Founded in 2018 by Camille Bourdarias and Quentin Boyer Di Bernardo, CVMILLE vegan jewellery is sustainable and inspired by antiques. Individually handcrafted in their Paris workshop, CVM·ILLE works with local suppliers to source recycled brass and silver, and cruelty-free and vegan materials. Each piece is made in collaboration with two local jewellery craftswomen, a founder and a guilder.
Meet Camille and Quentin, the people behind CVMILLE vegan jewellery, and learn about their process of making each handcrafted piece and what inspires their commitment to the environment, people and animals.
What was the catalyst that ignited your desire to launch a brand that has strong values around being sustainable and vegan?
We really wanted to support and be a part of our local economy, to gather artistic and technical skills of our region, and show that a company which has great sustainable constraints can still produce bold and contemporary pieces of art and craft.
We knew a lot of inspiring jewellery creators who search for innovating design and know-how, but we had noticed that just a few were caring about sustainability, durability, transparency, inclusivity, and we really think these values should be our new priority as entrepreneurs.
So when we began to work on our project, it was obvious for us that we wanted to add strong values to the brand. There was no offer, in France especially, for both handcrafted and high-fashion jewels, sustainable in all the aspects of their designing and production, at a fair and transparent price. We had no model or path to follow and needed to detect all the social and ecological issues in jewellery and to find a proper solution for each one.
Moreover, as vegans ourselves, we really wanted to make sure and certify to our customers that every step of our creation and fabrication were non-speciesist. Indeed, in our mind sustainability registers a non-speciesist approach which aims to consider and respect our planet, the humans and the animals. Therefore, our waxes that we use are vegan, the makeup in our photoshoots is also cruelty-free, as well the secondhand clothes worn by the models, our packaging and all our printing inks. And of course our process of recycling and upcycling our metals is not only part of an important ecological approach, but it also protects all species – humans, animals and their eco-systems – endangered by our method of extraction and consumption in too many mining regions of the world.
How does CVMILLE vegan jewellery differ from mainstream jewellery?
The MARIVS collection has been imagined without gender stereotypes, which has allowed us to go much further in design and artistic direction without gender boundary. We were a bit bored by these huge standards weighing on fashion and even more on jewellery, where companies and our social ideologies choose for us what we shall like and wear. We have re-thought traditional ways of wearing jewels, with a non-binary approach to offer inclusive pieces, photoshoots and marketing.
With the same idea to present a collection for everyone, we have wanted to offer jewels with a luxury finish but still at a fair price. That’s how we’ve decided to re-introduce high fashion jewels, gathering local handcraft know-how and modest materials as brass. You could have found this type of production in France in the past decades.
The jewels are entirely handmade in our Paris workshop, in collaboration with local qualified artisan jewellers, two jeweller craftswomen, a founder and a guilder. The latter is labeled “EPV” (Entreprise du Patrimoine Vivant) – the only distinction of the French State that recognises the exceptional know-how within French companies of excellence.
All of our artisans pay close attention to finish and details, respecting traditional techniques to make durable luxurious pieces – not just being made with precious solid materials but rather thanks to a beautiful art and craft work with recycled and upcycled metals.
We also wanted CVM·ILLE to have even more direct social impact and thus we created a partnership with a local organisation. For each jewel purchased, 2% of the sale price is donated to the French Association « Les Luttes à Lier » for the creation of the First Animal Sanctuary (Vegan & Anti-Specieist) in the Paris region – a place of non-oppressive life for animals from other species saved from a life of abuse, breeding or slaughter.
We strongly hope that our values, way of production and quality standards will be considered mainstream in the near future. There are already other jewellery creators asking us for information about how to make their fabrication more sustainable, so we can be optimistic!
What are the main sustainable and vegan materials you work with?
It has been a struggle for the first months to find suppliers, sourced and recycled metals, engaged and curious craftspeople… And our metals were definitely the main issue that we needed to find a sustainable solution for. Extraction and trade of metals (especially precious ones) are an environmental and human disaster, with mines mainly located in conflict-zones with serious corruption, money laundering and illegal traffickings. We have largely enough metal in circulation that we can recycle indefinitely for our actual world production and consumption.
So we decided to collaborate with a founder and a gold-guilder working in a closed circuit using only production scraps with old metals – industrial and high-tech leftovers that had been cleaned and upgraded. At this moment, we are able to propose gold-guilded or plated brass, silver plated brass, gold plated silver (vermeil), solid silver and gold jewels from our recycling process.
In addition, in partnership with an innovative local startup specialised in the recovery of pollutants and metals contained in industrial effluents, the electroplating workshop is equipped with a new generation of patented fibres. This allows the de-pollution of water and air, as well as the complete recycling of metal traces in it. This project is part of a sustainable economy approach, respectful of resources and in accordance with the concept of “Factory of the Future”. These regenerable sorbent materials allow us to go beyond the respect of the most stringent standards for the discharge of industrial wastewater, and to be in compliance with the future European and World regulations of Zero Liquid Rejection.
Moreover, as mentioned, we exclusively work with vegan wax to make our first jewel sculptures, our packaging is sewn from raw linen – a fibre with many ecological benefits and a better alternative to cotton – and our prints are all done in collaboration with eco-certified printers using recycled papers and renewable energies.
Describe the process of making a piece of jewellery, from design all the way through to the final product/sale/shipping to customer.
We have made the decision to work in capsule collection. We thought it was the most cohesive way to create an antique and appealing universe, which would come through our designs, our photoshoots, our communication and even our graphic charter. Working with this idea of a cohesive and binding project inevitably affects our jewellery making process from design and prototyping to the final product.
After settling our global artistic standpoint, we do our first design sketches on paper then re-draw them with a graphic tablet on computer to have our technical boards, and thus lead to our collection plan.
We then begin the prototype phase. We present these boards to our workshop, we talk about feasibility, ergonomics and costs. Next the artisans sculpt the first 3D model in wax, then casted in plaster. The founder heats this mould to melt the wax, creating a cavity in the plaster. He will then sink molten brass to have our first metal model. It’s a very old technique called « lost-wax casting », already used during antiquity. The pieces are reworked, detailed and polished to perfect the design and the ergonomy. The smelter does the final cast to have the final durable mould in silicon that we will reuse for every order.
For the production phase, we globally work with a pre-order system where every jewel coming out of the cast will be reworked every time and set-to-size; chains and handcrafted clasps will be wrought, adjusted and then sent to our guilder where the final pieces assembled will be gold-guilded or plated.
What are your thoughts on a closed circuit in production and how is this implemented at CVM·ILLE?
Working in a closed circuit is, for now, not that interesting financially but it significantly reduces our environmental impact. We know where all our resources come from, and there is no extraction to get them, as well as reduced transportation so a lower carbon impact. With this in mind, we can also offer our customers a guarantee of one year, and to then indefinitely restore or re-guild their jewels as they get old or damaged for more durability and less consumption.
All this time spent looking for local artisans willing to work only in a closed circuit really induces the customer to question his/her consumption and allows him/her to appreciate the true cost of a handcrafted piece made entirely sustainably in one area. Indeed, despite the fact that it’s still consumption at a mid-range price, it encourages the clientele to see the interests of investing in durable and lasting art pieces.
Working in a closed and local circuit also induces the collaboration of more conscious and politicly engaged craftspersons and entrepreneurs or artists, and encourages local partnerships.
As a consequence, there is more transparency, more direct exchanges and trades, superior production and re-established traditional activities and industries, while still requiring visions and talents of young photographers, web designers, models, stylists and makeup artists.
How does your environment and community influence your business?
We are a new business with new ideas, standards and ways of production but the jewellery world is still very opaque with old and outdated techniques, without much care for traceability or transparency in the name of luxurious and traditional thoughts.
Even if we are trying our best to minimise our impact at every step of production, it’s not always easy to find the right dynamic in this environment, but we know we can always improve our ideas and solutions so our community suggestions and feedbacks are always very welcomed and important to make any kind of progress we can.
We also moved our creative offices in Antwerp, Belgium to have a more eco-friendly environnment. France still have some delays in terms of green innovation, and Belgian and Dutch creators and entrepreneurs seem more aware of environmental issues and create some bold and ambitious resources and techniques in a lot of fields – fashion, jewellery, lifestyle and furniture. So our parisien environment was definitely crucial to launch a new brand of french know-how with strong values, but a fresh new region with conscious creators has allowed us to reimagine our standards, to find even better suppliers and partners, and to make our ideas progress in this new territory.