20 Nov. 2019



Interview with Geneviève Chevillot, founder of the jewellery brand Thoraval

Serge Thoraval was a self-taught man who launched into the world of handcrafted solid silver jewellery design with his wife Geneviève Chevillot. Not far from Canal Saint Martin there is a loft housing their workshop that crafts jewellery with unique craftsmanship. The words of Baudelaire and Maupassant in particular are hammered onto silver. Since the death of its eponymous founder in 1999, the family business has grown in the hands of his wife and son, Rock, who we spoke with today.

Can you please introduce yourself and your brand ?

The brand was born at Premiere Classe, the first time that we exhibited our line of jewellery at an accainquantance’s leather goods stand we were successful almost immediately, it was amazing right from the get go! We have continued to come and exhibit at Premiere Classe. It’s my parents that look after the brand, my mum is in charge of management and my dad creates the jewellery. We were nearly the first brand to offer silver jewellery engraved with messages, which was not yet a niche market. What works for us is the contrast that emanates from the brand: the delicate poetry of the texts engraved on the raw hammered silver jewellery. However, in 1999 my dad passed away after a motorbike accident and so my mum and the craftsmen at our atelier have taken over, in a collective spirit. We make all of our pieces by hand, in Paris in our studios on rue Lafayette in the 10th arrondissement. From 1999 up until 2013 I joined the company and started to scour the trade-shows, my job combines communication and pure design.

How long have you been attending Premiere Classe? What opportunities has the trade-show brought you ?

We have been attending the trade-show for a quarter of a century now, the first time would have to be 1995 and as we attend 2 times a year, I don’t think we are far off from our 50th Premiere Classe trade-show.

An anecdote, a memory or an encounter from Premiere Classe?

We have met all of our best clients here, agents who have been supporting us for 25 years and helping us to develop.

What advice would you give to a young designer who is starting out and wants to exhibit at Premiere Classe for the first time ?

What I am about to say may seem obsolete in view of the current market and the behaviour of some young brands. I believe very strongly in the quality of a product, a product that has personality, this is what we have to prioritise. I myself pour parts of my myself into my jewellery, that's authenticity. So, the jewellery reflects something that has really happened in my life. You have to offer products that are not only well-made, but also high quality which have a universal aspect. At business level, you shouldn't be shy, go up to people, don't hesitate to approach them, even if you get rejection after rejection; and you need to be ready to make some compromises too!

For you, Premiere Classe is…

A whole lifetime!

What changes have you noticed in the fashion industry? For you, what is the future of fashion ?

For us, ethics has been a key aspect of our brand ever since the beginning: we “upcycle” silver as much as possible, meaning that we recycle parts of silver digital cameras. In the same way, ethics also seems obvious to us in the way we pay our craftsmen for their know-how. We do not make high margins since the wholesale price is 80 euros, for about 250 euros in store. We are relatively expensive for the niche market in which we are growing: “haute fantasy.” Knowing that our product is universal and timeless, the customer will keep it for their entire lives, it’s a quality guarantee. Moreover, our customers send pieces back to us for repair in order to ensure the maximum durability of the product. I confess to being a little bit pessimistic about the future, I think that we’re heading straight for a wall, hyper-consumption will only go up and our society will continue to manufacture low quality products made by exploited and underpaid workers...I am not sure that consumers are willing to pay more for what they are used to consuming at low cost for a single use. Our society crushes those who cannot afford to live within it. On the other hand, we are not the only company with an ethical approach, we mustn't lose faith!

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