Watch & Jewellery
POP THAT THANG: Bulgari's Wild Pop Collection
Text by Kee | Photos courtesy of Bulgari
Happy Leaves necklace in white gold with diamonds and emeralds
Andy Warhol necklace in rose gold with mother-of-pearl and diamonds
Music brooch in white gold with onyx, rubies, and diamonds
Roaring '80s necklace in rose gold with diamonds, emeralds, amethysts, and turqoises
Pop Flowers bracelet in white gold with rubellites, mother-of-pearl, amethysts, tourmalines, and citrine quartz
Serpenti Misteriosi Pallini wristwatch in rose gold with diamomds and emeralds
Andy Warhol necklace in white gold with chalcedony, sapphires, and diamonds
Future necklace in rose gold with rubellite, citrine quartz, topaz, pink tourmaline, amethyst, and diamonds
Music necklace in white gold with emeralds, diamonds, sapphire, and mother-of-pearl
Music bracelet in white gold with aquamarines, amethysts, tourmalines, peridots, rubellites, onyx, and diamonds

Crazy, sexy, cool. The electric ’80s-inspired Wild Pop is the most daring high jewellery collection from Bulgari, period. The Italian jeweller threw one helluva catwalk show and party in their home ground of Rome to celebrate arguably the best era in pop culture history.

You should have been there with the likes of Bella Hadid, Lily Aldridge, Eva Green, and Shu Qi who were just some of the big names in attendance. The iconic Stadio dei Marmi in Rome, with its 59 giant marble nude statues of athletes surrounding the stadium track, was the holding ground for what was to be a spectacular evening celebrating Bulgari’s global launch of their Wild Pop collection. To describe this pop culture-driven series as a strong intent that big creative changes are on the cards at Bulgari would be a fair assessment. But it was one that we were already suspecting after March’s wildly successful Stars and Stripes capsule collection launch in New York that celebrated everything nostalgic about Americana, including the American flag, pop art artist Andy Warhol, and the glamour of Studio 54. The reason we describe this as a watershed moment for creativity in the Bulgari household is because these aren’t styles that tens of thousands of women who swear by their wares in the last decade probably expect to see. Sure, these were bling that the Bulgari of old have made before, but its reintroduction today is perhaps a necessary disruption to their way of design in the modern era. And usually, such discomfort delivers surprising results, which is the case here. That said, if the Stars and Stripes collection was the foreplay; the 80-piece Wild Pop collection is clearly the marathon lovemaking session. Lucia Silvestri, the creative director of Bulgari’s high jewellery, continues to be the driving force behind this collection, having spent more than 35 years romancing precious stones for the Italian jeweller. The ’80s was a huge part of her formative years in Bulgari and one that she cherishes for personal reasons too as she – like other creative types – finds it easier to relate to the iconic images of David Bowie, Andy Warhol, Madonna, and Lynda Carter’s Wonder Woman. And just by looking at the Wild Pop pieces, even the oblivious are able to discern the links instantly which makes the experience of wearing them (and even observing them from afar) all the more fun. You’d notice inspirations including Bowie-esque lightning bolt motifs, Madonna’s Jean Paul Gaultier cone bra, piano keys, the Berlin Wall, and palm trees. There is even a brooch made from white gold that mimics a turntable with vinyl disc-like onyx spinning on them (yes you can play with it to). But perhaps the most provocative are the Happy Leaves emerald necklace which are essentially cannabis leaves. They earned the most gasps at the presentation venue, especiallyamongst the young crowd who understood the symbols right away – just that they didn’t expect it to come from this jeweller. That said, we spoke with CEO Jean-Christophe Babin and creative director Silvestri about what makes the ’80s an irresistible inspiration.


MANIFESTO: The Wild Pop collection has been a surprise to many who are used to Bulgari’s classical designs. Do you think such aesthetics will become the next core pillar?

JEAN-CHRISTOPHE BABIN: The pillars are the colours, the volumes, and unexpected combinations. I think year-after-year we will define themes that pay tribute to our DNA but through the executions of different codes. Last year, the Festa was very Roman and very Italian. This year, we are acknowledging that Bulgari is very much influenced by the ’70s and ’80s similarly with technology, art and music. It is also thanks to Nicola Bulgari who gave us a relationship with America and friendship with the likes of Andy Warhol. We have an agreement with the Warhol Foundation as well because he was also a jewellery designer and jewellery lover amongst many things.

We decided to pay tribute to this era because what happened then has been pivotal in shaping the society today and probably the next 40 years. Jewellery is our platform to how we see the future: we think it is colourful, free, and gender diverse.

We are nearing the year 2020 and attitudes will start to change. There is an underlying message in the collection – apart from the music and the art that has been influencing Bulgari – but an attitude of freedom, daringness, hedonism, and woman power, of which the latter will be key for us to progress as a society in years to come. We want to see high jewellery as daily wear. We don’t want to think that there are different segments of jewellery or think that such jewellery should only be worn once a year. We have to live, enjoy, and indulge. We want our jewellery to make you feel more refined. You can enjoy it in your T-shirt, with your jeans, and wear it for any kind occasion. We have jewellery that is playful and makes you feel different things; whether it is the Miami palm trees or the Warhol flowers. We want it to relate to your experience.

LUCIA SILVESTRI: We have pop art in our DNA. For example, we made a necklace with flamingos. It is a style that we would like to keep. We worked a lot on craftsmanship and not just focusing on the gems. We mixed the new and the old like the Tubogas is used on an inspiration about space; we created something that looks like a space disco. We even have a Wonder Woman belt.

M: Lucia, you have an important role in the company and essentially spearhead the designs we have come to love. The Wild Pop collection takes a different turn from the usual inspirations. What were your building blocks in developing this?

LS: We wanted to celebrate the ’80s and Bulgari was really popular at that time and it was the epitome of beauty and creativity then. Of course, Bulgari’s story started way before then but the ’80s was the peak of creativity for us. The era had such a strong connection with art and especially Andy Warhol. He said to Nicola Bulgari (the great-grandson of Sotirios Bulgari), “Whenever I am in Rome I always visit Bulgari because it is the most important museum of contemporary art.” I paid a visit to the Andy Warhol Foundation when I was in New York last July and I realised that he made some sketches that were inspired by Bulgari. We took some sketches and we decided to go with it, something wilder. It took us one year to put this whole thing together. This wasn’t an easy collection to create but it was very fun. I started working during this era and it reminded me of those days.

M: Do you think Wild Pop alienates longtime Bulgari clientele?

JCB: We have a core collection that is influenced by pop culture and the ’80s. At the same time, we have also expressed through creativity on major gems; there are interesting designs like the raffles and the pop queen which are more classical and they aren’t connected directly to a pop art symbol. Therefore, we have major gemstones which are surrounded by certain geometric motifs but are not too related to the ‘80s symbols. So I think there is a strong Bulgari pedigree across the board. So depending on your taste, I think our more longtime clients will be attracted by them. Knowing some of them – not all – I think they will enjoy this collection. They have been designed not just for wearability but also timelessness. Each time we design jewellery we want it to have a strong character so that means you haven’t seen it before; but at the same time we try to project something for the future which is never easy. We try to think if this design can be worn 20 or 30 years from now. If we have doubts then we abstain from doing it. Wild Pop confirms that what we created back then is still wearable today. This is proof of consistency.

M: You have often mentioned before that the stones shape the jewellery that you want to create and not the other way around. Which were the precious stones that helped to form the foundation of this collection?

LS: There is a necklace inspired by the Eggs painting by Andy Warhol. I started with stones that were almost as huge as real eggs. So immediately I knew that these five stones were to be used for that necklace.

M: What do you remember the most about the ’80s?

LS: I will always remember Mr. Bulgari telling me, “You have to mix colours. Don’t be shy. Mix everything but there must be harmony. Be a little bit crazy.” This was the period that they were creating something really novel in this market and I felt like a Cinderella in this magical world. I started to believe in the creativity and gems and colours.

JCB: I remember the bright coloured cars such as those in blue, apple green, and lemon. I had long hair in the ’70s and I recently found a picture of myself in ’78, in which I taking one of my first solo trips. I was in Nepal and I had long hair. I was a few years late to the hippie culture; I was ten years too late. It was a period of discovery for me; I was listening to Pink Floyd, Genesis, Yes, David Bowie. In the ’70s, music was very progressive; it was poetic and emotional. Music acts then broke the rules, like Bulgari, they wanted to take it to a new level. Roger Waters, who is coming to Rome to play a concert, is a god of free-willing music for my generation.

M: Who else are your personal idols in pop culture?

LS: Madonna! We are the same age!

M: And both of you still look so good.

LS: No, no! She is an idol and we made one necklace after the cone bra.

M: Does she know about this?

LS: No, but my dream is to meet her. Maybe one day she will. I have met Elton John, whom I love.

M: Who do you wish to see wear the Wild Pop set of jewellery?

JCB: I would have loved the likes of David Bowie and Michael Jackson, really. Our jewellery are mostly worn by ladies but we are entering a moment where designs are becoming more unisex. I think some brooches like the microphone motif I would wear. I think some singers and actors of the ’80s would be great ambassadors of ours.

M: Lucia, you go on many interesting trips. Any updates on your adventures?

LS: I was in Mozambique just three weeks ago to check on the mines there because we are going to buy more rubies from them in the future; we want to make sure from an ethical point of view that the workers are being treated fairly. I went there for a few days and it was a great experience because I got to work on a carpet of rubies.

M: What was the wildest thing you did in the ‘80s?

JCB: I took three separate sabbatical years off – ’83, ’87, and ’88. They weren’t consecutive moments. I backpacked around the world, mostly around Asia. I am passionate about Asia – China, Indonesia, Nepal, Bhutan, Tibet, Seoul… I was writing a lot then of memories of these places. The three occasions were after my university, then another after my military service, and then the last was after my wedding. I think it opened my mind. I remember I was in Sumatra, we disembarked on an island where only 19 westerners have been there. It was Nias island and it took us three days to get there as there weren’t any public transport. I was on a different planet and maybe galaxy. They were living on boat houses and it was amazing that in the late 20th century such an oasis existed.

M: And Lucia, what was your wildest design in the last 35 years in Bulgari?

LS: It was probably a special order. It was like a tiara but it had gold chains draping down from it with various precious stones on them. It looked like something Cleopatra would wear.



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