We need to talk

Cartier So­cial Lab gives cre­atives, in­ven­tors and ac­tors a chance to speak up on the con­cept of progress and the joy of suc­cess.


Cartier So­cial Lab and cre­atives on the con­cept of progress and the joy of suc­cess.

no man is an is­land. This is a phrase most, if not all of us, can get be­hind. In­deed, some of the world’s most re­mark­able cre­ations could not have come into ex­is­tence without a thought­ful crosspol­li­na­tion of ideas, skills, knowl­edge and opin­ion. Tim Bern­ers-lee cer­tainly couldn’t have in­vented the In­ter­net without his team of com­puter sci­en­tists, and Sir Ed­mund Hil­lary couldn’t have scaled Mount Ever­est without the help of Ten­z­ing Nor­gay. So the best achieve­ments come from the minds and ef­forts of many be­cause that’s what it means to in­no­vate, and an in­ven­tion is only as good as its ap­pli­ca­tion. Some­times all we need to do is to talk to some­one. This was the ba­sis of the world’s first Cartier So­cial Lab.

The Lab was a unique en­vi­ron­ment; a mul­ti­sen­so­rial plat­form that brought to­gether all kinds of trail­blaz­ers from dif­fer­ent in­dus­tries. Without the Lab, it’s pos­si­ble that th­ese peo­ple might never have crossed paths, much less en­joyed the ben­e­fit of shar­ing and learn­ing from other like­minded in­di­vid­u­als across dif­fer­ent fields. So if think­ing out of the box had a time and place, it would be this Lab.

Held over three days in San Fran­cisco, the Lab took over the charm­ing in­te­ri­ors of the his­tor­i­cal Pier 48. Right out on the wa­ter­front, this beau­ti­ful lo­ca­tion had been reimag­ined as a se­ries of artis­tic spa­ces, in­spi­ra­tional cor­ners and communal ar­eas. The space, cre­ated with the help of New York ar­chi­tect Rafael de Cár­de­nas, who was also one of the 20-plus speakers at the event, was de­signed for ev­ery­body to be able to hold con­ver­sa­tions through ev­ery­thing from pic­tures to videos, to mu­sic and speech, to print me­dia and even food.

It was also com­pletely apt that the first Lab was staged in San Fran­cisco. Be­ing the home of Sil­i­con Val­ley, which is the global cen­tre for high tech­nol­ogy, ven­ture cap­i­tal, in­no­va­tion and so­cial me­dia, ev­ery­body who is some­body in the techno­preneur scene has a stake in the city. In­ter­na­tional mar­ket­ing and com­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rec­tor for Cartier, Ar­naud Car­rez, con­curs: “I think San Fran­cisco is an amaz­ing, fear­less city and that, I would say, echoes very much our cel­e­bra­tion party. It’s a city of en­trepreneurs and pi­o­neers, a city of free-spir­ited men and women who dare to in­vent the fu­ture of many dif­fer­ent as­pects. This res­onates very much with Cartier’s vi­sion and val­ues. That’s why it makes per­fect sense for us to hold the event here.”

That it had been Cartier and not an­other lux­ury brand which hosted such an event made per­fect sense as well, for few or­gan­i­sa­tions have such in­ter­na­tional clout among dif­fer­ent com­mu­ni­ties. Through var­i­ous en­ti­ties such as the Cartier Char­i­ta­ble Foun­da­tion and Cartier Women’s Ini­tia­tive, Cartier’s in­volve­ment with so­ci­ety per­me­ates all lev­els and crosses mul­ti­ple spheres. Says Car­rez: “We are a very ex­clu­sive mai­son and at the same time we are an in­clu­sive mai­son. We are con­stantly en­gag­ing with many dif­fer­ent au­di­ences around the world. If you look at the event here, it ex­presses very much our vi­sion. It’s about shar­ing, about col­lab­o­rat­ing with di­verse com­mu­ni­ties. This is some­thing very im­por­tant at Cartier. [Cartier So­cial Lab] is a plat­form that’s never been done be­fore. It’s not only a party, any­one can or­gan­ise a very suc­cess­ful party. This is about bring­ing con­tent and pur­pose to what we’re do­ing.”

CRE­AT­ING CON­VER­SA­TION Be­cause Cartier is a lux­ury mai­son that’s con­stantly in tune with so­ci­ety and the chang­ing habits of the world, it has a firm grasp on the top­ics that would en­gage and in­spire the most pro­gres­sive minds to­day. The Lab is an­chored on three core mes­sages: Fear­less­ness, The Thrill of In­ven­tion and Bold Con­nec­tions. All of th­ese are val­ues and char­ac­ter­is­tics em­bod­ied by the mai­son it­self, be they through its iden­tity, its her­itage or its prod­ucts.

Fear­less­ness is an im­pos­si­bil­ity be­cause no one can ever truly be fear­less. So rather than find ways to erad­i­cate fear from our psy­che, why not har­ness the power of fear as a mo­ti­va­tor? On the topic of In­trepid De­sign, de Cár­de­nas spoke can­didly: “I don’t know that I set out to be bold and fear­less or any­thing. I’m ac­tu­ally very fear­ful, and I think that if you’re not fear­ful, you’re prob­a­bly not tak­ing sig­nif­i­cant risks.”

He was joined by Amer­i­can art photographer-film­maker Alex Prager who’s worked with such Hol­ly­wood A-lis­ters as Jes­sica Chas­tain, Ge­orge Clooney, Glenn Close, Rooney Mara, Brad Pitt and Kirsten Dunst. Agree­ing that fear is a strong mo­ti­va­tor, Prager shared: “I feel like I got to a point where I need to take on scary projects, I need to

know that I’m ter­ri­fied, in a way, in or­der for it to be the right pro­ject. And I’m ex­cited about it and ex­hil­a­rated, but I also need to be con­fi­dent in that ev­ery other time I’ve felt this way and all the things go wrong and ev­ery­one’s run­ning around on set, say­ing ‘this isn’t hap­pen­ing right, and there’s a prob­lem’, and there could be a lot on the line, I know that ev­ery time that’s hap­pened in the past, we’ve fig­ured it out.”

Sus­tain­abil­ity is an­other sub­ject that’s on all our minds and at the Lab, three em­i­nent in­di­vid­u­als spoke freely on the topic of Sus­tain­ing Fu­tures: French ac­tress Me­lanie Lau­rent, art en­tre­pre­neur Claude Grunitzky and eco-techno­preneur Priv Bradoo. Lead­ing the talk was Bradoo, who was also one of the lau­re­ates of the Cartier Women’s Ini­tia­tive. She as­serted: “I’ve most re­cently em­braced this no­tion that I don’t be­lieve in hope. Hope is ac­tu­ally a re­ally bad thing and the rea­son is it makes it some­one else’s prob­lem. It’s like ‘I hope things get bet­ter’. No, if you hope things get bet­ter, that just say­ing ‘I’m not go­ing to do some­thing about it, but there are other peo­ple who are re­ally nice and they will. It’s like I hope the weather is great’. No, the weather will be what it will be. So in this vein of con­tro­ver­sial­ism, let’s stop be­ing hope­ful. The world will be what we make it.”

Hav­ing shot a film on sus­tain­abil­ity around the world, Lau­rent weighed in on the im­por­tance of ap­pre­ci­at­ing na­ture. She said: “It’s crazy to see how we’ve be­come so pow­er­ful at cer­tain things like health­care, all those things are so much bet­ter now and we’re liv­ing longer, but then we al­ways have no time, we’re al­ways frus­trated. Ev­ery­body feels so frus­trated at the end of the day, say­ing that day was too short. There is a prob­lem of con­nec­tion to things. Any­body should just go into a for­est, hold a tree, see what’s go­ing on, see what’s hap­pen­ing, be­cause it’s mag­i­cal and we don’t see the magic any­more. That’s the prob­lem. And peo­ple hate peo­ple who are so naïve. If you tell them I’m hold­ing trees all the time, peo­ple just roll their eyes at you.”

Bradoo added that a change in lead­er­ship val­ues is also needed. “The types of lead­ers that we need to pro­mote and talk about and re­ward has to be dif­fer­ent from the ones we pro­moted and talked about and re­warded pre­vi­ously. For ex­am­ple, when we talk about di­ver­sity, it’s not just gen­der and colour, it’s about the types of per­son­al­ity. This in­tro­verted per­son, this maker, who might have a mind­ful­ness about longevity ver­sus that re­ally charm­ing and charis­matic leader whose fo­cus is sim­ply on de­liv­er­ing the next quar­ter re­sults to their in­vestors.”

At first blush, the thrill of in­ven­tion sounds like some far-out con­cept that only in­ven­tors or sci­en­tists get to ex­pe­ri­ence, but the truth is, ev­ery­one has the po­ten­tial to go through it. Think­ing of a new way to carry out some­thing mun­dane—that is one form of in­ven­tion. Turn­ing an age-old con­cept on its head—that is an­other one. Even see­ing some­thing from a new per­spec­tive is an in­ven­tive process. On the topic of In­ven­tion and Fail­ure, Lau­rent was joined by fel­low Hol­ly­wood ac­tress Freida Pinto and art cu­ra­tor Sab­rina Buell.

“On fail­ure, I don’t look at it neg­a­tively in the first place,” said Pinto. “Which is why I love the French way of look­ing at suc­cess. In­stead of be­ing de­fined by what other peo­ple see, you’re de­fined by what makes you happy and what makes you sat­is­fied.” Lau­rent echoed those sen­ti­ments, adding blithely: “French peo­ple love fail­ure. They love it.

We hate suc­cess. The more suc­cess you have, the more it al­most dis­gusts peo­ple.

But per­haps Pinto ex­pressed it best when she said: “Peo­ple pre­pare you for fail­ure but no one pre­pares you for suc­cess.”

Be­ing bold and fear­less re­quires a cer­tain de­gree of putting mind over mat­ter and this was a sub­ject that was well-han­dled by speakers Bob Roth, who is a med­i­ta­tion guru, and two ground­break­ing ath­letes, Aimee Mullins and Laird Hamil­ton. Hamil­ton, a pro big wave surfer, had this to say about fear: “My re­la­tion­ship with fear started at such a young age that I de­vel­oped a re­la­tion­ship with it. I dated fear, fear was my girl­friend. Even­tu­ally I used it as a tool. Fear can make you fast and smart, quickly.”

But what is a tool to Hamil­ton is a com­pan­ion to Mullins. She ex­plained: “Fear doesn’t run around like a ram­pant mon­ster, pulling my hair. It tries to some­times. It’s more like my shadow. It’s there. It walks with me.”

Yet ac­knowl­edg­ing one’s fears doesn’t pre­clude one from dar­ing to dream. On the topic of De­sign­ing Dreams, Bri­tish ac­tor Idris Elba be­lieves that to do the best you can, there will al­ways be sac­ri­fice and there must be per­se­ver­ance. “You know when you start a pro­ject, if you say shit this is go­ing to be five years of my life, then you’re never go­ing to get there, and it’ll end up be­ing what­ever it is. So I try not to en­vis­age the end so much and just try and say ‘right, ev­ery day is the be­gin­ning of it, ev­ery day is a new dis­cov­ery of it’.”

IN THE SPIRIT OF SAN­TOS Col­lab­o­ra­tion is the linch­pin that holds the Lab to­gether. It was also the mag­i­cal in­gre­di­ent that made a watch like the San­tos de Cartier pos­si­ble. This iconic time­piece, made in 1904 fea­tur­ing a square case and bezel, as well as ex­posed screws, had been the ear­li­est known square-shaped watch. Also, even though it is an el­e­gant time­piece, San­tos de Cartier was the world’s first watch made ex­pressly for avi­a­tion. In other words, de­spite the stylish aes­thet­ics, which runs counter to the aus­tere de­signs of WWII pi­lot’s watches, San­tos de Cartier started out as the world’s first tool watch.

Named af­ter the Brazil­ian in­ven­tor and avi­a­tion pi­o­neer, Al­berto San­tos-dumont, this time­piece could not have come to ex­ist without the bril­liant col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween San­tos-dumont and Louis Cartier, who rep­re­sented the third gen­er­a­tion of busi­ness own­ers of the (then) fam­ily-owned com­pany. They were friends and they were both early in­no­va­tors in their fields. The for­mer spent in­or­di­nate amounts of time and money build­ing and fly­ing di­ri­gi­bles con­structed in his back­yard, while the lat­ter was re­spon­si­ble for some of the most iconic cre­ations of the Cartier mai­son, in­clud­ing such im­por­tant watches as the Tank and San­tos. While op­er­at­ing th­ese rudi­men­tary fly­ing ma­chines, San­tos­du­mont con­stantly needed to check the time in or­der to cal­cu­late speed over dis­tance and var­i­ous other pur­poses. In the late 1800s, peo­ple car­ried around pocket watches so it was a huge in­con­ve­nience to avi­a­tors who needed to keep both hands on the steer­ing, or risk a crash. In­deed, the dan­gers were very real, so San­tos-dumont ap­proached Louis for a so­lu­tion. He wanted a time­piece that could con­ve­niently tell the time without him fum­bling around in his pocket, and shortly af­ter, Louis pre­sented the first sketches of the watch that would soon be named af­ter its com­mis­sioner.

Com­mem­o­rat­ing this pi­o­neer­ing spirit of San­tos-dumont and the in­ven­tive ge­nius of Louis, the Lab has one clear aim and that is to get peo­ple across dif­fer­ent fields talk­ing so that knowl­edge and ex­pe­ri­ence can be chan­nelled to­wards a much greater good. When there’s syn­ergy, one plus one equals three, not two, and the first steps to­wards that is to speak out and lis­ten up. Or tune in to the Cartier So­cial Lab chan­nel on Youtube.



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