They’re hard to miss, but just in case it slipped past the radar, bows and ribbons are big in fashion this spring – and literally so. Oversized, overtly confident and all over the shows, they’ve sprung forth in bold, brilliant colours – some powerfully architectural, others softly sensual in sumptuous satin or lustrous silk. Bows slinked their way all over the body too: high and mighty on the shoulder at Richard Quinn; draped and swagged on the hip at Dries Van Noten; tied around the wrist at Delpozo, who criss-crossed ribbons all the way down the arm in a folkloric flourish; and reinvented by Issey Miyake in an exciting new high-tech fabric that can be moulded at will. But by far the biggest, most emphatic and dramatic statement of all was Emilia Wickstead’s gigantic grass-green bow with loops like wings and ribbons that trailed down the back of a long pale-pink sheath dress, turning the model into a fantasy anthropomorphic creature.
These big, bold bows could be read as a symbol of confident femininity and female power, with a dash of 1950s sophistication or 1980s post-feminist glitz – although the rakish shoulder bows at Erdem, who drew his inspiration from two notorious Victorian cross-dressers, threw an edgy fluidity into the mix.
Bows weren’t always such a flight of fancy. Their original raison d’être was to be practical fasteners of cuffs and collars, and it’s for this reason that the ribbon bow morphs beautifully from fabrics into jewellery and has been doing so since the 17th century – making it one of the all-time classic jewellery motifs. Its story was stoked late in 2018, when Sotheby’s sold Marie-Antoinette’s diamond and pearl ribbon-bow pendant for SFr36,427,000 (about £28m). Now, the ribbon bow is appearing again with modern aplomb, reinvigorated through new materials, techniques, stylisation and movement.
Victoire de Castellane, creative director of Dior Joaillerie, knows just how to meld high fashion and jewellery, history and modernity. Recent collections have focused on translating couture details such as lace, silk, ribbons and bows into jewellery infused with exceptional lightness and dynamism, using advanced modelling techniques and intricate handworked details. The ribbon, the designer says, is “essential to the Dior lexicon” binding jewellery with the world of couture. For de Castellane, personally, it is also about movement. “When you play with a ribbon, it’s instinctive: ribbons and bows in jewellery capture that ephemeral moment when movement is at its most beautiful,” she says.
In the Soie Dior collection, silk ribbon is captured mid‑ripple on the magnificent Dénoué Saphir necklace and Pli Plat Saphir Rose bracelet (both price on request). “I curled ribbons this way and that into pleats, scrolls and twists, until all of a sudden the ‘silk’ settled, like a dress on a mannequin, a precious moment frozen in time,” de Castellane explains. The voluptuously looped bows in the diamond and pink sapphire Dior à Versailles Salon de Venus bracelet (price on request) mimic the plump ribbons that adorned towering fontange coiffures in the late-17th and early-18th centuries; while in the latest Dior Dior Dior collection, ribbons interwoven with lace in the Dentelle Velours necklace and earrings (both price on request), are draped and garlanded in belle époque style, influenced by Marie Antoinette’s sartorial signature.
This movement, it seems, is the vital modernising influence on today’s ribbon and bow jewels, lending them joyful flirtatiousness, energy and charisma. In its Jeux de Rubans high-jewellery collection, Mikimoto captures the fluid beauty of a swirling ribbon, which the brand describes as a universal emblem that “makes the heart sing”. Undulating pink-sapphire and diamond ribbons wind around a single South Sea cultured pearl on an eight-strand pearl necklace or around a conch pearl on a ring (both price on request), while a frilled cuff of woven pearls is tied with a slender diamond ribbon fastened at the front with a bow, while a pink- and white-gold ring and earrings (both price on request) go free-form, twirling and unfurling around a lustrous South Sea pearl, setting the ribbon free.
The ribbon bow has threaded its way through Van Cleef & Arpels’ collections since the 1920s, paying homage to the maison’s early connections with Paris couture (notably through the ever-elegant Hélène Arpels, who was a model for the couturier Worth before marrying Louis). The Noeud necklace and ring (both price on request), based on a spirited, spontaneously tied double ribbon of intertwined yellow and white diamonds on rose and white gold, have become high-jewellery classics, repeated year on year. But a star of Van Cleef’s newest high-jewellery collection, Treasure of Rubies – dedicated to Jacques Arpels’ favourite stone – is the spectacular Boucles de Rubis ring (price on request), where the bouncy diamond-lined loops of the bow are drenched in the intense silken colour of mystery-set rubies, tied with baguette-diamond ribbons and a 6.70ct emerald-cut white-diamond knot.
Boghossian is exploring new techniques to loosen up the classicism of the bow with a certain sophisticated nonchalance. In a set of necklace, ring and earrings, mother-of-pearl is inlaid with ribbon-like lines of champagne diamonds, while a pair of stunning earrings (all price on request) reinvents the traditional bow-and-drop design with lively diamond bow-loops outlined in emeralds. “New techniques allow us to give more movement to a jewel, so we are now able to craft bow motifs in a very delicate and fluid manner, creating lightweight and unique pieces,” says Albert Boghossian, the company’s CEO and creative powerhouse.
Geneva-based designer-jeweller Suzanne Syz has, meanwhile, turned to lightweight metals titanium and aluminium for her fun and frolicking ribbon-bow jewels. Syz likes to play with shapes and forms generated by the ribbon, as seen in her Tie That Knot earrings (price on request), where a loose diamond and titanium thread suspends an amethyst drop. But, as a former model, she can’t help but make the connection with fashion, recalling fittings with designers: “They always finished by adding a bow or fixing something with a ribbon. Their imagination had no limits, and from a single ribbon the designers could make a work of art.” Syz brings that audacious couture spirit to her dramatic Baroque Rock earrings, one pair a long, stylised entwined twirl of rose gold and aluminium enveloping kunzites, the other asymmetric, with unruly pink and green ribbons dancing around pink and green tourmalines (both price on request).
Stylisation and colour also give the classic bow a contemporary twist, and while Syz goes wild, Boucheron goes modernist, sleek and geometric – drawing on Frédéric Boucheron’s close childhood connection with the motif: the son of drapers, he was always surrounded by fabrics, ribbons and trimmings. Creative director Claire Choisne now takes a cue from art deco for the Ruban Graphique collection, with its elongated, linear silhouette and sharp contrasts of rubies or emeralds with black lacquer in a ring and tasselled necklace (both price on request).
For those who are drawn to softer tones, Hirsh London has a contemporary pendant (£165,000) of a rare pear-shaped natural chameleon colour-changing diamond, hanging from pink and white diamonds, creating a stylised bow motif with a hint of 18th-century intrigue. And Kiki McDonough has designed eau-de-nil amethyst drop earrings (£3,900), dangling from a loose diamond bow-knot, an evolution, she explains, of her very first designs, created in the mid-1980s. The bow has also been streamlined into a knot on a pair of classic diamond and pearl earrings (£2,900), Here the bow-knot is not simply fanciful but also a timeless symbol of the bonds of love.
Chaumet, meanwhile, explores the seductive side of the bow motif. The sculptural Escapade collection (£54,500) is 1940s-inspired, designed as a diamond-edged satin‑like ribbon twisted with inviting insouciance, suggesting a stolen moment. The jewels from Insolence (ring, £14,700) are more flirtatious, interlacing light and lively diamond ribbons with gold rope: a bow on the point of coming undone.
A stream of diamonds is, of course, a perfect way to capture the shimmering tactility of a rippling ribbon, and there’s a whole haberdashery’s-worth of diamond bows and ribbons to choose from this season, from courtly to contemporary. At Chanel, Mademoiselle used ribbons as one of her first style signatures on straw boaters, and this year bows are revisited in the Ruban collection of sweet and slender diamond bows (ring, £6,800). Moussaieff offers a trio of intricately worked bow brooches (all price on request), voluptuously modelled with flounces and flicks – noble and lacy in diamonds and emeralds, or sumptuously rich in a diamond-set floral pattern, while the all-diamond Tiffany & Co Bow collection (earrings, £6,900) evokes the white silk ribbon and bow that ties the brand’s iconic blue box. In tune with the catwalks, there’s also that hint of the 1980s in the born-again 18th century-inspired diamond-and-pearl ribbon bow and drop earrings (price on request), the latest take on the seminal jewel of the decade.
Most exuberant of all, perhaps, are Graff’s masterful modern-day ribbons and bows, following the success of the Inspired by Cy Twombly collection, with its spiralling ribbons of diamond light, and an exclusive series of high-jewellery bow-themed creations. Now, the Graff designers, artisan-cutters and setters are maximising their expertise in custom-cut diamonds and near-invisible settings to construct more lyrical, free‑flowing lines, ribbons, swirls, twirls and rosettes, all alive with dynamic movement. The new Graff Bow collection presents a series of petite, playful and perfectly formed bows on stud earrings, rings, necklaces and even a diamond headband (all price on request), using the play of light within their diamonds to create the soft, sensual contours of lifelike, three-dimensional bows that look as if they have just been lovingly hand-tied.
Meanwhile, the Inspired by Cy Twombly collection has also been extended and developed design-wise, the spinning spirals now looped into effusive bows and rosettes, or let loose, swirling dizzyingly into rhythmic, abstract, high-energy sculptures, on theatrical earrings of diamonds with rubies or sapphires, bracelets and all‑diamond necklaces (all price on request) which, says Graff’s design director Anne-Eva Geffroy “come to life upon the body. This level of intuitive movement and fluidity provides us with exciting design challenges and limitless opportunities for creativity.”
Creativity, femininity and a new-found freedom for a design classic captured in bows and ribbons have conjured a moment of perfect synchronicity between fashion and jewellery. The message is clear: let’s take a bow.