Elie Top, master jeweler of extravagances


Elie Top in front of his library, June 22, in Paris.

For a long time, Elie Top evolved very comfortably in the territory of costume jewellery. The self-taught designer imagined, in the 2000s, for Lanvin, extravagant necklaces or sophisticated assemblies of pearls and crystals. But this was not without constraints and inconveniences: “Weight, volume, mediocre quality of the metal, lack of welding…”, he lists. He has not completely given up on it. In the fall, he signed a solar capsule collection, in brass, for Zara, but is now delighted to work with gold and more noble gems, reserved for jewelers. His serpents, for example, have yellow sapphire eyes and, as a forked tongue, a pear-shaped ruby ​​or emerald. “The precious freed me. He allowed me to really be me,” he explains today.

Trivial or refined, basic or luxurious… Elie Top, 46, gracefully navigates a vast repertoire. At the beginning of July, to meet the expectations of his clientele, whom he receives by appointment in Paris, he unveiled a set of seven jewels, baptized Twist and built around twisted links, as well as “little pleasures” scattered: its snakes, therefore, an Excalibur-style sword-shaped pendant or majestic signet rings, set with precious stones (from 18,000 to more than 90,000 euros each).

With his false airs of Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, his thin mustache, his haughty bearing and his Helmut Berger-like scoundrel eye, the designer remembers having always worn “classic” – shirt, pants, shoes, tie, or bow tie for big nights. At Saint Laurent, where he started as a second assistant in the 1990s, he did not go unnoticed. Yves Saint Laurent had one day slipped to Anne-Marie Muñoz, the director of the studio: “You know, Elie doesn’t have to come dressed like that every day, he can also wear a sweater! » ? Fifteen years after the death of ” God “, the sentence still provokes a burst of laughter in Elie Top, sonorous and communicative. The press, who knows his penchant for social events, loves to call him a “dandy”? “Pfff, this word is so overused, he retorts. I don’t think I am, according to the definition of the XIXe century: I am neither cynical, nor neurasthenic, nor detached. Life doesn’t give you the freedom to be a dandy. »

The company of ghosts

You shouldn’t be fooled by appearances. His childhood was spent in Isbergues, in Pas-de-Calais. The steelworks where work “most members” from his family ; red brick pavilions; “The Cows at the Bottom of the Garden”. He spends hours alone meticulously tracing on white sheets, with pencil and ruler, abundant drawings. “I mixed everything I loved in history books into a kind of fake (Castle of) Linderhof, the rococo villa of Ludwig II of Bavaria, he says, showing some archives. Majestic palaces, Gothic churches and French gardens rub shoulders with Roman statues. “I who wanted so much to flee my village for Paris, I realize today that something comes from there: metal work, construction games, a certain roughness. One day, I was at my office, rue Saint-Honoré, doing my preparatory drawings by hand, for a piece of jewelry: I saw myself in the same situation, in a very Proustian superposition of myself, at the age of 9, leaning over my sheet sketching a castle…”

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