How Cartier Is Reinventing Fine Jewelry

How Cartier Is Reinventing Fine Jewelry
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Cartier has long been a name synonymous with exceptional fine-jewelry pieces, yet it is its most recent — and most audacious — launch that is the talk of the town in Milan last week during Salone del Mobile. Our Editor-in-Chief, Haleh Nia, meets with the brand’s Head of Heritage and Style, Pierre Rainero, for a glimpse into his creative world. Read on for his thoughts on risk-taking design and get an exclusive first look at the new ‘Ecrou’ and ‘Juste un Clou’ pieces in the gallery below.

Congratulations on a very successful event last night, and congratulations on the launch of the ‘Ecrou’ collection. My first question is: How do you take something like humble hardware and have the audacity to turn it into high jewelry? That is quite a risky statement.
We don’t perceive it as audacious, because as a value at Cartier, we cherish the idea that we have to be curious of beauty wherever it lies. It can lie in many different cultures and many different periods; it could lie in ancient times. It can lie within a means of transportation, within architecture, or within certain animals. So it’s in our genes, in a way, to look for that kind of inspiration everywhere. In fact, it’s a way of being traditional at Cartier, because it’s our tradition to do things that way. And in fact, it’s less audacity and more curiosity. In fact, we are audacious with the consequences of being curious.

What is the hope with the consumer when it comes to an entry-level collection like ‘Ecrou’? Is the hope that this is a younger clientele who is going to buy her first piece of Cartier now, and potentially be purchasing precious jewelry from Cartier in twenty years?
[Laughs] You are clearly from the Middle East! Europeans would never consider this an accessible price.

Cartier Juste En Clou
Photo: Courtesy of Cartier

[Laughs] Yes, this is absolutely an entry-level price point for our region. I understand in Europe it is quite different, of course.
We have to be very cautious in saying, “Oh, this is an item that will be bought by young people”. You never know. But to answer your question, it’s not that the purchase will make her evolve as a Cartier consumer ­­— it’s more about her life. Because when you are young, you are not necessarily involved in events where you need to wear glamorous pieces of jewelry every day.

We are audacious with the consequences of being curious.

Again, it’s very different in the Middle East. We probably have five or six important events per week.
[Laughs] It really depends on your lifestyle —where you live and what you are into. So there is no link between the two. It’s not because you buy a piece that you become familiar with the brand. It’s your taste, and your own curiosity, which we consider as a quality. But of course it will create a link because the person will buy it when coming to the store. And coming to the store, she will be exposed to the other things that Cartier proposes. Beyond that, I am not sure. All the different journeys are possible: Sometimes people buy once at Cartier, and they don’t buy anymore for years, and then come back under completely different circumstances. There is no defined path, but yes, it’s an opportunity for people to be exposed to the rest of the offer for Cartier.

Speaking of the Middle East, you have reportedly allocated 60% of the world’s stock of ‘Ecrou’ for our region. What makes you think that this particular collection will do so well in our market?
Probably because in the Middle East, there is an idea of combining sophistication and casual circumstances. I think this is the only place in the world where people mix the two. You can wear jeans, but wear something sophisticated at the same time — just like you are right now. So I think that’s why there is this idea that it will work so well in the Middle East.

Cartier Juste En Clou
Photo: Courtesy of Cartier

Let’s move on to the ‘Juste en Clou’ collection. Yesterday, you unveiled the torque ‘Juste un Clou’ necklace, which is a choker style. Considering the choker has been sort of a fleeting trend — it was big in the 80s and went away and came back again recently — do you see the introduction of the Juste en Clou choker as something to address this current trend or do you see it as a forever piece?
I think it’s a forever piece, because it’s so interesting in design, and in fact, it’s even more daring to wear it around the neck than around the wrist, because you have a sensation of fragility of your neck. So to wear something that is a nail or something that can harm you around the neck is even more daring than to wear it around the wrist. It’s not a choker like all the others; it’s one of a kind.

Personally, I love it. And I’m in awe that Cartier has created yet another iconic piece. What is the secret to constantly creating so many covetable designs?
First, I have to say that we don’t decide ourselves what would be iconic or not. We have to be very cautious and modest about that. You never know. And frankly speaking, I don’t think there is a recipe. We can explain afterwards and find reasons why a piece becomes iconic, but if there were a recipe, then everybody would be wearing their own things. We are lucky enough because naturally, it’s a part of our way of looking at creation (again, curiosity towards different fields of inspiration), so we probably don’t create for the sake of being audacious, but we create for the idea of showing beauty where we see it ourselves, and to share that with people.

Cartier Juste En Clou
Photo: Courtesy of Cartier

You say there’s no recipe, but clearly there’s a recipe because Cartier keeps getting it right while other brands struggle to create more than one iconic piece. There has to be a recipe!
I think there are two rules we follow when we create something. One is keeping in mind the philosophy of our style. That’s the reason why I’m here, and my relationship with the designers is key on that. I have to constantly ask them, ‘What is Cartier? How do we project ourselves in the future?’

And second, the obsession we have with being Cartier, aesthetically and creatively, and imagining how our objects will be worn if there would be somewhere to wear them. We are very, very curious not only about the inspiration, but about the way of life of our clients. When we see a new project, we say “Okay, is there anyone who will wear that? And in which circumstances? Is it appropriate? Who can wear that?”

We don’t create for the sake of creating. We create because our objects have to be desirable.

Of course, there’s no precise answer. There is no recipe and there is no indication of that. It is a question of feeling, but at the very least, we do have to raise those questions! This is the permanent obsession. We don’t conduct studies. But it’s an obsession to imagine that, and to project objects into the life of people.

So maybe the recipe is a mix of consistency and obsession. You are consistently obsessive about what you do.
Yes, precisely. It is important to note that we don’t create for the sake of creating. We create because our objects have to be desirable. The notion of beauty evolves with time. Today, we don’t have the same notion of beauty as our parents had, and that our grandparents had. Because it evolves with everything we see. Art makes us evolve. Everything we see in the world makes us evolve.

Cartier is very complex to understand. We were born not only as a jeweler, but as an object maker, an accessory maker. That’s our history. We have a wide range of objects. Even if we have one style, one eye on the way we create, we have many different fields of expression. We  are the pioneer in abstraction and the pioneer in figurative jewelry.

People have a knowledge of a specific aspect of our jewelry. It’s a source of richness, and many possibilities. At the same time, it’s very complex for people to understand, because the natural tendency for everybody is to put everything in the same box. At Cartier, it’s not like that — it’s many boxes that make one huge box.

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