An Interview with Isabelle Fish, Founder of Rue Pigalle

Published
Wednesday 27 February 2019

Rue Pigalle creates bespoke trips for jewellery and art lovers who want to peer behind the curtain of the makers spaces and expand their minds by exploring beyond the obvious.

We caught up with Founder Isabelle Fish to discuss how jewellery can tell a story, the careful curation of her bespoke trips and why the emotional connection with handmade objects is more important than ever.

LCW: What initially led you in to jewellery and bespoke trip planning as a career?

IF: It was a chance encounter really. About 15 years ago we moved from the UK to Calgary in Canada. I was a lawyer but not sure where my career was going to take me after the move.

I met an amazing woman called Roslyn who had just opened a little shop of French fashion jewelry and accessories. She asked me to help her out a few hours a week. I discovered the world of jewelry, art, fashion and retail. We then moved to Toronto where I opened my own jewelry gallery. I specialised in independent artists and designers from Europe, introducing them to my North American clients.

I just loved making that connection between the maker and the wearer, sharing the story of the artists, and learning about jewelry in general. The natural progression was to bring the clients to the artists in their studios. My clients always wanted to come with me on my scouting trips, so I closed the boutique and started curating itineraries to various cities where jewellery events take place. My itineraries are all about jewellery and the artists. I am in awe of makers, their skills, their inspiration, their ability to communicate feelings and emotions through their art. It’s extraordinary. 

LCW: What does your typical day look like?

IF: I am usually up at 4.30am and my mornings are dedicated to deskwork including research, emails, writing my blog and creating itineraries.

Lunch is an opportunity to catch up with clients, meet new artists or other business contacts. The face to face is very important to me, with overseas contacts I try to skype as much as possible rather than exchange emails. It is so much more efficient and enriching.

I spend a lot of time scouting stores, going to exhibits, checking out what’s new in Toronto to get a sense of what people like, what’s new. In the evening I read more about jewelry and what’s happening in Europe and other art centres. One of my challenges is to keep in touch with what’s happening outside Canada to make sure I offer the best and most exclusive to my clients. I travel a lot as I only take my clients to places I have visited myself. I do not rely on third party reviews. For every trip I do a dry run first, check every hotel, restaurant, meet every artist, gallery. It’s a great privilege to be able to do so.

LCW: What is the connection between jewellery and travel?

IF: It’s the stories. Both jewellery and travels are about human stories. Have you noticed that when you compliment someone on a piece of jewellery, she will automatically launch into where it comes from, how she acquired it and who made it? The jewellery we wear says a lot about ourselves, it’s a way for us to communicate who we are and to tell our story. In travelling we want to learn other people’s stories, bring them back home, compare our story to theirs. We want to enrich our story with that of others. So when you purchase a piece of jewellery while travelling, you have so many layers in the story you can tell. I find it fascinating.

LCW: What are the most important factors when planning a bespoke trip?

IF: Listen to your clientele carefully to offer them the right mix of enriching, fun and unexpected activities. My guests are well travelled and very connected with cultural and societal trends so it’s important I give them an experience they cannot find anywhere else.

I see myself as opening doors for them to the marvellous world of jewellery and craftsmanship. At the end of the day, it’s really about the intimate and personal connections we make with each other. That’s why our experiences are limited to small, select groups of just ten likeminded people. When we meet the artists in their studios, listen to their life stories and see the workbench and tools they use with their own hands, we close the circle between who we are and whose work we wear.

The itinerary must also have enough flexibility that it can accommodate a guest’s personal requests during the trip. I have just the right number of guests so we can have that personal touch. 

LCW: What role does bespoke craftsmanship and making have in society?

IF: To my mind, its principal role is to create a human connection and bring beauty into our daily lives. Craftsmanship is the skill to make something beautiful by hand.

Everything seems to be reduced to its practicality and cost (as low as possible). It’s a soulless, emotionless approach that is not sustainable from an economic and societal point of view. We need human-to-human connections in our daily lives and craftsmanship ensures it happens. When we are told that an object has been made by hand, we connect to it, we respect it, we value it because we know that it represents someone’s labour. We never experience that connection when we buy an industrial product no matter how beautiful or expensive it is. Craft is taught from generation to generation, it ensures continuity, transmission of values of quality, excellence, hard work and patience. Craftsmanship is grounding – you have to touch the material to make the object. It can’t be virtual.

LCW: Can you tell us about any upcoming trips?

IF: I have 4 upcoming trips in 2019. I have London from 7 – 14 May in collaboration with London Craft Week. We have created an exclusive 8-day itinerary of private events and experiences, which will be an exceptional opportunity to connect with artists, visit unexpected venues, learn from the best in their field, discover unique skills and talents.

Paris and Provence from 6 – 14 June, where we’ll be discovering how nature is inspiring jewellery artists through private visits of historical landmarks, ateliers, private collections and even a philosophy lecture. October 10 – 18 we are attending Barcelona Jewellery Week. It’s a feast of art jewellery. We will also go to Lisbon which has a very rich jewellery scene.

Then in November from 20 – 24, we attend New York Jewellery Week – there are almost 100 events throughout Manhattan. It’s spectacular.

Website: ruepigalle.ca

Instagram: @ruepigalletoronto

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