“Educate yourself about where things come from”: Marion Cotillard on ethical luxury, and her long association with Chopard

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While hundreds of thousands of viewers fawn over the floor-sweeping couture accompanied by equally-compelling jewellery on the red carpet, not many know the story behind the sparkle. As conversations around responsible fashion and vintage finds get louder, there is little said about the gleaming stones and gold that complete the look. The likes of Charlize Theron, Cate Blanchett and Marion Cotillard have walked hallowed red carpets wearing exquisite creations hand crafted in fairmined gold and reasonably-sourced gemstones over the past years from Chopard’s sustainable offerings.

The French jewellery and watch house’s commitment to greener luxury has been marked by its biggest collaborations over the world. As the historic partnership of Cannes Film Festival, Chopard reimagined the coveted Palme d’Or trophy, a global symbol of success, in responsibly-sourced gold in 2014. “It was an opportunity to draw media attention to our commitment”, elaborates co-president and artistic director of Chopard, Caroline Scheufele on the brand’s long-standing relationship with the revered festival. Joining hands with Eco-Age founder, Livia Firth, the Maison also launched the The Journey to Sustainable Luxury program. The vision comes to life with capsule Green Carpet collections, having achieved a 100 percent ethical gold supply chain, and the dramatic endorsement on Montée des Marches at Cannes.

In a moving conversation, Scheufele and Cotillard recount their own journey and experiences with the jewellery house since they first met at Cannes back in 2004. Cotillard was awarded the Trophée Chopard for Female Revelation of the Year. Excerpts below.

Six years ago, you started Chopard’s Journey to Sustainable Luxury, at a time when very few people were talking about this theme. Can you tell us what first drove Chopard to develop this concept?

Caroline Scheufele: My first thought was that luxury should be transparent. I believe that when you have something unique and special—and I have the pleasure and honour of working with the most beautiful gemstones on our planet and of course gold which is one of our key materials—you must use it for the best. I met Livia Firth some years ago at the Academy Awards Ceremony where her husband won an Oscar. While we were chatting, she told me about her commitment to the cause of sustainable luxury via her agency, Eco Age, and suddenly, she asked me: “Where does your gold come from?” I responded: “From the banks I suppose, I don’t really know”. That encounter immediately gave me the feeling that we had to do something.

How did you react when you first heard about the journey?

Marion Cotillard: Caroline is a visionary and I think what she did with Chopard reflects what she felt in her heart when she realised that some pieces were missing. In a world that is changing so fast and sometimes in a very wrong way, this sets a very strong and important example, by telling the world that luxury can be fair and responsible.

CS: It is good to know that there are no children working in the mines Chopard works with; that we are careful about the planet when the mines extract gold; that the mines are secure; and that miners have a fixed salary so they can take care of their families. In the end, when you have beautiful products and you don’t know how you got there, it doesn’t feel right.

Concretely, what does sustainable luxury mean to you?

CS: Sustainable luxury means first and foremost respecting the planet and humankind, as well as a certain way of using products in a world where everything happens very fast and people don’t always realise what they are buying. I think we should be more attentive to what we do.

MC: I think the people who buy luxury, who live in luxury, can really do something about it. When you can afford luxury, you have to use that kind of freedom to really educate yourself about where things come from. Caroline, you mentioned that you had to train Chopard employees, but I think that by extension you have to explain to customers and the people who love Chopard. I see it as a beautiful way of raising awareness about something that is very important and that affects all of us.

Do you remember the first time you saw—and wore–creations in ethical gold?

MC: When I saw the first examples of models made with ethical gold, it was very moving. I saw it as a door opening onto something different, involving more awareness about these crucial issues.

How did buyers react to those first pieces?

CS: Interestingly, when Marion wore the first pieces made with ethical gold–a diamond cuff and a nice pair of earrings marking the very beginning of the Green Carpet Collection–and started to explain the Journey to Sustainable Luxury, a Korean actress said: “I want to buy them now” and did just that. This confirmed we were moving in the right direction, and that if you educate people and explain the project, they no longer hesitate to adhere. Now, when I spend time in the atelier and the Haute Joaillerie department, I see so many artisans working with passion day in and day out! They enjoy talking about the Journey to Sustainable Luxury and how proud they are to be part of the project.

MC: I think that if you have the choice between luxury that comes with awareness regarding how things are made, and luxury that implies not caring at all what is going on in the world, most people will choose the fair way. This implies that those who create luxury should keep that in mind and do something to offer a transformation of how we behave as consumers, especially when it comes to luxury. It is something that also expresses the culture, the beauty of a country, a city—and I think that’s important.

Could you introduce us to the Green Carpet collection?

CS: Within the Haute Joaillerie Red Carpet Collection which is launched every year in Cannes, there is a section that we call Green Carpet which comprises models made with 100% ethical gold as well as responsibly sourced gemstones, whether diamonds, emeralds, Paraiba tourmalines or black opals. Every year we try to extend the project and add a new stone to the collection, but we depend on the sustainability of the mines where we source our gems.

Has [the green carpet movement] gone faster than you thought when you first started?

CS: Things are moving as fast as they can, which I would say is pretty fast. During the last Trophée Chopard ceremony in 2019 I was talking with Pierre Lescure and Thierry Frémaux and I told them “You know, you should also think about your carpet, maybe you could make the Cannes Film Festival red carpet the same way we did ours for the Chopard party, with recycled fishnets?” That would be a great message, with all talents attending the Festival thus walking a sustainably made red carpet.

MC: Caroline is such an inspiration, because the more you move ahead, the more you discover, the more you educate yourself and share what you’ve learnt, the more inspiring it all becomes. Perhaps they had just never thought about the red carpet for example, and she goes ahead and tells them there’s a different way to do things, especially when it comes to an object that will just be thrown away the next day.

Chopard has really become strongly involved in the Cannes Film Festival, including producing the Palme d’Or that everybody longs to win. Why did you want Chopard to be so engaged?

CS: Personally, I was always a big fan of film-making and even as a kid I loved going to the cinema. So, when we opened our boutique on La Croisette some 23 years ago I thought we should stage the opening during the Film Festival. So I went to meet Pierre Viot, who was the festival president at that time... We were talking and I said I wanted to organise an official evening with our tiny boutique on La Croisette and asked him if that would possible with the Festival, to which he replied “Yes, of course!” I started to think further and suggested “Maybe we can do something for the longer term, because diamonds belong on the red carpet.” I spotted a certain trophy on the bookshelf behind him, I asked “Is that the Palme d’Or?” and then he placed it in front of me and I made a further query: “This year is your 50th anniversary, who is producing it?” When he said: “I don’t know–some small atelier in Paris”, I ventured to ask “Could I put forward a proposal and show you how this Palme d’Or could be more glamorous?”, and I literally left Paris with the Palme under my arm. That’s how the relationship between Chopard and the Cannes Film Festival started.

And what about the end of these annual ceremonies, when you see all these film directors holding the Palme d’Or which Chopard has crafted?

CS: A great documentary has been made about it, called La Légende de la Palme d’Or, featuring 10 directors who share insights into “their” moment when they received the trophy. It is very special to all of them and it is interesting to see what they felt during this unique moment.

Cannes is also very special for you, Marion?

MC: Definitely. There is always the same magic, I always feel very lucky to be here. It embodies such an intense passion for cinema and a chance to discover new artists from all over the world! I think it’s very unique and that makes it special to have access to this magical dream.

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