Cartier: French heart with global flair

Next Tuesday a landmark store will reopen its doors on the glamorous rue de la Paix, as power luxury house Cartier marks the refurbishment of its Paris flagship with a gala for 600 guests. The French capital may still be the heart of the house, but the rest of the world has long been its home. Greek presence Take Greece, for example, a small yet rapidly developing market, where Cartier is now poised to become an even greater player following the inauguration of its brand-new boutique on local «diamond row,» Voukourestiou. At the downtown City Link complex, Cartier stands alongside mega luxury players such as Hermes, Van Cleef & Arpels and Salvatore Ferragamo. The store’s opening back in October became the social season’s curtain raiser, with an evening featuring sparkle, signature Cartier (baby) panthers and a nightclub erected just for the night. «There are lots of values in the house of Cartier: creativity, all the know-how, transmitted from one generation to the next, audacity, the spectacular. Cartier is also about celebrating, of pleasure, of joy, all of which is translated into launches and inaugurations of boutiques,» Bernard Fornas, Cartier CEO, told Kathimerini English Edition following the Athenian launch. Cartier is part of Richemont, the luxury giant whose portfolio also includes brands such as IWC, Jaeger Lecoultre, Piaget, Vacheron Constantin, Van Cleef & Arpels, Montblanc, Chloe and Lancel, among others. Cartier Hellas, the Greek arm of Cartier, was established in 2002. Ever since 1899, when Cartier was appointed as official supplier to the royal courts, all the way to its most recent collections such as the Himalia, Cartier has been at the forefront of innovation and great style. Each and every item, as Fornas put it, «is for life» – from the exquisite craftsmanship of the Mystery Clocks (which first appeared in 1912) to the familiar Trinity ring. The global leader in jewelry and the second-leading brand in watchmaking, Cartier also displays elements of democracy. «This house is a true miracle, you can have a piece of jewelry for 500 euros and a set for 10 million,» said Fornas. «There’s a vast space between the two and Cartier is everywhere.» Pioneer Demonstrating what Fornas refers to as Cartier’s «pioneering spirit,» China has now become the company’s new challenge. With no fewer than 15 boutiques on Chinese soil, the situation is «flourishing.» China has become a fast-paced growing market, according to Fornas, though, he commented, «there are luxury brands out there who still don’t know where China is.» What happens when a luxury house enters a market such as the Chinese one? Does Cartier adapt to the local culture or vice versa? «We stay exactly as we are in terms of our business,» Fornas said. «The stores might be in a Chinese environment, but they have the Cartier spirit. Our products are exactly the same, beauty has no boundaries.» What kind of luxury challenges lie ahead for Cartier? «India, a country where Cartier has an ever-stronger image,» noted Fornas, citing the glorious jewelry created for the maharajas (such as the extraordinary Patiala necklace) and the country’s extensive gold reserves. «The fact that we have not yet entered the market is due to heavy taxation, about 50 percent,» said Fornas. «The day taxes are lowered and reach an acceptable level, we will develop a large network very quickly.» Until then, Fornas and his global team will carry on managing a luxury powerhouse which features beautiful products and much more. Past and present Besides selling its select merchandise, Cartier takes care of its own history through the Art de Cartier collection (showcasing 1,300 items and constantly being enriched, this collection traces the company’s past) and nurtures talent through its Fondation Cartier pour l’Art Contemporain, a foundation for contemporary art. Above all, the strength of the brand is evident in times of world trouble. «I always say that Cartier’s power lies in the fact that it has 10 arms and five legs,» Fornas said. «Ten arms thanks to our product range – from jewelry to high jewelry, watches, leather goods and perfumes – and so when one or more departments are doing better than others, there’s always an equilibrium. And five legs because we are very strong in Europe, in the US, in Asia and in the Middle East, and when you have a war, a tsunami, a 9/11 situation somewhere around the world and that country is affected, sales go down, other places make up for the losses. That’s what gives Cartier shock-resistance quality to the kind of volatile financial situation we’re facing.»