes that effortlessly fits within your regime. Maybe it’s the mix of her French origin and current California residence (synonymous with laid-back attitude)… Or, maybe it’s just her innate sense of style. Either way, Bonneau’s designs stand out as treasure-forever pieces that keep their wearers looking impossibly cool with touches of elegance. Having established the line five years ago, today the items can be found in Colette and Le Bon Marche in Paris, Dish and Erica Tanov in San Francisco, OK in L.A. and Steven Alan and Joie in L.A. and New York. — COURTNEY ISEMAN

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SHK: WHEN DID YOU FIRST KNOW YOU WANTED TO BECOME A JEWELRY DESIGNER?

HORTENSE: I realized that I wanted to be a jewelry designer ten years ago. I used to be a photo editor for six years in Paris, for two French magazines, and I was not 100% happy. I’ve always loved photography, but something was missing. I wanted to do something with my hands and I always had this huge passion for jewelry since I was a little girl. One night, my husband sat me down and asked me, what did I really like, what would make me feel really happy. It was the first time in my life that somebody sat me down and looked at me in the eyes like that to ask me what I really liked to do. It was an intense, and a very emotional moment. For the first time, somebody was telling me that it was possible to start over.

WHAT MADE YOU DECIDE TO MOVE TO CALIFORNIA TO PURSUE YOUR CAREER?

My husband is a 3-D animator and worked for almost all the studios like ILM and Dreamworks and they both are in California. I followed my other heart, also, because I wanted to change. I lived in Paris for 30 years and then we had this amazing opportunity to live in San Francisco so we jumped on it.

HOW DID YOU GO ABOUT STARTING YOUR OWN LINE?

I worked first for two jewelry designers in San Francisco: as a metalsmith for Jeanine Payer and as a fashion jewelry designer for Liz Palacios. After we had our daughter six years ago, I just followed my dream and started my own business.

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WHAT’S YOUR DESIGN PROCESS? YOU’VE SAID YOU’RE MORE INCLINED TO DESIGN WHAT YOU LOVE AND WANT TO WEAR, AND SO, ARE MORE INSPIRED BY THINGS LIKE MINIMALISM AND GEOMETRY THAN NATURE, TRAVELS, ETC., HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH YOUR NEW IDEAS AND THEN MAKE THEM INTO A REALITY?

It is really bizarre. I really don’t know. One morning I wake up and I just want to wear a bracelet with a heart-shaped diamond on it, so I just start to design a bracelet with a heart-shaped diamond. I’m always trying to bring something a little bit different. For the heart-shaped diamond, for example, we are used to seeing this Tiffany setting: a chain with a round diamond. So I asked  myself: what could I do to make it look different?

Also through magazines, books, people who are wearing jewelry that I like… I can be inspired by all that. Suddenly my brain is in design mode, mostly when it’s late and I have all these ideas and I start to design. Also, what’s really important for me is the price point. I want to be and stay affordable, so whenever I design something and I see that it’s going too expensive, I just don’t do it. I always ask myself: would you buy this, do you have enough money for this? I want to give happiness to people, not frustrations!

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR PERSONAL STYLE? WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE CALIFORNIA GIRL AND THE FRENCH GIRL?

I try to stay simple, and it’s funny because even though I design jewelry, I don’t like to wear too much jewelry. Like, wearing two rings on the same hand, but on two different fingers, for example, is already too much for me… I would rather wear one beautiful ring on one hand and that’s it. It doesn’t need to be a huge ring, it can be an Eternity band in rose gold with small but beautiful white diamonds. I think that the less jewelry you wear, the more chic you are… but that’s me and it doesn’t mean that I am right. I can be wrong!

It is hard for me to compare a California girl and a French girl. I would say that California girls are not scared to wear whatever they want.

 

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DO YOU HAVE A PIECE OF JEWELRY YOU WEAR EVERY DAY? 

I do. I am like that: I wear the same necklace and the same bracelets for a couple of months, and then I change. For two months now, I have been wearing my “Je t’aime” bracelets, which is the bracelet that I mentioned earlier with a heart-shaped diamond on a rose gold chain. Also, for a couple of weeks now, I’ve been wearing these two necklaces that I designed exclusively for Catbird New York. These are the “Choupette” necklaces with a little kitty and diamonds set on his ear; it is very delicate and cute. I’m designing a new collection right now and I’m pretty sure that I will change my bracelets and necklaces once the new collection is ready.

WHAT HAVE BEEN SOME OF THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES WITH HAVING YOUR OWN LINE? WHAT HAVE BEEN THE GREATEST MOMENTS?

It is so wonderful to be able to be your own boss and run your own company, but it’s stressful sometimes, of course. The biggest challenge is the fact that I’m doing everything almost by myself. I have four people who work on the jewelry, but I have to do so many things like supervising the production, the buying of any material that we use to make the orders like chains and stones, working directly with the buyers who purchase my jewelry, doing all the social media… I also do the shipping… I mean, it’s a challenge every day, but it can bring so much joy. I am going to be helped by a rep now so it is going to bring a little bit of relief, for sure.

The greatest moments are when I talk to a customer who is just super happy with his/her order, it is so precious to me. Also, one of my biggest moments was when a Japanese distributor contacted me. I was so happy because I always wanted to be represented in Japan. So it is going to happen.

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WHERE DO YOU HOPE TO SEE YOUR LINE GO IN THE FUTURE?

I don’t want to become this huge company that’s going to be everywhere because I think that it’s better to be selective in your choice of stores. It is not so much about how to become this huge company, but it’s much more about how to become this company who is going to stay around for a long time, who is going to stay young for a long time.

ARE THERE ANY TRENDS RIGHT NOW THAT YOU LOVE? OR WISH WOULD GO AWAY?

I try not to follow any trend in my designs. All my designs are very classic and timeless. I don’t like trends, but I love designers who create the trends, who can see ahead, that is a talent. I hate when you see a designer being copied for his super idea 10,000 times, it is really annoying to me.

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SEE: It’s not recent, but The Coen brothers’ No Country for Old Men.  Javier Bardem is just so incredible and his haircut is so insane.

HEAR: Right now I love the song “Happy” by Pharrell Williams, and the 24-hour music video is just awesome.

“Happy”

KNOW: I know for a fact that staying humble and kind to people brings you, at the end of the day, good karma.

 

 

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