Elsa Peretti, Star Designer for Tiffany & Firm, Dies at 80
Perhaps the most famous photo of Ms. Peretti did not come from a modeling assignment, but from the morning after by the famous photographer Helmut Newton, with whom she was romantically linked at the time. She stands on an apartment terrace, a cigarette dangles in her mouth and wears a variation of the Playboy Bunny uniform – strapless, with long black gloves and a black mask.
If their nightlife was affecting their business productivity, it didn’t show. It branched out in terms of goods. There was a gold mesh bra, an array of pens, cutlery, ashtrays, and even a sterling silver pizza cutter. But the jewelry was always her main focus.
In a statement released Friday, Tiffany credited her with “some of the most innovative jewelry and object designs in the world” and stated that she had “explored nature with the acumen of a scientist and the vision of a sculptor”. As Ms. Peretti herself once said: “I love nature, but I try to change it a little, not to copy it.”
In 2012 there was talk of Ms. Peretti leaving Tiffany (and taking her designs with her). But just at the end of the year, the designer and the retailer signed a new 20-year contract that included a one-time payment of more than $ 47 million. The numbers varied from year to year, but Peretti merchandise sometimes made up 10 percent or more of Tiffany’s sales.
Ms. Peretti’s designs are in several permanent collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the British Museum in London, and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. In addition to winning the Coty American Fashion Critics’ Award in 1971, she received awards from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1981 and from the Council of Fashion Designers of America in 1996.
Ms. Peretti bought a house in 1968 in Sant Martí Vell, just over an hour’s drive north of Barcelona. The place was a wreck, mostly deserted, and she loved it. After restoring it, she restored other parts of the village, including the church. Help with excavating Roman ruins; and found a winery. In the 1970s she talked about making it a community for artisans, but it became her own private village.