The Aesthete: James Taffin de Givenchy talks personal taste

Maverick designer James Taffin de Givenchy’s spectacular high jewellery uses unexpected materials such as wood and rubber alongside precious gems

James Taffin de Givenchy at home in New York
James Taffin de Givenchy at home in New York | Image: Weston Wells

My personal style signifiers are the modern‑retro Jimmy watches of my own design that I have in all different colours: I wear a gold version for dressier occasions and a steel and titanium piece for a sporty feel. Also, my French-cuff shirts, which are made for me by Ascot Chang, and the cufflinks that I design using combinations of wood and gold, carved hard stones or ceramic and steel with gold. ascotchang.com. Watch, from $8,000; cufflinks, from $4,000; taffin.com

His Taffin watch, from $8,000
His Taffin watch, from $8,000 | Image: Weston Wells

The last thing I bought and loved was a vessel made of recycled plastic by the Brooklyn-based artist Shari Mendelson, whose pieces often resemble antique glass. This one is translucent with silver elements and is currently displayed in my showroom. sharimendelson.com

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And the thing I’m eyeing next is a calligraphic painting by Mark Tobey. His work is truly modernist, in the Pollock style, and although I have two of his works, I’d love one more. 

Two pairs of cufflinks designed by de Givenchy, from $4,000
Two pairs of cufflinks designed by de Givenchy, from $4,000 | Image: Weston Wells

The last thing I added to my wardrobe was a pair of Linea di Corsa race-car driving sneakers. This Parisian label has redesigned the classic car shoe and made it fun and colourful, and the handstitched details really add to the appeal. I’ve got a couple of pairs. Jarama Crudo shoes, €129; lineadicorsa.com.

His Shari Mendelson vessel
His Shari Mendelson vessel | Image: Weston Wells

An indulgence I would never forgo is riding motorcycles – despite falling off them a lot since I was 16. I own a Ducati 1198S, a BMW R90 and a Ducati Monster. In New York, I like to ride up Bear Mountain; in LA, there’s nothing better than cruising along the Pacific Coast Highway.

His late brother Hubert’s wooden tape measure
His late brother Hubert’s wooden tape measure | Image: Weston Wells

The last book I read is The Little Book of Schiaparelli by Emma Baxter-Wright. My uncle Hubert worked for Elsa Schiaparelli for four years before starting his own brand, and that is where he met his life partner, Philippe Venet. She was very avant-garde, and her fashion is still relevant. The book looks at her collaborations with artists like Dalí, Picabia and Cocteau – it’s an easy, entertaining read. 

Nathaniel Russell House in Charleston
Nathaniel Russell House in Charleston

The best gift I’ve given recently was a series of 13 signet rings bearing our family crest, for my daughter, nieces and nephews. I went for steel, as it’s fun and modern. I don’t often see them all, so I hope these rings serve as a memory of our family time together. 

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The last meal that truly impressed me was at Semilla in Paris. All the food was excellent, but particularly the épaule d’agneau served with confit potatoes. I took my daughter there one summer night – we sat outside and the people-watching was as good as the meal. 54 Rue de Seine, 75006 Paris (+331-4354 3450; semillaparis.com).

An object I would never part with is a little wooden tape measure that looks like a pebble. It belonged to my late brother, Hubert, like our uncle, who was an interior designer and always kept it in his pocket. I treasure it.

If I didn’t live in New York and Harbour Island, the place I would live is Charleston, South Carolina. I’m tiring of big cities and find the Southern charm and hospitality very inviting. From the historic Nathaniel Russell House to the contemporary Dewberry hotel, which serves great Old Fashioneds, this small city has so much to recommend it. The food scene is excellent: the restaurants Fig and Butcher & Bee are world class, while the Second State Coffee shop has a very warm local feel. Butcher & Bee, 1085 Morrison Dr, 29403 (+1843-619 0202; butcherandbee.com). The Dewberry, 334 Meeting St, 29403 (+1843-558 8000; thedewberrycharleston.com). Fig, 232 Meeting St, 29401 (+1843-805 5900; eatatfig.com). Nathaniel Russell House, 51 Meeting St, 29401 (+1843-724 8481; historiccharleston.org). Second State Coffee, 70.5 Beaufain St, 29401 (+1843-793 4402; secondstatecoffee.com).

My favourite apps are ARTnews, Artdaily, National Geographic and The Economist – although I prefer to get my news from an old-school paper. I also follow Paintguide and The Blue Review on Instagram to discover interesting artists.

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