Meet European-Australian jewelry designer Piret Kartus. A confessed digital nomad — she once spent two years working and traveling the globe living in luxury hotels — though it’s France that has her heart and home. Here Piret shares with Travel Curator her career highlights working in Haute Couture in Paris, her favorite places and hotels on earth, and what you’ll find in her suitcase. E.g. lots of pearls, beads, vintage finds, and materials to create her beautiful, opulent, colorful custom statement jewelry inspired by and made for women who travel.
What’s your idea of the perfect vacation?
I am definitely a culture buff which also makes me a foodie. I love exploring antique markets in different countries looking for one-of-a-kind pieces and meeting local craftsmen to learn about the “savoir-faire” that is typical to a region so I can combine them into my jewelry. I also love visiting modern museums and exhibitions and people-watching in a hip shopping street or a department store. Between taking in all the culture I like to sit down and enjoy a long lunch in a restaurant or a cafe and absorb the energy and the feeling of the place. I love color so whether I am making a necklace or a dish, I absorb the color combination and match it to my jewelry or the ingredients in my food.
Name your favorite destination in the world?
My favorite is often the next destination. I speak seven languages so sometimes I get very excited about going to a new country where I don’t know the local dialect and try to figure things out rather than speak English straight away. But my heart belongs to France. I lived in francophone countries like Belgium and France for almost 10 years. First, studying fashion and textile design in the Haute Couture world of Paris and worked for many royal families of Europe. Whenever I am in France I feel I have arrived back home. The French like to complain and express themselves, talk with their hands, eat and drink well and know everything about fashion. What more can I ask?
Share a travel experience that was life-changing?
My first work trip, to Mumbai India, when I was 26. I had recently moved to Paris and I was working as an assistant to the creative director of Sophie Hallette —a famous French lace house that makes embroidery and lace for all the big names including Chanel. I had to lead a team of over 100 Muslim men in two different sample-making embroidery companies and I had to learn how to lead very fast. I appreciate the wonder that is India, with its people, cultures, know-how, food, and colors. Being stuck in traffic on my way to work or diner I saw the most beautiful saris drying on the side of the roads that belong to some of the poorest people. I would not change that experience with any luxury resort.
Do you have a favorite hotel?
I do enjoy discovering a new place in Europe after living in Australia for some time. So I’d have to say Cheval Blanc in Paris. It has everything that a designer needs to be inspired and to understand where fashion and luxury are going in the future. As much as I love getting away from it all, swimming in a lake in the North of Europe after a 90-degree sauna, I am a city woman who likes to be in the middle of it all.
What will we find in your suitcase?
For almost 2 years I did not have a permanent home and lived in hotels, around 260 of them, mainly in the UK and Australia. I lived out of my suitcase and flew three times a week. It made me a master and practical packer. Back then I was making custom-made jewelry out of my suitcase so it was mainly filled with pearls and beads. Today I keep it simple, lots of dresses in lightweight silk and velvet and I’ll toss in location-appropriate outfits. I’d rather always be well-dressed than underdressed and I never travel without my YSL heels, Chanel flats, and a Burberry Kensington Trench. But of course, the main pearls in my suitcase are pieces from my jewelry collection.
Tell us how to elevate our travel style with statement jewelry?
My philosophy is to travel light so jewelry becomes the smartest object and I design pieces for women who travel. A statement necklace or a great pair of earrings can transform an outfit from day to evening. On vacation, I always take my favorite statement necklace, it has a ribbon at the back so I can shorten or lengthen it. It goes with a turtleneck in colder weather and will light up any dress or a nice top for the evening. Color also comes to play and I recommend keeping outfits simple that fit your jewelry. As a textile designer, multicolor pieces can be mismatched with any outfit. My other favorite go-to piece is our long choker necklace with tassels that can be worn as a belt or in different ways so if you go for a ski holiday but end up at the opera, you are sorted. Last but not least a great pair of long earrings and clip-on statement earrings give you more confidence than a good hair day, which we know doesn’t always happen on holidays. There really aren’t any rules, have fun, relax and let your accessories and jewelry make the statement.
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