Delphine-Charlotte Parmentier, Clear as Crystal

Published October 25, 2013

ABOVE: DELPHINE-CHARLOTTE PARMENTIER. PHOTO COURTESY OF BILLY FARRELL AGENCY.

Even if you are unfamiliar with the name Delphine-Charlotte Parmentier, you have likely seen her jewelry. Parmentier’s designs, which often bedazzle unexpected places like one’s entire face, have graced the runways of Chanel, Balenciaga, and Chloé. Parisienne in every sense of the word, Parmentier began her jewelry education in the atelier of her grandparents and has honed her craft over the past two decades. It was only natural that the capsule collection to mark the designer’s 20th anniversary would be in collaboration with Swarovski, whose crystals have decorated her work since her inaugural collection. Yesterday evening, Julia Restoin-Roitfeld hosted a dinner at New York’s Lafayette Bistro to fête the designer’s milestone.

[Delphine] manages to respect the identity of every designer she works with and, at the same time, you recognize her work,” says Roitfeld. A handful of Parmentier’s crystal-adorned pieces were on display for the occasion; however, Roitfeld’s favorite piece—a tangle of crystal snakes—hung around the neck of one of her dinner guests. “They should have that one big and central, on a mannequin,” she gushed. Guests including Olivier Theyskens, Charlotte Ronson, and Genevieve Jones joined Roitfeld to toast the designer and ogle her sparkly creations. We took the opportunity to chat with Parmentier about her countless collaborations, Paris, and her unexpected career alternatives. 

ALLYSON SHIFFMAN: I’ve been enjoying the pieces on display. I’m especially fond of that crystal mask—I want to wear it for Halloween next week.

DELPHINE-CHARLOTTE PARMENTIER: [laughs] I don’t think that’s possible.

SHIFFMAN: [laughs] Probably not. So jewelry design is your family business. Did you always know you would follow suit or did you have other plans?

PARMENTIER: At the beginning, I wanted to be a dancer, but I very quickly changed my mind. I’m born in Paris, in an area where the fashion is always there. Also through dancing, I feel very close to the body. I’ve been making jewels and accessories since I was a child. I started with ceramic stuff and step-by-step, I learned many techniques. After 20 years, I can say I can make quite a lot of things. I have started to make a silver collection for the summer, and maybe later I will make fine jewelry. I was lucky to start working with Swarovski elements a long, long, long time ago. It was very normal to collaborate.

SHIFFMAN: How did you first come to be working with Swarovski?

PERMENTIER: The showroom of Swarovski is near the atelier of my grandparents. They are very famous, and because they had that company, I could go anywhere I wanted to buy materials. I was lucky to have Swarovski elements at the beginning. I used them in my first collection.

SHIFFMAN: You’ve worked with so many notable designers. Was there one collaboration that was especially meaningful to you?

PERMENTIER: My dream came true was when I started to work with Karl Lagerfeld and Chanel. I started 18 years ago, and it’s been going step-by-step. Now I’m working for the prêt-a-porter and haute couture shows.

SHIFFMAN: What’s it like working with Karl?

PERMENTIER: It’s fantastic. He’s a genius, in a way. He works all the time—he never stops. The difficulty sometimes is to follow him. [laughs] When he’s finished something he’s started a new thing, so you have to work up the energy, but I love that.

SHIFFMAN: I read that your grandparents have had a huge influence on your style. What is it about their style that inspires you?

PERMENTIER: My grandmother inspires me because she’s always elegant. She never goes out in jeans. She showed me fashion and also the passion behind the work. She and my grandfather were married for 70 years and until the end, they were always very close, and to me that’s quite important. We are in a period where things are very quick and we change our minds all the time. We like something just because it’s now—but they gave me a line to follow.

SHIFFMAN: That is inspiring. People don’t get married and stay married anymore.

PERMENTIER: [laughs] No. Or they don’t care after a few years. But they were always very, very close.

SHIFFMAN: Julia, of course, is hosting this event tonight. How did the two of you meet?

PERMENTIER: We just met not such a long time ago. [laughs] She’s very nice. I showed her all my stuff and she said, “I recognize many things, I didn’t know it was you!” And she preferred the pieces that I love, so it was perfect.

SHIFFMAN: Is there anything about your designs that are inherently Parisian?

PERMENTIER: I don’t know if it’s Parisian, but I have a lot of freedom in my design. Maybe that is Parisian. London is fashionable and I love New York—here there is a lot of energy—but not the same style.

SHIFFMAN: Where else do you seek inspiration?

PERMENTIER: I travel quite a lot. I have my children, who give me inspiration. I have three sons, and they’re very energetic and they always want to see things.

SHIFFMAN: It’s quite ironic that as a jewelry designer you have three sons.

PERMENTIER: [laughs] I know.

SHIFFMAN: Are they fashionable?

PERMENTIER: The two oldest ones want to work with me, but I will see. It’s a lot of work—I’m working all year long—but I’m working out of passion. I love to collaborate with people and make new things all the time, so for me it isn’t difficult. I never stop and it’s never finished. I have to learn things each day.

SHIFFMAN: Is there anyone you haven’t collaborated with that you’d like to work with?

PERMENTIER: John Galliano. Unfortunately I didn’t get to work with Alexander McQueen… it’s a shame, I would have loved to. Working with other designers is a challenge each time. With my collection it’s more free.

SHIFFMAN: If you could have chosen an alternate career path, what would it have been?

PERMENTIER: I would love to be a speed car driver.

SHIFFMAN: A racecar driver?!

PERMENTIER: Yeah!

SHIFFMAN: Do you drive fast?

PERMENTIER: Sometimes. [laughs] Or I’d go to the moon. 

FOR MORE ON DELPHINE-CHARLOTTE PARMENTIER, VISIT HER WEBSITE.