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Herve van der Straeten's bold jewelry comes to L.A. at just the right time

March 25, 2010 |  5:16 pm

Rage_necklace Herve van der Straeten. If you don't know his name, you should. Now that a new kind of minimalism is coming into fashion, as seen on the fall runways at Celine, Chloe and Stella McCartney, the jury is out on whether the costume jewelry trend as we've known it in all its lace, grosgrain ribbon, crystal and pearl-trimmed glory will survive.

But Van der Straeten's jewelry is another story. His bold sculptural shapes suit the new pared-down mood beautifully. Which is no doubt why Neiman Marcus had the foresight to give him the windows at the Beverly Hills store this week, to coincide with a personal appearance Friday from 2 to 4 p.m. at the store.

He works mostly in hammered brass, with gold or silver finish, wood and enamel, and his style is a cross between ancient Greek and Alexander Calder. The spring collection includes a gold cuff with ribbon-like folds and a gold collar of oblong forms shaped almost like mussel shells.  Prices range from $200 to $3,000.

"I like the idea of found treasures mixed with modern objects," he said Wednesday in L.A.

But Van der Straeten, who studied in Paris at L'Ecole des Beaux-Arts and worked with Thierry Mugler and Christian Lacroix before starting his own business 25 years ago, does much more than jewelry. He's a renaissance man of design, lending his talents to interiors and furniture, handcrafted in his workshop just outside Paris.

Herve van der Straeten 2 "For me, jewelry is a laboratory for studying shapes for my furniture. I have a chandelier with organic-looking gold rings that is very similar to a pair of earrings." Drawings show the correlation even more clearly, Van der Straeten said. "When I sketch, it's just free forms that evolve. One thing leads to another, and eventually a story takes shape."

In 1999, he opened a gallery in the Marais district in Paris to feature his work alongside that of other artists. Van der Straeten has also been commissioned for product designs, including the curvaceous perfume bottle for Christian Dior's J'Adore fragrance in 2005, and the stunning cube-upon-cube cases for Guerlain's Kiss Kiss lipstick and cosmetics range in 2007.

He also happens to have luxury shoe designer Bruno Frisoni as his significant other, so it's only natural that the two collaborated on the interiors for the Roger Vivier shoe stores. "It's nice to always have a critical eye," said Van der Straeten. "And we are both very precise about things, stressing quality over quantity."

Not only has his jewelry come to L.A. this week, but his furniture too, at the Ralph Pucci gallery at the Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood. The exhibit runs through June. Both Tom Ford and Madonna picked out lamps this week. (Diane Von Furstenberg, Demi Moore and Mick Jagger are also fans.)

Herve van der Straeten 3 Van der Straeten and Frisoni have spent a whirlwind week in Southern California, road-tripping to the Ace Hotel in Palm Springs, visiting the Museum of Contemporary Art (he likes) and Walt Disney Hall (he dislikes, the outside at least). On Wednesday night, they were the guests of honor at a swish dinner party at fashion publicist Anne Crawford's Hancock Park house, where guests included interior designer Muriel Brandolini*,  interior decorators Suzanne Rheinstein, Paul Fortune and Madeline Stuart, gallery owner Michael Kohn, socialites Becca Cason Thrash and Kassidy Choi Schagrin, and founders Michael Bruno and William Holloway.

Van der Straeten has also been touring local shops and galleries with an eye toward decorating a new place in Tangiers, where he and Frisoni plan to spend the summer. "I love that there are so many kinds of architecture in L.A.,"  he said. "In Paris, everything is 19th century. Here, you have 1930s and 1950s and Neutra and Schindler. It's like a museum of architecture."

We can only hope some of that makes it into Van der Straeten's work.

Herve van der Straetan appears at Neiman Marcus, Friday, March 26, from 2 to 4 p.m., 9700 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, (310) 550-5900.

--Booth Moore

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Top photo: A necklace by Herve van der Straeten. Middle photo: Designer Herve van der Straeten. Bottom photo: His Paris gallery. All photos courtesy of Herve van der Straeten.

*[Updated 3/25/10 5:30 PM: An earlier version of this post incorrectly identified interior designer Muriel Brandolini as glasswear designer Marie Brandolini.]