The Australian - Wish Magazine


By making its prized creations accessible to the entire world, French fine jewellery house Cartier has grown its business by successful­ly enticing younger customers


Outside the entrance of the National Gallery of Victoria’s Federation Square outpost in Melbourne, a small line snakes its way around several bollards. Small groups – mostly women, mothers and daughters and girlfriend­s – chat and take selfies with handsome bellhops in round red hats. They’re here to see an exhibition, but it’s not something mounted by the gallery. French high jewellery brand Cartier has staged a free popup “digital experience”, Into the Wild, for a twoweek period. Open to the public, it showcases key pieces from the house’s first female artistic director, Jeanne Toussaint, via interactiv­e screens.

It is, according to the brand’s chief executive officer, Cyrille Vigneron, “a way to share the depth of the brand with audiences who don’t know the stories and history”. In this instance, it’s the story of how Toussaint came to inspire and popularise Cartier’s big cat symbol, the nowiconic Panthère de Cartier. In 1913, Louis Cartier, one of the three grandsons managing the family company, commission­ed the illustrati­on of an advertisin­g campaign that would reflect the worldly French women of Art Decoera Paris. The resultant drawing features an elegant model dripping with long necklaces, and with a black cat by her side. It was the brand’s first connection to animals of the feline kind and, it is said, Louis’ tribute to Toussaint, whom he called his “petite panthère” due to the fact that she often wore a fulllength panther fur coat.

Soon, Toussaint was hired to design the company’s collection of bags, accessorie­s and objects, and by 1933 she was named director of its luxury jewellery department. Here, Toussaint famously created some of the house’s most covetable designs, which transforme­d it from small, respected French jeweller to global powerhouse. They included her first full 3D panther in 1948: a gold and enamel brooch comprising a 116carat emerald, popularise­d by Wallis Simpson, the Duchess of Windsor. As Vigneron says, “Louis and Jeanne made a very interestin­g pair. He was a very sensitive man and she was a very strong woman and early on she was not very well received, because of course strong women at this time were looked at differentl­y than they are today.”

Vigneron uses the panther as a metaphor for Toussaint’s personalit­y: soft, but with claws; powerful, but with felinelike femininity. “Jewellery tends to be designed around things that are very sweet and delicate – flowers, little animals – but a panther is something almost punk, something very strong, and we believe it represents the power of women, as did Toussaint,” he says. In fact, Cartier’s point of difference in the global jewellery market is that it universall­y shies away from designs that might be perceived as delicate or traditiona­lly “feminine”. Other animals represente­d are crocodiles and cockatoos, while several pieces are inspired by hardware, such as the popular Juste un Clou, a continues nail curved around the wrist to form a bracelet. Its bestsellin­g item, the Love

Cartier’s point of difference is that it universall­y shies away from designs that might be perceived as delicate or traditiona­lly ‘feminine’. Other animals represente­d are crocodiles and cockatoos

bracelet, is a solid piece of gold accented with diamonds and opened only by a special screwdrive­r, worn by everyone from Meghan Markle to Kanye West.

“So many of our designs are totally unisex because they have this dual masculinit­yfemininit­y, and depending on who wears it the style can be completely different,” explains Vigneron. “When a woman wears the Panthère, it’s so powerful, and then I saw photos of [ English rapper] Tinie Tempah and he was wearing the ring [ version] and I thought, ‘oh my god, so cool’. Today, everyone wears what they want – not like before when men wore suits every day to work and women had their hair styled in a certain way – and without these social codes it allows us to be more expressive with jewellery, so it’s an exciting moment. That the kings of street fashion, like Kanye, choose Cartier as their own signifiers is very pleasing.”

Owing perhaps to the enduring legacy of Toussaint – as Vigneron describes her, “a woman truly ahead of her time” – the company has for the past 12 years held the Cartier Women’s Initiative, an award program and series of events through which it aims to empower female entreprene­urs. Its focus is specifical­ly trained on leaders that can generate real social and cultural change, such as those working in health, energy, science and agricultur­e. In last year’s edition, seven entreprene­urs were selected by an independen­t jury from more nearly 3000 applicants in 142 countries, each receiving $US100,000 in prize money. While the timing is yet to be confirmed in light of recent global events, Cartier also plans to present the Women’s Pavilion at the Expo 2020 Dubai in October, celebratin­g female changemake­rs from around the world. “Through these programs we reiterate our commitment to women and empower them to speak up and reveal their ideas,” says Vigneron. “Audacity, curiosity, openness… these are values deeply anchored in [ the] culture [ of Cartier].”

Vigneron was appointed CEO of Cartier in 2016. Having begun his career with the Richemonto­wned company, which includes Van Cleef & Arpels, Montblanc and Chloe, among others, he spent several years abroad as the president of LVMH Japan before returning “home”, as he calls it. That home is made up of some 300 standalone stores and more than 250 other points of sale, including NetaPorter, where Cartier etails a broad range of product, including diamond watches at close to six figures.

Since taking the reins, Vigneron has vigorously pursued a more democratic, less pretentiou­s vision of the brand. “What I had in mind when I came back was to innovate, to renovate, because we had kind of lost something at the heart and beauty of what our brand is,” he explains. “We needed to open the doors [ of the stores], open the windows, clean the walls, because it was all too stiff, too intimidati­ng, too cold. From there you can bring in more comfort and beauty.” And, indeed, as Cartier’s stores were revamped, there’s a sense of being inside a glamorous dressing room or parlour as opposed to a stark or imposing jewellery store. “Sixtyfive per cent of the customers through our doors are women and our stores should express their sophistica­tion and femininity,” Vigneron says.

“The second part of what we did was communicat­ion. We had to look at how we talked to people today, the image we projected, because every city is different, and so every store should be different too, and have its own character. We should fit in with our surrounds, to reflect the local culture.” That’s particular­ly the case in a country like

Australia, according to Vigneron, because of how much – and how fast – the local market has and is changing.

“It used to be that it was a small market for luxury, and perhaps you had a lot of Japanese tourists in Surfers Paradise, that was it,” he says. “Many brands here have really tried to appeal to tourists, and the influx of Chinese travellers, but locals have their own appetite for luxury too, and the identity of Australian­s is unique. Sydney is not Melbourne, which is not Perth, which is not New Zealand either. This makes Australia a significan­t market.”

By recognisin­g cultural nuances and shifting demographi­cs, Cartier has managed to grow its business. While Richemont doesn’t break up sales figures between its brands, Forbes valued Cartier at $US10.7 billion in 2019. “The response over the past few years has been very strong because the brand has been revitalise­d by being true to itself,” says Vigneron. That’s where “experience­s” such as Into the Wild come into play, appealing to the brand’s customer base, of which around 55 per cent are millennial­s. They account for just under half of its sales – “remarkable when you consider high jewellery tends to have a more mature client”, according to Vigneron.

Making its wares and history accessible to an audience broader than paying customers is something Cartier has experience with, having been involved with the visual arts long before the past decade’s explosion of artfashion collaborat­ions and museum exhibition­s of diamonds and dresses. Previously, Vigneron has made a point of stating that Cartier is inextricab­ly linked with the arts. “I still agree with that statement,” he says. “What we do at Cartier is create, and we do that in an artistic way. We don’t generate meaning from marketing, we see our pieces as art creations.”

In 1984, when museums still tended to focus on the Old Masters, the brand establishe­d the Fondation Cartier pour l’Art Contempora­in, a contempora­ry art museum in Paris designed by Pritzker Prizewinni­ng architect Jean Nouvel. A nonprofit arm of the business, the museum mounts regular exhibition­s of internatio­nal contempora­ry artists, including William Kentridge, Issey Miyake, Juergen Teller and Martin Margiela. “It helped create such a wonderful community, and evolved to become a true [ reflection] of the world, not just including painting but mathematic­s, the sciences, fashion… we respect creation in all forms.”

In 2018, Cartier was the subject of an exhibition at the National Gallery of Australia in which more than 300 pieces on loan from royal families, celebritie­s and the Cartier archive went on display. The largest presentati­on of precious stones ever in Australia, it was seen by more than 200,000 visitors. “I mean, this was a real surprise, because Canberra is not only quite far [ from Sydney, where this interview was conducted] but it’s a small city. But people travelled; they really wanted to see the show.”

Due to the circumstan­ces facing Australia in early autumn, the Melbourne popup was closed prematurel­y, but the brand considers it a success nonetheles­s. Says Vigneron: “I think people often have an image of Cartier as being quite distant – beautiful, but not for them. But if we can make an exhibition or an experience where everyone can come and enjoy and see that this beauty is not just for a few people but for many, then it helps to make going through the door of a Cartier store less intimidati­ng. Yes, we do make exclusive pieces and some are very expensive, but the beauty is universal. It’s not about sales, but about sharing our story and being inclusive.”

 ??  ??
 ??  ?? This page: The Panthère de Cartier
Opposite: The 1913 ad campaign that first connected Cartier with animals of the feline kind
This page: The Panthère de Cartier Opposite: The 1913 ad campaign that first connected Cartier with animals of the feline kind
 ??  ?? Jeanne Toussaint, Cartier’s first female artistic director, and above right and below, various iterations of her Panthère de Cartier design
Jeanne Toussaint, Cartier’s first female artistic director, and above right and below, various iterations of her Panthère de Cartier design
 ??  ??
 ??  ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia