The Most Rakish Menswear Stores On The Planet: Mad Lords
The Rake visits one of Paris’ best-kept secrets, Mad Lords jewellery, and hears from its founder Serge Muller about how he is rewriting the rulebook on sartorial accessorising.
What is it that makes something precious? That’s the fundamental question that drives Serge Muller, founder and curator of Parisian artisanal jewellers Mad Lords. Muller seeks not just to produce or to sell things that are beautiful, but things that are unique, that are personal, that invest in the wearer a sense of meaning. “I had the conviction that we all belong to tribes,” says Muller. “Once you belong to such an organisation, the most powerful way of expressing it is wearing jewels - an aesthetic symbol of this belonging.” Muller comes from creative stock - his father an art photographer, his uncle a painter and friend of Cezanne, and his daughter also a budding artist - and has always had a fascination with jewels and their heritage and historical importance. After three decades working in investment banking, he decided it was time to pursue it. “I wanted to go back to my family DNA: art and craftsmanship. The investment banking was not bringing anything material to anyone, so I decided to end that career and build my own universe around art jewellery.” Mad Lords derives its name from its clientele, Muller tells me. “It means although they all belong to a certain elite, all of them refuse the most restrictive codes and want to express their aesthetic difference - i.e. being mad.” Muller himself is, perhaps, the platonic ideal of this philosophy - possessed of a louche, distinctly Parisian charm and with a permanent twinkle in his eye, he is immensely charismatic; passionate about the beautiful, the arcane and the absurd in equal measure. His eagerness to play with or subvert established codes is what lends his jewellery curation its voice and its strength. “At the end of the day, a designer or a design is selected if we feel it brings something drastically new to the art jewellery universe. It’s definitely much more of a love story with our jewels than a simple product selection. We need to fall in love with a piece if we decide to carry it.”
Mad Lords' focus is on what Muller terms ‘art jewellery’ - pieces that embody art, craft and luxury simultaneously. Many pieces from his collection are unique and exclusive - either made as one-offs or from idiosyncratic materials that can’t be replicated. Mad Lords curates work from dozens of artisans, however Muller also makes his own house line, and even when working with traditional noble materials with his house line, Muller can’t resist putting a distinctly ‘mad’ stamp on them. “We love black gold. Obviously, black is not gold's basic appearance. Natural gold is yellow. In order to make it white, we add palladium to gold via an alloy. After that, we plate the alloy with ruthenium. This derivative from the platinum family enables the end product to be more solid and we obtain this amazing deep black colour. The more ruthenium you use, the darker your piece will be.” The pieces are designed to be unisex, though Muller notes they do tend to appeal more to their primarily male clientele. He often incorporates different shades of diamonds to make them even more luxurious, and occasionally even more esoteric materials. “Sometimes amazing materials such as dinosaur bones or rare beautiful stones are added. We have request these to be matte though, as we thought shiny doesn’t correspond to tribal luxury, nor to our clients’ needs for timeless pieces.” Muller places a huge amount of value with having an open dialogue with his clients, and their input is valuable to how he approaches the business as not just a retailer but a curator. “[Our clients] are looking for exclusivity. They also need not to be treated as clients but as a part of a group that share common values and principles. We share views and ideas with them; we are more galerist than merchant. We don’t sell; we play, act and advise.” That passion and engagement - as well as Muller’s uniquely playful eye for luxury - is evident in every aspect of the business. Muller believes in the nobility of the materials or the craft, but equally he is inspired by how pieces become precious to the wearer for more intangible reasons. “Jewellery has always been a way to express a mood or taste, but also deeper feelings such as love or dreams. In recent decades, men have considered jewels to be the domain of women, but we are convinced of the contrary. Readers of The Rake, as has always been the case, are the trendsetters and never the followers. We and our clients are far from interested in joining the crowd.”