On May 11, 2023, writer, literary critic, and professor emeritus at the Collège de France Antoine Compagnon was inducted into the Académie Française. His “habit vert” was created by the Couture atelier of Balenciaga and his sword by the High Jewelry atelier of Boucheron.
“Thanks to this exceptional project, Kering has been able to bring together the Couture expertise of Balenciaga and the High Jewelry expertise of Boucheron to create what I believe is a model of the purest luxury. These unique, custom-made pieces fully reflect Antoine Compagnon’s personality, a manifestation of creativity combined with the greatest skills and traditions that allow individuals to express what is unique to them, ” said François-Henri Pinault, Chairman and CEO of de Kering.
Founded in 1635 by Cardinal de Richelieu, the Académie Française is an institution whose mission is to defend the French language. The Academy is composed of 40 members elected by their peers for life. Known as the “immortals”, they meet every Thursday under the dome of the Institut de France in Paris. The academicians are renowned for their “habit vert” and their sword, distinctive signs of their function.
Antoine Compagnon commissioned Balenciaga to make his academician’s costume and Boucheron to craft his sword. These exceptional orders, carried out in perfect synergy, represent a unique adventure for the Kering Houses. The joint project illustrates the excellence of the two Maisons and showcases the strong link between Balenciaga’s unique heritage and creativity and the know-how of its Couture workshops, combined with the extraordinary capacity for innovation and creative virtuosity of the oldest jeweler in Place Vendôme.
For the first time since its foundation in 1917 by Cristóbal Balenciaga, the House has drawn on its expertise to create and produce an academician’s costume. Created by Demna, the suit required more than 300 hours of tailoring in the workshops of the Couture House, and the specific materials for each garment were selected from the most renowned weavers in their field. The black-tails jacket and matching trousers are embellished with an embroidery of the traditional olive branch, woven in gold and green, which took 900 hours of work to produce at the Maison Lesage.
“It is the first time since the House was founded in 1917, that an ‘immortal’ of the Academie française has bestowed this privilege upon Balenciaga. As the CEO of Balenciaga, I am particularly proud of the collaborative aspects of this project. The innovative spirit of the House, the institution that is the Académie française, and Boucheron’s excellence, all reveal the dynamic creative synergy within Kering and all inputs coming from the different teams of the brands, especially the ateliers.” – Cédric Charbit, President and CEO of Balenciaga.
For its part, Boucheron assisted Antoine Compagnon in the design of his academician’s sword. This project, the result of nearly a year of co-creation, allowed the House to create a sword made entirely of glass, incorporating the references and symbols dear to the future Academician.
“We are very proud to have created this sword for Antoine Compagnon, as it marks an important chapter in the prestigious Boucheron tradition of making swords for other academicians since the middle of the 20th century. Its great modernity and refined style make this sword a heritage piece that bears the singular stylistic signature of the House.” – Hélène Poulit-Duquesne, President and CEO of Boucheron.
“Being entrusted with the creation of this highly symbolic piece touched me deeply. From our first meeting, Antoine Compagnon mentioned ‘transparency’ a theme that is particularly dear to me, as it was for Frédéric Boucheron, who loved rock crystal. This sword brings together various symbols close to Antoine Compagnon: a feather in reference to his literary work, a quotation from Marcel Proust on whom he is a specialist, a hedgehog after a watercolor by Hans Hoffmann that he loves, and a spiral echoing the chain that adorns the handle of the uniform sword of the Polytechnique, from which he graduated. I am very pleased that this sword, which represented an unprecedented challenge for the House, reflects Antoine Compagnon’s personality and his unique career path.” – Claire Choisne, Director of Boucheron Creations.