Charlotte Chesnais and Loro Piana Make “Jewelry for the Table”
The holiday season is in full swing. Everyone’s schedules are filled with fêtes, from dinners with friends and family to those often-tedious but must-show-face work parties. Attending is always the fun part, but hosting can be stressful. What to serve? Who to invite? How to decorate? Enter Loro Piana and Parisian jewelry designer Charlotte Chesnais’s new limited series of gold, bronze, and silver candle holders. The elegant holders conjure the designer’s austere, clean, and geometrical aesthetic, making for a collection of understated and elegant sculptures that will set the mood for any dinner—holiday-oriented or not. “The home category has really been on my mind for a while,” Chesnais told Interview, “but I actually never dared doing it.” Loro Piana launched and celebrated the collection during this year’s Miami Art Basel extravaganza, and they are available to order online now. In celebration of her striking collaboration with the nearly hundred-year-old Italian luxury brand, Chesnais called us from her Paris office, near the Palais Royale, to share her rules (or lack thereof) for a chic and very Parisian dinner. Joyeuses fêtes à tous!
MACIAS: How’s your day going?
CHESNAIS: Great, so far. Christmas-like feeling. Where are you based?
MACIAS: I’m usually in Brooklyn, but today I am in Texas, where I am originally from.
CHESNAIS: Ah, you’re in Texas for the holidays.
MACIAS: Yeah, a week of family and stuff.
CHESNAIS: I know, I know.
MACIAS: And where are you?
CHESNAIS: I’m French and now I’m in Paris. Half of my family has been in Paris, so I will stay in Paris for the holiday, and then I’m going South of France with friends to St. Tropez for a few days of the warmer season. The weather is nice in Texas now, no?
MACIAS: It’s cold right now. It’s not warm. I didn’t pack well. So you’re in Paris, but where exactly?
CHESNAIS: In my office. That is near the Palais Royale and the first arrondissement of Paris.
MACIAS: Fabulous. What did you have for breakfast?
CHESNAIS: I didn’t have any breakfast. I practice yoga, usually in the morning, so I don’t eat breakfast before. Very thirsty.
MACIAS: When is your first meal, and what is it usually?
CHESNAIS:: I went to Yen. It’s a Japanese restaurant in Saint Germain des Pres. I had a soba.
MACIAS: Nice. What did you do last night?
CHESNAIS: Last night I went to a Christmas party with friends.
MACIAS: Do you remember the last memorable dinner you went to?
CHESNAIS: I do, actually, because I was traveling to Tokyo two weeks ago. There was a night when I really wanted to see some of my friends but I also had some work obligations. So I did two dinners in one night. The first dinner was more of a work dinner, in an amazing place, this building in Tokyo where you are on the 37th floor and the view is amazing. You meet such interesting people. Then I moved to another dinner that was in a totally different mood. I saw that friend that I hadn’t seen for three years because we couldn’t travel. It was really nice because it was such a long evening and I saw many different people. I really had the impression that my evening was a full day. I started dinner at 8:00 and I think I was back in my room at 4:00 a.m. So it was rich, in terms of visiting people, different food, different places.
MACIAS: Do you recommend doing two dinners in one night?
CHESNAIS: I don’t. I never do this, usually. But I was in Tokyo and I haven’t been able to go there for a long time. I have so many friends [there] and the food is so good. I actually didn’t have breakfast, didn’t have lunch that day. Not on purpose. I was like, okay, I can do two dinners.
MACIAS: I like that. Plus, when you’re in Tokyo, you’ve got to make use of it. So you are a jewelry designer, obviously, and we use jewelry to adorn ourselves. So I’m wondering, what was your approach to designing these candle holders that also look like jewelry?
CHESNAIS: Actually, my approach was very similar to the approach that I have every day when I design my collection. My creative process, regarding jewelry, is not that much linked to the body. Of course, there’s a real interaction with the body when you wear the jewelry. I’m playing a lot with the new ways to wear jewelry and different ways that you can wear one piece of jewelry. Also, I have a very cultural approach in my everyday work with jewelry. So when it came to designing a candle holder which, to me, it’s kind of like jewelry for the table, I didn’t have such a different approach. I had really the same process.
MACIAS: They’re really beautiful. As soon as I saw them, they reminded me of earrings for the table. When hosting a dinner, why is it important to decorate a table or set a table?
CHESNAIS: I think this is something very personal. In my everyday life, I really try to have an environment that suits me, that I like, that is beautiful. It can be through a beautiful smell, beautiful flowers, or beautiful objects. Of course, everybody will have a different approach and everybody will put a different level of importance on this decoration. So of course, to me, I think it’s linked to my work. Far before I was interested in jewelry, when I was young, I was already very into beautiful plates, beautiful knives, and beautiful forks. So to me, it’s very important. It’s like having a beautiful outfit or a beautiful pair of shoes. The entire panoply is necessary.
MACIAS: So what are three things that you must have when you are having people over for your table?
CHESNAIS: I think it really depends on the season. I’m not doing the same table in summer and winter. Also, depending on the food. If I’m having a special friend and it’s really chill and I’m just doing a big pasta with good red wine, it’s going to be a much simpler table. Basically, there’s always going to be some candles and lots of glasses because I love glasses. If we are going into something chic, of course I will use beautiful tableware for the napkins. Coordinate with the set table and everything. Actually, I don’t really have any rules. Also, I like to change as much as possible. It really depends on the season and the food we’re going to have.
MACIAS: The same with our clothes, right? They change for the season. So if someone from the U.S. were to go to Paris for the first time, what is one thing that they would encounter that is so Parisian during dinnertime?
CHESNAIS:: First of all, they can be late, it’s okay. [Laughs] Then, even if you are gluten-free, you have to not be gluten-free for at least a few days. There are so many amazing restaurants with great butter, great bread, homemade and everything. I think there’s something quite French about the fact that there’s a real culture of the tableware. Even in a very simple restaurant, most of the time, you will always have white table cloths. Also, people are waiting for each other to eat at the same time. There’s a pace, there’s a flow. I feel that this flow is quite French. I was traveling to Japan and there is another flow in Japan. So I think, if you are American, probably you would feel it at a French dinner.
MACIAS: We always rush dinner her in the U.S.
CHESNAIS: Yes, for me, it’s really the most important meal. Also during the day, we are always so busy in the rush and with so many things happening. Even when I’m having a rough day, even if I’m just having dinner with my boyfriend, we are always setting up a beautiful, simple table. Even if we are having just, I don’t know, vegetable soup and a piece of cheese. We are always going to have a beautiful table. There is a minimum, yes, that we always do.
MACIAS: I love that. What is your holiday drink of choice?
CHESNAIS: Holiday or not holiday, I’m a definitely red wine person. I love red wine.
MACIAS: Where do you look for inspiration for a tablescape?
CHESNAIS: I really try not to follow trends. Not on purpose, but I have good sensitivity, so I just follow what I feel like. I usually have mostly vintage plates. Also, I like to mix modern glasses, for example, that I bring back from Japan, with vintage crystal ones. For the cutlery, I do have a very nice one from Puiforcat and I also have another one from Christofle. Sometimes, I mix them as well. I like to mix old things and modern things. Sometimes less in Paris, because in Paris I don’t have a garden. In the countryside, maybe I will use flowers from the garden or leaves if we are in autumn.
MACIAS: So your environment is your inspiration.
MACIAS: What do you think about name cards for a dinner?
CHESNAIS:: For me, I would never do dinner at my home with assigned seats for people. Never. I would never do this. So it’s very personal and I prefer that people sit where they want to be and everything.
MACIAS: I hate name cards.
CHESNAIS: It can be very beautiful sometimes because you can always do in a very creative way. In the end, to me, it’s useless. So I have to explore creativity through something else, not name cards.
MACIAS: What type of music do you play?
CHESNAIS: I don’t think it’s going to be very loud. Usually, it’s people actually having a great conversation with a lot of rhythm and hopefully fun or enthusiastic discussion. So the music is going to be quite low. I have different playlists. I have an Italian dinner playlist, with only vintage Italian songs that I love very much. I have some more classical, iconic music from the piano that I can play. Also, it really depends if we’re going to have some kids or not. I have three kids and I have a lot of friends who have kids as well. So the mood is going to be different. It’s never going to be something major.
MACIAS: If you could invite three people to your dream dinner party, who would they be?
CHESNAIS: I would probably ask Rosalia to come, so she can sing. Maybe somebody funny, I don’t know, Steve Carell. And Catherine Deneuve, because to me she’s like the Queen of France.
MACIAS: I would hope to be at that dinner!
CHESNAIS: I’ll invite you to this one.
MACIAS: Is it okay to get drunk at holiday dinner?
MACIAS: My last question: smoking, inside or outside?
CHESNAIS: I don’t smoke, but I do prefer that people who smoke stay with me. So inside.
MACIAS: Love that.
CHESNAIS: I’m French, don’t forget. Let me know when you’re in Paris.