Paloma Picasso (b. 1949) It is the rare designer – jewelry or otherwise – who is most well-known for a single color. Paloma Picasso is one of the exceptions to the rule. Picasso’s penchant was for red. Her red lipsticks were called “her calling cards.”
The famed French photographer, François Nars, said about Paloma, “Red is her trademark. It’s her signature, defining, one might say, the designer’s red period.”
Her fascination with red started at an early age when she began wearing bright red lipstick at age 6. She became recognizable by it. Her angular profile served as a reminder of her famous father’s Cubist inclinations.
Paloma Picasso (born Anne Paloma Ruiz-Picasso y Gilot), the youngest child of renowned artist Pablo Picasso and writer Françoise Gilot, was born on April 19, 1949 in Vallauris, France on the French Riviera. Paloma was surrounded by artists from a very young age. Her name means ’dove’ in Spanish and she was named after the famous symbol her father employed for the International Peace Conference in Paris the year of her birth.
Paloma’s jewelry career began in 1968, when she was a costume designer in Paris. Some rhinestone necklaces she created from flea market finds received positive attention from critics and she enrolled in a jewelry course. Soon, Yves Saint Laurent asked her to design accessories to accompany one of his collections. By 1971 she was working for the Greek jewelry company Zolotas.
She also designed sets for playwright and director Rafael Lopez-Cambil (aka Rafael Lopez-Sanchez), whom she later married.
In 1980 Picasso began designing jewelry for Tiffany & Co. at the request of John Loring, then the company’s senior vice-president. “When Tiffany’s asked me about doing jewelry, I was thrilled,” Picasso told The New York Times: She always wanted to design for an American store.
The company was also enthusiastic about Picasso, whose pieces have been priced from just over $100 to $500, 000. Loring said of her, “Paloma has taken the gaudiness out of jewelry but kept the glitter,” and Henry B. Platt, Tiffany’s president told Newsweek that “for the first time, people can hold a Picasso in their hands and try it on.”
Brilliant gems framed in blocks of gold, large stones or metal pendants on simple cords, and gold or silver “hugs and kisses” (“X’s” and “O’s”) are characteristic of Paloma’s work. Unusual combinations of pearls, vibrant semi-precious stones, and metals are also prominent.
Although her creations heralded a new taste in jewelry, Picasso, told Newsweek, “[she] rejects fine-art pretensions” and further stated to the magazine, “This [jewelry] is something people can wear, rather than hanging it on the wall or putting it on the table. I like things to be used.”
In The New York Times, Picasso remarked that while “jewelry should be jewelry, something that you wear [it] is more permanent, less superficial than fashion.” Picasso has continued to design jewelry for Tiffany & Co. Her tenth anniversary collection, presented in 1990, was described in Mirabella magazine as “having the raw power of just-cut stones and just-mined minerals. Her gems are deep pools of color hung on thick veins of gold.”
Her early creations mixed color and varying gemstones in bold designs. She had long used the dove symbol and the color red as signatures in her work and continued to exploit them throughout her career.
It did not take long before Paloma branched into new areas of design. In 1984 she began experimenting with fragrance, creating the very successful Paloma perfume for L’Oréal. Her husband developed the visual image for the perfume with red and black packaging and shaped bottle. A cosmetics and bath line including body lotion, powder, shower gel, and soap were produced in the same year.
Picasso told Vogue Magazine that the perfume resembled her. “What you see is what you get. I wanted my fragrance to be like that too.” She made a similar remark to the New York Post when she announced that her perfume, priced at over $150.00 an ounce, is a “fragrance for a strong woman like myself.” Picasso extended her fragrance collection and produced her signature lipstick, Mon Rouge, which replicated her hallmark color known as Paloma Red.
The continued success of Paloma and Rafael’s ventures encouraged them to broaden their creative horizons even further. In 1987 Rafael expanded the Paloma Picasso image by creating a New York City-based company, Lopez-Cambil Ltd., to produce and distribute Paloma Picasso accessories—handbags, belts, umbrellas, and small leather goods—to be imported from Italy. This collection, labeled as ‘Couture accessories’ gained international fame for the flawless quality and impeccable designs that fueled the creation of a relatively less-expensive line, called, “By Paloma Picasso.” Both casual and elegant, this collection enabled Picasso to reach a larger audience with a comprehensive range of contemporary, affordable accessories.
In 1988, Paloma was honored by The Fashion Group as one of the “Women Who Have Made an Extraordinary Impact on Our Industry.” The Hispanic Designers Inc. presented her with its MODA award for design excellence. Since 1983, she has been on the International Best Dressed List.
In 1992 the men’s fragrance Minotaure was launched with great success. Picasso designed the bottle and packaging, while Lopez-Cambil developed the concept, the name, and the cologne’s first advertising campaign.
In 2000, Picasso took her home accessories in a new direction. The once bright primary colors gave way to gray, gold, and tan. This shift was also reflected in Picasso’s personal appearance when she dispensed with the fire truck-engine-red lipstick she‘d favored since age 17.
In early 2001, Paloma moved to Lake Geneva in Switzerland. There, she founded the Lausanne-based Paloma Picasso Foundation, which aims to promote the works of her parents, particularly those of her mother whose artistic endeavors are little known in Europe.
Though married to Argentinean businessman Rafael Lopez-Cambil for 21 years, they divorced and soon after the divorce, Paloma married French doctor Eric Thevenet. The couple has homes in Paris, London and Lausanne, Switzerland.
In January 2010, Paloma Picasso and Tiffany & Co. marked their 30 year collaboration with three new collections. The new lines played on Paloma’s earlier uses of graffiti and scribbles and incorporated Moroccan grid patterns to create what she called the Marrakesh collection. She also revisited and updated popular designs from her past collections, including an airier hammered gold and silver take on her “paper chain” designs. She continued to use bold strokes of color and her signature red. Paloma Picasso’s designs continue the Tiffany & Co. tradition of fine craftsmanship and design paired with eye catching statement jewels.
Tiffany continues to offer Paloma’s jewelry that it describes as, “…creations [that] artfully combine European sophistication with exotic influences. Ranging from intricate, sumptuous forms to pure expressions of luminous color, her collections exude an original style that is pure Paloma. The list of them follows below:
“Paloma’s Venezia “ – Luce, in Italian, means ‘light.’ It’s inspired by the lanterns [found] in Venice and the reflections on the water. Paloma’s Dove “Paloma” is…a worldwide symbol of peace.
‘[The] Paloma Picasso Olive Leaf is jewelry …created [to] pay tribute both to gardens as a refuge of peace and tranquility, and the dove’s noble mission of carrying an olive branch.
“Paloma’s Melody Paloma draws inspiration from her daily life, the richness of the sights and sounds that surround her. She captures this in Paloma’s Melody designs with lyrical, interlocking bands that shift and glide with the body.
“Paloma’s Graffiti is inspired by graffiti she saw on New York buildings. Picasso’s first collection for Tiffany was instantaneously embraced for its bold scale, polished surfaces and contemporary lines.”
In addition to Paloma Picasso boutiques in Japan and Hong Kong, Picasso’s accessories are available throughout the United States, Europe, and the Far East. Paloma Picasso creations in Europe also include cosmetics and fragrances for L’Oreal in France, sunglasses and optical frames for a German company, hosiery for Grupo Synkro in Mexico, and bed ensembles, towels, bathrobes, and dressing gowns for KBC in Germany.
As in the United States, home design has spurred a new era of creation for Paloma Picasso with collections of bone china, crystal, silver, and tiles for Villeroy & Boch and fabrics and wall coverings for Motif.
Two American museums have acquired Paloma’s work for their permanent collections. Housed in the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History is a 396.30-carat kunzite necklace she designed. Visitors to The Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago can see her 408.63-carat moonstone bracelet accented with diamond “lightning bolts.”
Paloma strives to create jewelry with longevity and timelessness more permanent than the quickly changing “superficial” trends of fashion. Her own sense of personal style, flare for glamor, and lavish scale have given her well-deserved and enduring recognition.