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Tiffany & Co isn’t your average neighborhood jeweler.
Over the past 179 years, the company built by Charles Lewis Tiffany and Teddy Young has solidified its reputation as an American institution — its white ribbon and robin’s egg blue packaging synonymous with sparkle, luxury and the Holly Golightly attitude Audrey Hepburn brought to life in Breakfast at Tiffany’s in 1961.
But behind the behemoth’s masterful, aspirational engagement marketing and dreamy red-carpet looks lies a whole world of secret connections (sports? Steve Jobs? — yes, there’s a relation to Tiffany’s). It’s these deep-rooted pop-culture influences that director Matthew Miele (Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf’s) shines a light on in his newest film, Crazy About Tiffany’s.
Pret-a-Reporter had the chance to ask Miele about the documentary (in select theaters Friday), including its candid celebrity cameos from the likes of Rachel Zoe and Katie Couric as well as the company’s involvement in the production. Plus, catch an exclusive clip from the film, showing Jessica Biel picking out her jewelry for the 2015 Academy Awards. You won’t want to miss Biel casually sipping coffee while sporting millions of dollars’ worth of diamonds.
What piqued your interest in a pop culture-focused documentary about the brand? Any one standout moment in pop history?
My interest in Tiffany & Co. was born from how iconic they have become in our culture, the signature blue color, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, the invention of the first mail-order catalog, the engagement ring as we know it today, etc., all contributed to how Tiffany has become ingrained in our minds. But there is a wealth of significance to the brand beyond those things that the film reveals. For example, the most famous insignia in sports was designed by Tiffany over a century ago, I won’t give it away here, but that really blew me away.
How will viewers who are not familiar with high-end jewelry brands be able to connect with the documentary?
Tiffany isn’t just about high-end jewelry. The same way Apple is not just about the iPhone or the Mac. It’s really about marketing and branding, and how founder Charles Lewis Tiffany was a true pioneer, way ahead of his time, whose business principles and “tactics” created Tiffany & Co. from a simple jewelry store in the 19th century to a global phenomenon and into our lives by ways more than the product itself.
What was Tiffany & Co’s role in the film?
Tiffany & Co. simply allowed me the access. They knew my work from the Bergdorf Goodman documentary I had just completed and they were quite open to allowing me a rare glimpse behind the curtain. They turned out to be not just a great subject, but great sports as the film definitely provides a balanced take on the brand, and to their credit, they didn’t make me remove anything I wanted to keep in the film.
Interviews with celebs are not heavily edited (cursing, miscrediting jewelry) — what was the intention there?
I think that the criticism of Tiffany & Co. all these years, and what we touch upon in the film, is that their advertising and general image is extremely whitewashed, carefully cultivated and perhaps overly sanitized. I wanted to ensure that I didn’t do that with the documentary. I wanted the audience to witness what I was seeing and hearing about the brand. I believe this makes it more accessible and more familiar to the audience. Tiffany has always put the people in their ads and their vision of “love” and “engagement” on a pedestal, bordering on unrealistic. I wanted the documentary to be and feel real and less edited and artificial.
AMERICAN ICON: Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly in the film adaptation of Truman Capote’s novella, Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
Do you think that the brand would have been as popular without Breakfast at Tiffany or Audrey Hepburn’s legacy?
Tiffany was in a lot of trouble just after the Depression, but also in the mid-1950s. They were in danger of going out of business. I definitely believe the film and Audrey Hepburn came along just at the right time. Truman Capote, his socialite friends, his eventual novella wrapped in mystery as to who the main character was inspired by, the casting of the already famous Audrey in the role, etc. This was all happening in the late ‘50s/early ‘60s. With the innovative and forward-thinking Walter Hoving at the helm of Tiffany & Co., he knew the novella and the eventual movie was going to be something and took full advantage of Audrey and the filming, which we showcase in the film. This film and Audrey Hepburn undoubtedly propelled Tiffany into the pop-culture mainstream and has ever since.
What is the most interesting pop-culture influence/connection from Tiffany’s that people might be surprised to know?
The connection between Steve Jobs and Tiffany I mentioned before is real and somewhat unknown, even though Steve Jobs has been documented a lot lately. The simplicity of the iPhone as well as the artistry of the iMacs, etc., were heavily influenced by Charles Tiffany and his son Louis Comfort Tiffany. Though Steve Jobs was a Buddhist of sorts and didn’t value material items, he certainly made an exception when it came to the artistry of Tiffany lamps and jewelry. The film explores this in detail and shows the connection.
How much of the film is about the actual iconic jewelry vs. the brand as an icon itself?
I would say half of the film really delves into the jewelry design, and for the first time showcases the creative process of what goes into the iconic pieces not only in the annual blue book, but for the Oscar red carpet. The other half gets into the pop-culture resonance of the brand, complete with how just about every iconic American president has a connection to the brand, going back to Abraham Lincoln. The film is really a fun ride that surprises at every turn!
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