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Frédéric de Narp

A Pioneer in North America

Editors’ Note

In his current post since September 2005, Frédéric de Narp has worked for Cartier since 1991, serving in such notable posts as Retail Manager of Cartier Switzerland, Retail Manager of Cartier Italy, and CEO of Cartier Italy. De Narp holds a master’s degree from the University of Le Havre.

Company Brief

Founded in 1847 by Louis-François Cartier and headquartered in Paris, Cartier SA (www.cartier.com) was deemed “the jeweler of kings, king of jewelers” by no less a connoisseur than King Edward VII. Today, it remains one of the world’s most esteemed luxury brands, designing and manufacturing exclusive collections of fine jewelry, wristwatches, leather goods, accessories, fragrances, pens, eyewear, and scarves, which are distributed worldwide through more than 280 Cartier boutiques. In addition, Cartier watches and accessories are distributed through select dealers. The firm is a subsidiary of Compagnie Financière Richemont SA, a Swiss luxury goods conglomerate.

Cartier is celebrating its 100th anniversary in America. Can you give a brief overview of some of the history and tradition of Cartier’s arrival in America, and how the brand has evolved in the market?

The reason Cartier came to America was to better serve its American clients who had been coming to Paris to be served. The royal houses were failing in Europe at the same time we were emerging in America, and we were serving American clients successful in various industries including mining, banking, entertainment, newspapers, railroads, real estate, food, and retail. We were seeing emerging families like the Hearsts, the Fairbanks, the Astors, the Vanderbilts, the Fords, the Hutton family of Woolworth, the Morgans, and people like Daisy Fellowes. And we continued to fulfill special orders as Cartier had done since its creation in 1847. Not only was Cartier serving the client, but we were also becoming part of the culture and developing an intimate following among its friends in America.

A six-story Renaissance mansion on Fifth Avenue was exchanged for a double strand of natural pearls in 1917 in a deal between Pierre Cartier and Maisie and Morton Plant, which became the Cartier Mansion. As a result, we are currently the oldest existing retailer on Fifth Avenue and, as such, we have become part of the history of this country. In 1943, Pierre Cartier offered an onyx clock to Franklin D. Roosevelt in thanks for his freeing France during the Second World War and for bringing peace back to the world. The first Tank watch ever created was given to General Pershing to thank him for freeing France in 1917 after the First World War. Many major accomplishments between France and America have been celebrated with Cartier.

Are you happy with Cartier’s portfolio today when you look at your markets, and do you see changes to the retail expansion in the future?

Cartier is a pioneer in North America. We were the first jewelry brand in Palm Beach 85 years ago, and the first international jeweler to come to San Francisco and to Rodeo Drive in Los Angeles. We’ve always made sure that the experience at Cartier is a memorable one, and that the clients are comfortable. When a client enters Cartier’s world, the expectation is really high. We then have to deliver on the promise of Cartier, which is an overall experience of excellence. That sense of excellence emanates from the experts we have in our boutiques. In the past few years, we’ve developed expert areas in each of our stores: there is a watch salon with watch experts; a bridal salon with bridal experts; and an accessory salon with accessory experts. These experts help guide clients to the right choices for them. This has been our focus, and today, we’re very happy with our 36 stores in the most important cities throughout North America.

How did you decide which pieces to exhibit at your 100th anniversary celebration? And in looking to new pieces, is it important to refer to the heritage of the brand to maintain that timeless design?

Tradition is really important. All of our designers take inspiration from the past while adding a touch of modernity, which you can see in the amazing creativity of the brand. The American clients we had from the beginning were pretty sophisticated and had an appreciation for design; they often pushed us to be even more daring and creative. At the exhibition, you can see the remarkable Tutti Frutti design that Cartier did for Mrs. Cole Porter. And Mrs. Daisy Fellowes was absolutely a trendsetter. In style, design, and creativity, she inspired Cartier to do amazing things for her. The Duchess of Windsor herself pushed Cartier’s panther designs in a major way. We see signs of panther designs at Cartier starting around 1914, but the true expansion of the panther came about when Cartier brought the Duchess of Windsor a specially designed panther brooch sitting on a 152.3-carat sapphire. In addition, the tiger we did for the Duchess of Windsor is really a major accomplishment in creativity. So in this exhibition, you see the events and people who have influenced Cartier’s style and design, which have in turn become part of the DNA of the brand.

As a brand very focused around giving back, do you have a chartable tie-in for the anniversary, and are there special pieces you have introduced for the celebration?

Yes. We’ve been supported by American clients for 100 years, so it was natural for us to really give back to the country in our centennial year. We decided to help ServiceNation, a coalition of 200 nonprofit organizations that supports the concept of volunteer service and works to ensure that service remains a core element of this nation’s culture. So we created a trinity bracelet on a cord, which sells for $1,700, $350 of which goes to ServiceNation. Also, the proceeds of Bruce Weber’s book on Cartier go to ServiceNation.

We have also created a new Trinity collection at Cartier. This three-gold, historical collection was designed with a star setting in a limited series for the American market. We also have an American Tank watch with the logo of the centennial on the dial, and a Roadster pen with the logo of the centennial. We produced limited series with different accessories that are very much in the vein of the American customer.

Watchmaking is a major focus for Cartier and you have just had one of the biggest watch launches ever with the Ballon Bleu. Did you know that Ballon Bleu would have this impact or were you surprised it has been this successful?

We knew it would be a success, but it exceeded our expectations. It’s a beautiful new round watch consistent with the DNA of the brand. We reinvented the round shape by putting a touch of classicism and modernity around the crown, which is covered by round bits of gold. It makes for a very simple modern round watch that we found appeals to many people. When you launch a new product, you always hope it’s going to be a success, but never did we imagine that it would be such a big success. It has had an even stronger launch than the Tank Francaise enjoyed when it launched more than 10 years ago.

Has your involvement with Art Basel in Miami progressed the way you had hoped, and how important is the coordination with art for the brand?

Art is at the center of the word: C-A-R-T-I-E-R. Art is at the heart of Cartier. At the creation of the Cartier Foundation 25 years ago in France, Cartier worked with the French government to pass a law allowing corporations to become patrons of the arts. That was groundbreaking, and since the creation of the foundation in 1984, Cartier has helped many young and talented artists emerge and become very well-known. Artistry, creativity, and design is what Cartier has been all about since its beginning as a jeweler, and it was natural for us to enable emerging artists to be recognized for who they are. Filmmaker David Lynch, for example, did his first exhibition a year and a half ago at the Cartier Foundation. Following the success of his exhibition, it was natural to ask him to do something for us in the Cartier Dome at the Miami Art Basel fair. He created a projection called the “Diamonds, Gold and Dreams,” which was an amazing art experience. Cartier celebrates all sorts of art: photos, videos, paintings, etc. The Cartier Foundation creates a bridge between the grand public and the art. So we are very happy to also be celebrating 25 years of the Cartier Foundation this year along with the Cartier 100-year celebration.

You started working with Cartier in Japan at a very young age. What is it about the brand that makes it the place where you’ve wanted to be?

Since day one, I believed in this brand. I knew that Cartier was the number one jeweler in the world at a very young age. I wanted to work for this brand because of what it represents, because of its authenticity, and because of the meaningful values behind it. I was touched by these aspects of the brand, which were already there when I joined the company, and which have always remained the same. We never compromise on craftsmanship, design, and quality. It’s a brand that has always been a true leader and a pioneer. The uniqueness of Cartier is very much about their distinctive style; it’s not only about design. Cartier is also very well known and very highly respected on all continents of the world, which is not necessarily true for many luxury brands. There are many firsts at Cartier. Cartier was one of the first brands to introduce platinum into the world of jewelry, and to create mystery clocks. And one of the firsts, which is very important for Cartier, is corporate social responsibility, which positions this brand as a true leader. For example, a year and a half ago, Cartier immediately put a ban on all purchases of Burmese stones. After we took this position, many other luxury brands and jewelers also took this stand. Cartier started the Women’s Initiative Awards, which launched a few years ago to support female entrepreneurs. Cartier is the cofounder of the Responsible Jewellery Council. Four years ago, Cartier launched the Love Campaign in North America to celebrate commitment, love, and passion for philanthropic causes. With our amazing ambassadors for the brand, we have given more than $4 million to different charities in North America. Every year, Cartier celebrates Love Day in the 300 stores we have around the world. So we sustain the social responsibility of Cartier at the maximum level.

You talk about this brand with such passion and conviction. Do you really enjoy doing what you do that much?

It’s about more than enjoying; it’s a story of passion. At Cartier, you cannot be part-time; it takes over your entire life. It takes over your heart, it takes all of who you are. When you become passionate about the brand, you can’t get rid of this passion; it’s very special. And it was the case yesterday, it’s the case today, and it’s going to be the case tomorrow. We have so much opportunity for innovation. We have an incredible archive in France of some 280,000 documents including sketches and drawings, so we have so much to be inspired by in that archive to project the brand into the future. This is a truly timeless brand that you want to cherish, generation after generation. At this particular moment in time, when people are disoriented and looking for reassurance and meaningful values, defined in Cartier and in the red books are these orientations and meaningful values, and this is why people follow Cartier. Cartier gives them great reassurance and orientation, and they recognize the brand for being number one. So when it comes to the celebration of the most important moments of your personal life, you want the most important brand to serve you and offer this kind of comfort. That is what Cartier offers and why it’s so fascinating to work with this brand.