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.
CARTIER SOCIAL LAB.
CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: AIMEE MULLINS, BARRY MCGEE, DAVID LACHAPELLE, TAVARES STRACHAN, MELANIE LAURENT, RAFAEL DE CÁRDENAS.