When I hear someone is “creative” I always feel its an odd statement. I believe everyone is creative if you have ideas, (which we all do). Some people just have a better way of expressing their creativity and that’s the theme of this exciting interview. When I think about technology, and wearable technology in particular, the physical product is only one element of why we choose to buy the things we do. We choose products because they serve a certain function or need, we are drawn to a products design or performance or maybe we like the status of owning a certain product… In summary, we buy products because they serve some form of ‘lifestyle’ need.
I’ve always loved watches, I appreciate the how the tiniest details of a watch alters its look, feel or performance. In my quest to understand this better I have researched and followed the work of certain individuals who inspire me. A designer who caught my attention a few years ago was Maxime Plescia-Buchi a Swiss multidisciplinary designer best known for his famous tattoo studio Sang Bleu and his beautiful geometric tattoo inspired watch designs for Hublot, (read or watch my Baselworld 2017 interview with him here).
Another person who has captivated my attention is Marie Bouttecon. I’ve had the pleasure of not only enjoying her journeys of inspiration, told through Instagram stories, but learning so much about how a creative designer translates her visual memoirs into the beautiful watches and high jewellery she designs. So, who is she?
Known as the “Girl on fire” (follow her on Instagram and you’ll understand what this means – she radiates positive energy as she shares the world around her), Marie is a 28 year old creative director in the luxury watch and high jewellery industry, she was bought up in the French countryside, very close to Switzerland, surrounded by fields, an organic vegetable garden and beautiful flowers. Like many people who are lucky to live amongst the beauty of nature, she found happiness in observing the natural world around her, capturing what she observes in drawings with her Caran d’Ache pencils. “It’s this – the beauty of nature around me that inspired me to want to be fashion designer” she tells me. After finishing a Bachelor’s degree, she went to the south of France, to study fashion and then onto Lyon where she obtained a Master’s degree in Fashion, Accessories and Luxury Goods. After her studies, Marie worked for Hermès at 24 Faubourg St Honoré, Paris as graphic designer for Carrés d’Hermès and then for Parisian fashion designer Barbara Bui in the Marais as a stylist. Marie confesses she found “this world too artificial”, so decided to explore the watch industry. “Watchmaking has been part of my life as since childhood, I come from a family of craftsmen and artists. My mother was an artistic florist and my father is the master of wood marquetry, France’s best, recognized for his impeccable attention to detail and accuracy”, she says with boundless energy!
Marie commenced her career in the watch industry as the artistic director of Parmigiani Fleurier who gave her the opportunity to be watch designer. “I’ve created a lot of unique timepieces for clients who want special editions to add to their collections,” she says. Working and learning relentlessly she has had the good fortune of meeting the right people. Being entrepreneurial Marie decided that she could develop her own career, designing for several manufacturers which is what she focuses on today, working for jewellery and watch brands as well as for private clients worldwide.
Travel is one of the best ways to open the mind, I ask Marie about her love of exploring interesting places, and her eye being drawn to all sorts of beautiful things. What does she look out for when visiting somewhere? What attracts her and how does she capture what she sees? We conduct this interview whilst Marie is in Morocco which she describes as “a very beautiful and inspiring place!” “When travelling, I’m looking for two things; first I observe beautiful and authentic places, I get drunk on colour, patterns, textures and symbols. Secondly, I speak with locals, I love listening to their stories, points of view, and their secrets! I speak to people everywhere from luxury settings to the most popular places, a market, in the streets, in a coffee shop or taxi. I like to live my trips to the fullest by capturing the atmosphere by taking pictures with people I meet, and I’m always travelling with my Caran d’Ache pencils and my Moleskine sketchpad. For example, I was walking in Jemaa El Fna square after visiting museums and souks and saw an old man selling mint on an antique chair, I was observing him selling the herbs, I noticed the contrast of his clothes against the vivid green of the mint, thinking about the smell of his hands, it was captivating so I asked to have a picture taken with him. I’m sure this picture will inspire me to create a product one day”.
For many people, watches are an extension of their identity and fashion plays a part in selecting a watch. Dolce & Gabbana have created an incredible fashion and lifestyle empire and Marie is lucky to consider them friends, I ask Marie about her relationship with the brand and what she loves about the Italian duo. She tells me, “Dolce & Gabbana are so much more than about clothes, their brand is a state of mind. When I wear Dolce & Gabbana, I feel as though I’m wearing my real skin and the cut of their clothes fits my body shape perfectly, everything is so creative and refined. I love their creativity, this is the only brand that can print tomato patterns on beautiful silk which I’ll dare to wear! Their ultra-feminine collections are made of romantic prints, sleek shapes and embody Italian sophistication, it feels sensual to wear their outfits. It makes me feel like I’m strolling in a Fellini movie. The values of Dolce & Gabbana are rooted in tradition, family and love, they have an incredible ability to reimagine the past, capturing its modernity. Stefano Gabbana and Domenico Dolce create a real lifestyle around each collection, they create a unique atmosphere, full of details, beautiful campaigns, amazing fashion shows and familial events! I love them, and I love my D&G family!”
Fashion is an inseparable element of Marie’s creative process, the colours, patterns, textures, structures and atmosphere, around fashion inspires her and generates visions about art and beautiful things. “In my opinion, pure watchmaking training is not enough to be a creative designer that many houses are looking for today” she tells me. “Creativity is a state of mind, I find it valuable to build on fashion as a whole, just as some people find inspiration in a car or maybe in architecture. Trends and materials have clearly influenced my style as a watch & jewellery designer”.
Whilst watches are a focal item of jewellery, I wanted to learn more about other jewellery. I ask Marie what she thinks people are looking for when considering her pieces and who buys her work? Marie’s collection is made up of three tiers; bespoke, high jewellery, and an experimental range of ideas through Bug Me jewels. In addition, she is also working to create a new range of jewellery and that will also feature a feminine watch collection. “Up until now, my jewellery collections have been very specific because I‘m creating bespoke jewellery for private clients around the world and specifically for Middle Eastern clients (bridal sets for example)”. The tailored-made offer requires Marie to create three design proposal sketches which are presented to her client, after consultation she completes the project drawings with a final painted gouache rendering for approval. It’s this rendering that is issued by the jeweller and from which the jewellery is set and produced.
“My new collection of luxury ‘ready-to-wear’ jewellery will be full of soul and Art de vivre! It’ll be a very creative and modern brand that offers a ‘couture’ collection of high jewels and innovative watches”. Watch this space for more details.
It’s evident that family plays a big part in Marie’s life and work, I wanted to learn more about her father who is a highly skilled craftsman that works on individual pieces for Patek Philippe. “My father is the master of wood marquetry, known as the best in France, he is recognized globally for his precision, accuracy and craftsmanship. He has created pieces for all the best Swiss manufacturers like Cartier, Jaeger-Lecoultre and Patek Philippe, the latter for which he now works exclusively for”.
Marquetry is a technique that requires intense planning and precision. The process starts with a drawing supplied by a manufacturer or a designer, Mr Bouttecon will first start by creating a simplified line drawing of the original (which is still very complex), this allows him to outline each piece of the puzzle and see the veneer in stacked layers. He then reassembles the tiny pieces on a watch dial before polishing it to achieve the final finish. His latest works for Patek Philippe’s Grand Exposition in New York are fabulous. He made a stupendous dial detailing the first step on the moon, the detail, colours and atmosphere it provokes is truly amazing! (Below are some exquisite examples for Cartier).
“Through observing my dad, watchmaking has naturally become a passion from early childhood as I discovered the creations of various houses, the different artistic careers and the infinite possibilities of creation,” Marie tells me. “I am certain that creation is a state of mind, where all creative professionals meet, between haute couture and Haute Horlogerie, between silk brocades and gold laces and where each art object creates history and tells a story”.
Marie has inherited some of her father’s personality and characteristics, she is obstinate, every detail counts and appreciates work that’s “well done” and tidy. She considers both herself and her father to be sensitive, though they also bear differences. “He is home-loving, I love adventures and I’m more entrepreneurial. He has a craftsmanship process, mine is more intuitive. He believes in me, and that means a lot”.
Next, we discuss technology and how the Swiss watch industry is adopting it. Marie reminds me that “Switzerland is recognized as a global research centre for many innovative companies, particularly within the medical sector. Technology has always been a focus for the Swiss economy and is strongly promoted by the government. EPFL (Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology) is becoming one of the most recognised European institutions of science and technology. Swiss robotics company ABB has created a new baby: YuMi a vision of the future, designed for a new era of automation. This robot is so impressive, it can even conduct Verdi with an Italian orchestra!”
Marie continues, “the watch industry requires many technologies especially when it comes to the production of movements, an example of this highly specialized 5-axis CNC machines. There is always a debate between traditional approaches and technology aided production when it comes to watchmaking. I think technology use should be down to the maker, across watchmaking and any other luxury product”.
Whilst technology is playing a part in Swiss watch production, I wanted to get Marie’s views on whether she thinks there is a market for luxury smart watches and smart jewellery? She answers, “the iPhone is regarded as a form of luxury, but I think it’s ephemeral. I think fine jewellery and luxury timepieces are objects that will last over time. It’s difficult to mix gold and other precious materials that require fine craftsmanship to create, with technologies like digital interfaces. Maybe I’m old-fashioned but I believe that traditional luxury goods, (when they are truly luxurious and beautiful products), can be admired and transferred to future generations. They have heritage and emotional value”. I agree with Marie, technology is becoming more accessible, it’s a commodity product and owning a commodity product will never feel special or have true emotional value.
Finally, I wanted to understand what excites Marie about the future and what can we expect to see from her? “I’m very optimistic and I’m working to create the new collection along with the brand. It’s very important to keep my creative spirit and always be inspired. I will continue to develop my creativity and give my best in order to design beautiful products and collaborate with brands.”
I thank Marie for her time, energy and inspiration. I truly enjoyed learning more about her world, a world that’s full of not only creativity but optimism and new ideas that will stand the test of time.
Follow Marie’s work and adventures @mariebouttecon on Instagram and
mariebouttecon.com (Live from mid November 2017)