Managing Director of Puiforcat, Nicolas Cantenot celebrates the opening of the brand’s design destination in Dubai.
Managing Director of Puiforcat, Nicolas Cantenot celebrates the opening of the brand’s new design destination in Dubai
Not to be mistaken with wealth, snobbery or innate disposition, the art of discernment is an act performed by an educated eye. Puiforcat— the French brand whose legacy of silversmithing since 1820 has always forgone the need to shout and parade its vision—has finally arrived in Dubai, offering an exquisite vision of contemporary beauty.
Nicolas Cantenot, the company’s Managing Director, welcomed eager guests to brand’s first showroom in the Dubai Mall, which is shared with Cristallerie Saint-Louis.
“Both [Puiforcat and Saint-Louis] embody a wonderful aspect of longstanding know-how – crystal making and silversmithing; two crafts that complement each other on the most beautiful tables. In the early 1990s, after having successfully launched the first Hermès porcelain collection and acquired the famous and historical Saint-Louis crystal manufacture, Hermès had the opportunity to acquire the silversmith Puiforcat. JeanLouis Dumas – at the head of the company at that time – went ahead with this acquisition to ‘embellish the Hermès garden with exceptional creative talents and know-how’ and create a unique offer in tableware,” he explains.
“The opening of our new store at The Dubai Mall has been an important project for our whole team. We were missing a presence in the region despite the obvious potential. The stylish lifestyle of the people of Dubai and the way they like to surround themselves with beautiful things echo our motives as a brand. With the combined presence of Hermès tableware and Saint-Louis, we stand out with an exceptional offer in tableware and decoration,” he continues.
Cantenot has a reputation and history as diverse as the brands to whom he has devoted his life, which include LVMH, Parfums Christian Dior in South Korea, Guerlain in the French market, CWF (Children Worldwide Fashion - a leading French company specialising in high-end children’s brands) and Hermès, which has owned Puiforcat since 1993.
“I always believed in motivational philosophies and thrived to lead my team to endorse personal responsibility for their work and work toward the overall success of their company. Collaborating with creative personalities over the years naturally allowed me to implement it,” says Cantenot.
Straightforward and sincere, Cantenot looks towards his experience in the navy as one of three important career milestones. “My management style was also very much influenced by my own experience on the sea, when participating in regattas on the Margilic, a classic wooden sail boat that I own with a group of other avid sailors. The two years I spent in the French navy, serving as an officer of the watch on board a ship in the Indian Ocean at the age of 22, really taught me what it means to be part of a team, and started to shape my managerial personality.”
His role at Hermès is what he considers to be his second most important professional moment. “I became part of the team that started the Hermès home and furniture division, participating in turning what was initially a small department dedicated to tableware and art de vivre into a complete world for the home, characterised by timeless elegance, and expressed through beautiful home departments in about 40 of its flagship stores in all major world cities. This was a big learning curve and an opportunity to grow my expertise in sales,” he explains.
The third milestone is, unsurprisingly, his current role of Managing Director. Since 2016, when he accepted the position, he has constantly looked to the past to move forward, a task that requires both patience and a vision that’s always expanding—something he finds inspiration for in the brand’s founding father.
“Jean Puiforcat was a true visionary of his time, who re-invented the art of silversmithing by anchoring it into modernity. He was part of, and strongly influenced, the Art Deco movement by his creations. Far before all of today’s well-known theories on design, he would advocate that the form of an object should be at the service of its function,” he reflects.
A CONTEMPORARY VOICE
Today, some of Jean Puiforcat’s most outstanding creations continue to be reinvented, while the designers that the brand collaborates with on new collections often dig into his archives during their creative processes.
To that end, Cantenot isn’t afraid to speak his mind about his definition of luxury. “I quite agree with the definition in the Oxford Dictionary: Luxury is a state of great comfort or elegance, especially when involving great expense!” he exclaims.
“I think our collections fit into that definition, offering a fresh blend of refinement and use, tradition and the audacity of design. The fact that they are obtained thanks to the support of our craftsmen’s outstanding know-how, and by always using the highest quality of material, reflects in the positioning of the brand. But this commitment to preserve our workshop’s long standing know-how, and the decision to only work with European suppliers who have the utmost expertise in metal work, is part of who we are as a brand.”
This legacy and ongoing, unwavering dedication to honouring and supporting the work of craftsman makes the brand special.
“Silver is a very special matter: it is both very masculine and, at the same time, very soft and shiny. The reflection of light on silver is absolutely unique and gives a precious and magical side to it, almost sacred,” he muses.
“When the silversmith is working on a piece of silver and giving life to new objects, he is almost like a magician or an alchemist. To work on the matter, he will use century-old tools (or sometimes he will even make his own tools for a particular object!). The hammer, the forge, the lathe... all these are exactly the same tools used a hundred years ago, combined with some of the latest innovative processes when needed.”
When asked about which three pieces truly represent the brand, Cantenot embraces the difficult task with finesse.
“I would start with one of our signature cutlery collections, Cannes. Created by Jean Puiforcat in 1928, the design of this sterling silver collection is the epitome of minimalism - the five rings at the top of its fluted handle are the sole ornament. A timeless design, Cannes is the benchmark for connoisseurs. The founder chose this collection for his own wedding. We just launched a made-to-measure version where the handles can be adorned with semi-precious stones – onyx, malachite, jade or jasper - at the crossroads of absolute purity and extreme sophistication.”
The second: “Orfèvre-Sommelier, our recently-launched collection dedicated to wine tasting, caters to a major element of the French art de vivre. To approach this segment, we chose to adopt a bold and innovative path that breaks with the traditional codes in this domain – since we got rid of the glass’s stem. In collaboration with Enrico Bernardo, the world’s best sommelier in 2004, and designer Michael Anastassiadès we created a collection of expert items which will appeal both to wine experts and aesthetes.”
Thirdly, Argent Gourmand. “French designer Patrick Jouin, who had already designed our stainless flatware collection Zermatt, applied his passion for strong, sharp lines to imagine a cake dome of compelling geometric curves,” he explains. “It was a true technical challenge for our production team but a constructive alliance to elegantly upend tasting rituals.”
Cannes Précieux Onyx collection
Cannes Precieux mustard pot
Normandie water pitcher
Argent Gourmand ice cream cup by Patrick Jouin