WHY IS NO ONE TALKING ABOUT THIS SECRET PARISIAN HAUTE JEWELRY SCHOOL?

Photo: L’Ecole Van Cleef & Arpels

Place Vendôme may be the center of luxury jewelry in Paris — Chanel, Dior and Cartier are just a handful of the brands that have set up their haute jewelry workshops near the location — but hidden away not far from it all is L’Ecole Van Cleef & Arpels. Sitting just beneath the brand’s atelier, L’Ecole is the city’s only school set up by a haute jewelry house that’s open to the public; its signage is so inconspicuous that if you don’t look twice when walking down the narrow Parisian street full of cafés and restaurants, you might miss it.

I first learned of the school from a contact at the Paris Tourism Board who was surprised that I work in fashion but had never heard of it before. I wanted to take a tour to see how it compared to other fashion schools out there — especially since this one is open to the public. Upon my arrival on the Wednesday immediately following Paris Fashion Week, all was quiet; the classrooms were empty and neatly organized with past students’ work on display. Though the school has about 20 courses that run regularly, it occasionally pauses all classes when Van Cleef & Arpels is doing a major event in Paris, or has a pop-up in an international city; on this particular visit, the brand was hosting an event in Hong Kong, so I unfortunately couldn’t sit in on a seminar.

Photo: L’Ecole Van Cleef & Arpels

Place Vendôme may be the center of luxury jewelry in Paris — Chanel, Dior and Cartier are just a handful of the brands that have set up their haute jewelry workshops near the location — but hidden away not far from it all is L’Ecole Van Cleef & Arpels. Sitting just beneath the brand’s atelier, L’Ecole is the city’s only school set up by a haute jewelry house that’s open to the public; its signage is so inconspicuous that if you don’t look twice when walking down the narrow Parisian street full of cafés and restaurants, you might miss it.

I first learned of the school from a contact at the Paris Tourism Board who was surprised that I work in fashion but had never heard of it before. I wanted to take a tour to see how it compared to other fashion schools out there — especially since this one is open to the public. Upon my arrival on the Wednesday immediately following Paris Fashion Week, all was quiet; the classrooms were empty and neatly organized with past students’ work on display. Though the school has about 20 courses that run regularly, it occasionally pauses all classes when Van Cleef & Arpels is doing a major event in Paris, or has a pop-up in an international city; on this particular visit, the brand was hosting an event in Hong Kong, so I unfortunately couldn’t sit in on a seminar.

“We’ve got four teachers that are internal. The others are not only working for L’Ecole, but some are from our Maison,” explains the communications rep. For the savoir faire courses, you’ll typically be working directly with someone from the company. If you take one of the art history courses, you’ll usually be taught by an art historian not working with Van Cleef & Arpels exclusively, since the company doesn’t have art historians on its staff.

For fans of the fashion or the brand, the appeal does make sense. While a piece of jewelry from Van Cleef & Arpels will cost you anywhere from $2,000 to upwards of $23,000, most of the classes range between €100 to €200 and last just two to four hours, depending on the complexity. The only course that costs slightly more at €350 is one in which guests can visit the actual Van Cleef & Arpels haute jewelry design studio, and get trained from a designer who works at the house. No experience is necessary to take any of the courses — hence, the variety in student backgrounds.

Photo: L'Ecole Van Cleef & Arpels

Photo: L’Ecole Van Cleef & Arpels

“Once people figure out that there are no prerequisites, that this is a school for everyone who wants to learn, they respond with enthusiasm,” explains Vallanet. “We continue to develop and refine our approach as we also create and implement new courses.”

“We’re really an initiation school,” adds the brand’s communication rep. “We’re not here to train people to become professional jewelers or to work in jewelry. It’s really about giving you an initiation into this world in jewelry.”

Because of that, you can’t earn certificates or university credits — but you can attend a class, no matter how much experience you have in art or design. In Paris, where high fashion can often be considered very much an insiders-only group, L’Ecole is opening itself up to the entire world.

“It’s very much in the values of Van Cleef & Arpels to share and transmit our knowledge,” says the rep at the end of the tour. “Many people are fascinated by jewelry, but they don’t know much about it. It’s quite a secretive world.”

[“Source-fashionista”]