When Francesca Amfitheatrof, Louis Vuitton’s artistic director of watches and jewelry, started looking for a muse for her first fine jewelry collection for men, she didn’t choose a pop star, celebrity or influencer.
Instead, she looked to the Vuitton family tree, landing on its lone third-generation heir who eventually took over the brand: Gaston-Louis Vuitton.
Born in 1883, Gaston-Louis Vuitton is known today through his collections of antique books, toys and especially trunks, the company’s initial product, which have been the subject of touring exhibitions and a book. Some are on display in the former family home, a belle epoque villa in Asnières-sur-Seine, a suburb of Paris.
Few details are known of his life, but the company said he brought a sense of whimsy to the leather goods maker by, for example, displaying toys and games in its Paris store. Though he never had children, a vintage photograph showing him as a mustachioed senior thumbing his nose at the camera with both hands suggests a childlike sense of humor.
“Gaston’s father and grandfather were these serious businessmen, but he was fun, he was a prankster, he had room to play, and he loved bringing a certain irony to things,” Ms. Amfitheatrof said in a video interview from her studio in New York. “I think that resonates with today’s young consumers. Ultimately, I think we all have a little Gaston in us.”
Archival sketchbooks show, for example, how Gaston played with the house’s monogram in designing shop window décors. The pull-tab pendants in the new jewelry collection, called Les Gastons Vuitton, are its modern-day descendants.
Aside from a few genderless high jewelry creations over the years, the 18 pieces in the collection, which debuted this month, represent the brand’s first official foray into men’s jewelry.
According to a recent study by the Irish company Research and Markets, the global jewelry market is expected to surpass sales of $200 billion by 2027. Currently, the men’s category represents less than 10 percent of that worldwide market.
“Men’s jewelry hasn’t been a focus of major brands’ attention in the past, but is nevertheless an interesting expansion opportunity,” Luca Solca, a luxury analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein in Switzerland, wrote in an email.
“Outsiders in jewelry like Louis Vuitton have an interest in finding a different angle into the market,” he wrote, “so it makes good sense to pursue this area, even if the big prize remains women’s jewelry, for sure!”
While marketed for men, the creations in Les Gastons Vuitton are fluid, Ms. Amfitheatrof said. “I wanted to make something as universal and easy as bluejeans,” she explained, referring to four pieces in blue titanium and yellow gold: a tag-shape necklace, a puzzle ring and a draughtsman’s pencil pendant etched with the trademark LV monogram motif.
The monogram also was laser engraved on a signet ring and a single earring, and rendered as negative space in flat chain necklaces and bracelets of yellow or white gold links. The house’s trunks, meanwhile, inspired the cubelike diamond settings used on stud earrings, a pendant and a chain bracelet.
Prices range from 1,900 euros for a single stud earring to 145,000 euros for the Gourmette necklace, a laser-cut white gold piece with 13 carats of diamond pavé. The collection is being sold in the men’s and the fine jewelry departments at Vuitton stores.
As for highlighting a somewhat obscure turn-of-the-century man in an effort to capture an audience more attuned to TikTok stars, Ms. Amfitheatrof said that expressing personal style was “ultimately all about tapping into one’s inner Gaston.” She said collecting oddities during visits to the gem shows in Tucson, Ariz., was one way she did that herself. Once she returned home with fossilized dinosaur dung.
“Owning your identity is so important,” she said. “There’s a lot of creativity there, so why not bring it to whatever you actually do?”