Clutching at clutches | The minaudière empire of Sylvia Toledano


Editor-at-large Karen Krizanovich has a magpie’s eye, and profoundly well developed wrists from a bejeweled bangle habit. She’s also a little bit obsessed with Paris-based Sylvia Toledano, whose work incorporating lapis lazuli, tiger’s eye and black quartz is crafted in Jaipur. We let her go to Paris to pay homage. We await the restraining order…

Sylvia Toledano

Sylvia Toledano

When evening bags and jewelry love each other very much, they have minaudières. Credited to Charles Arpels, of Van Cleef & Arpels in the 1930s, today’s minaudière rightfully belongs to Sylvia Toledano, the Parisienne whose designs in jewelry, accessories and minaudière are amusing, chic and elegant. No mere evening bag, the minaudière is a diva – always beautiful, rarely practical and almost always excruciatingly expensive.

My introduction to minaudière came via chic French stylist Corinne Lucquiaud at the Cannes Film Festival. To walk the red carpet, Lucquiaud offered me glittering objects the like of which I had never seen before. “I get to carry any one of these?” I asked, choosing the most beautiful of the lot, a small oblong festooned with dotted gold and silver crystals. This was Sylvia Toledano’s Extended Minaudière X-Dot. So, instead of watching the screen that night at the Palais, I spent the whole evening gazing at it. What film was it? I don’t remember and I don’t care.

I’m such a fan, I think I can determine something of her magic by looking at her. Turns out, I can’t

Toledano makes the most beautiful minaudières ever. In fact, the word minaudière should belong to her. Influenced by her unique history – Parisian with a childhood in Mauritania and Gabon – Toledano returned to the city where she studied law then style at Cours Berçot and sculpture at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs de Paris. Having virtually stalked her in a fever dream for three years, we meet at her flagship store at 26 Rue Danielle Casanova in Paris. A classic French beauty with an ethereal, playful air, Toledano slides through the door like a little bird, sporting a fur scarf and other textures. I’m not paying attention to the clothes. She has dark dark shining eyes like Audrey Tatou without the crazy. And I’m such a fan, I think I can determine something of her magic by looking at her. Turns out, I can’t.



Karen Krizanovich: Oh, Happy Birthday, by the way.

Sylvia Toledano: It was last month.

KK: No, I can’t believe I forgot…[kicking self] The thing about your minaudières is that they are usable. So many evening bags hold, like, one cigarette…

ST: You tell me that there is something more? They’re practical? Because at the beginning, when I began making the minaudiére, the bag was not important for me. It was the meaning that I wanted to give to the bag that was important. But for me, it was like a canvas.

KK:  Your designs are edgy without being gauche or crude. How do you do that?

 X-Malachite in blue

X-Malachite in blue

ST: Sometimes if you take this and go to a party [she gestures to her Wonderstars bag, emblazoned with several sparkling stars], it was a message. That’s why I didn’t do the classical bag. It was always something for me spiritual. It was something to have to take when you are in the mood. This was very funny [she picks up X-Looook, one decorated in evil eyes] you have this bag and you have protection, each bag was like this. Normally you have a minaudière to walk the red carpet. But the first collection there was one in a jean colour, in a special blue so the woman could put with jeans not only with big dresses.

KK: I have a Google alert on you, which is a terrible thing to admit. I can tell your work instantly from someone else’s. What was your turning point to do this?

ST: Because I love the minaudière. It is very feminine. You know when you go to a party, you need an attitude and when you take this, you have an attitude. When I first began, there were no minaudière. Before it, there were many years without minaudière. After I made it, everybody – Dior, Chanel etc — made it. But there were a lot in America, from Judith Leiber. Every woman at 18 wanted a minaudière – for a wedding, every girl wanted the minaudière. I said there was something that needed to be done with the minaudière in Paris. We didn’t have it. And I wanted to make it.

 X-Malachite in yellow

X-Malachite in yellow

KK: Does travel impact your designs?

ST: I feel very lucky to be born in a city like Paris where I continue to discover new places all the time. Last month I went to take a tea at the Hotel Particulier in Montmartre with a friend. As we walked around, I saw for the first time in my life the famous vines. I knew that they existed but I never saw it in real life. Each evening when I come back to my house after my work, I can see the Eiffel Tower shining along the Tuileries Garden. The lights, the clouds, and the sky are pink purple or orange sometimes. I can’t stop admiring this spectacle even after so many years. Near to my office there is also the Palais Royal Garden which is a true jewel. Each season has a different colour – autumn, spring, winter, – the trees, the flowers and the smells changing. There are also so many art exhibitions, paintings, photography and design shows… I love my city, it such an inspiring “lady”.

KK: I didn’t even know there were vines in Montmartre! What I really like about your minaudières is the way they feel in the hand – sparkling yet smooth. They’re quite sensuous, actually.

ST: They are 3000-5000 crystals placed by hand; I have some that were very complicated. [Toledano has collaborated on many minaudière with a variety of partners]

KK: There is so much playfulness in them – yours is a very modern take on evening wear. It lightens what could be a a burden. Formal evenings can be long nights on shoes that hurt, so a sparkling minaudière is the perfect distraction.

ST: I always love the fashion – the couture – because when I was young, maybe 25, I always love the beautiful materials. I love the couture when I was very little. That’s why I love the minaudière.

KK: And some of us love it too much… C