The name Stéfère has been on the lips ever since Cardi B walked the pink carpet of 2019 Met Gala with two ruby nipples mounting her corset. The triumph that was the rapper’s risqué appearance at the most coveted fashion event of the year was hardly the first time Stéfère jewellery found its way into the boudoirs of the brightest starlets of the moment.
The woman behind the House that, in many ways, gave the title Haute Joaillier a new facet, Corina Mihaila Larpin takes a new patina of munificence and grandeur.
Our first interaction with the Stéfère owner was when we first collaborated with Corina on #askGAHSP campaign, where we asked Creatives to phrase three questions that the pandemic inspired them to ask themselves. It was not until months later when we met in person, Corina stunned us with her charm, quick wit and work ethic.
Corina grew up in Romania, a country, at the time, nearly stripped of fashion and glamour. “We had German magazines with fashion that I was dreaming about”, she says, “My mom would always wear beautiful jewellery, and, sometimes, I would take hers without telling her. I’m still dreaming about her earrings that I lost, and I still dream that one day I’ll be able to make them again. It wasn’t by accident that I became what I was dreaming to be. I always was in love with having and wearing beautiful things”
Soon enough, Corina’s passion for beautiful things became what one might now call, the endeavour of a lifetime. Stéphanie Réhault, the founder of Stéfère, partnered with Larpin in 2008. Seven years later, Corina would purchase the brand, elevating it to the new heights of excellence and global recognition. “[Stéphanie] said, ‘Corina, I would like you to buy my shares, because this is what you dream for, and I dream for something else. I don’t want to ruin our friendship’”.
Not a night would pass by where Corina wasn’t burying herself in books and spending hours in front of the screen conceiving her new creations, each one more intricate than the last. “It’s not meant to be for everybody, it’s meant to be for stunning people. They know what they want”, says Corina. Indeed, bearing her fingers, Stéfère has been dominating the jewellery boxes of Cher, Madonna and Jane Fonda, to name a few. Yet, despite having such a star-studded portfolio, the designer never ceases to praise her clients who are away from the spotlight. “For me, my clients are celebrities. Having people be so supportive and wearing my brand is already such an achievement. A piece of jewellery is a dream. I need to make them dream”.
Jewellery is a dream. It’s magic. For better or for worse, however, behind every majestic piece, a myriad of challenges lie dormant. And, sometimes, the decision to conquer them once and for all might come out of the blue, on a Sunday, on the way to church. On a day just like that Corina received a call that would later put her name on the front pages of magazines and in the fever dreams of gay reporters around the world. "My agency called me. I was going to church, I was in Vietnam at the time. They said, ‘We need to FaceTime now. It’s the biggest thing ever, you need to get on the call.’ I got on the call, and they said ‘We want you to do the nipples for Cardi B [for the Met Ball]’, I told them they were crazy. I didn’t have the rubies, I didn’t have the time, I didn’t know how to do it” Eventually, Corina agreed. Repeating her mantra "Everything is possible” and excavating all the devotion her heart could contain, she began creating, assiduously and euphorically. The hectic days and sleepless nights were now filled with calls to ruby merchants and painstaking illustrations, with a little to no time left for family or rest. "I was working for more than 20 hours a day for three weeks. After the Met Gala finished, I had to go to the after-party and I couldn’t go. It was my dream to go. I passed out. I couldn’t”.
After hearing such stories, one might struggle not to get overwhelmed by the theatrics of it all. The success of such magnitude, however, can hardly be achieved by just one person, no matter how brilliant. Shortly after purchasing Stéfère, Corina invited her sister, Doina Mihaila (Didi) to the company. She smiled when reflecting on the dynamics inside of the, now, family business. “Didi, she’s more like ‘don’t make mistakes with me’. For me, it’s like, some people, they can make mistakes. I can close my eyes one time, but with Didi, it’s not like that”.
With Mihaila sisters joining forces, the brand's cult following began expanding faster than one might whisper ‘Stéfère’. One of the milestones that defined the House's journey in a myriad of ways were the skull earrings commissioned by Lady Gaga back in 2016. The pair of seemingly simple drop earrings is strung with six skulls on each, forged from black gold and stippled with diamonds. The sheer complexity of the piece was hidden behind the striking candour of the initial concept. The shape of the skulls and an intricate mechanism that connects the charms made this pair nearly impossible to bring to life from the sketch. The earrings would later go on to inspire an entire collection of pieces with skull motifs, one of which made a cameo in Madonna's most recent music video. The whole collection, says Corina, was pretty much the result of playing with mistakes.
The artistry at the core of Stéfère earned Corina Entrepreneur of the Year award three years ago. It was an experience that truly left Corina speechless. We reckon it must have been a thrill to be the stunned one for once. “I couldn’t talk, knowing that instead of so many important people I was chosen to receive [the award]. This led me to be speechless, also because I couldn’t talk, knowing that instead of so many important people I was chosen to receive it”, she laughs, “At the same time I knew that I would win when they selected me, I told my husband ‘ I can win this ’ I manifested it. I didn’t believe, I was wanting to die, cry”.
Corina whole-heartedly believes in the importance of giving back to the community any way she can. When the world just started succumbing to that nightmare that is COVID-19, Corina found herself trapped in Thailand for months, without a way to fly out to Hong Kong, her home. Acknowledging that the situation had a harder impact on the local Thai communities, she decided to do her part helping those in need. “We were supporting 700 families in Thailand every day for two months. We would partner up with restaurants that will buy the food, we would bring the food and they will cook and give it to the families. 700 meals a day for more than two months. I was carrying 700 bottles of water every day. You would not believe me, but we would do that because we didn’t have help. It was a great experience in the end, because my heart was really in a happy state.”
Written and edited by Gennady Oreshkin
Creative concept by Julia Horvath
Images courtesy of Stéfère jewellery and GAHSP Media