For its biannual “Rendez-Vous” event held at the beginning of October, the luxury maison Cartier chose the Hôtel de Marois in the heart of the Golden Triangle, no doubt the ritziest part of Paris, to present its novelties to members of the international press.
The was built in 1863 for the Comte le Marois, son of one of Napoleon’s generals. It remained the property of that aristocratic family until 1927 when it became the seat of the Comité France-Amériques, an organization founded to oversee relations between France and “the Americas.”
While a large part of its imposing architecture dates back to the era of France’s Second Empire, it manages to gracefully blend woodwork and paintings from a glorious 18th-century heritage with some eclectic ornaments dating from the era of Napoleon III.
“We chose this site because it embodies a permanent tension between past, future, and present,” said Cartier’s Arnaud Carrez. “It is the same tension between the contemporaneity of Cartier and the history of this place.”
In the grand, gold-leaf decorated ballrooms—called the Salons Washington, Franklin, Jefferson, Lafayette, and Bolivar—rich with history and the weight of the past, Cartier brought a very contemporary touch to its presentation, demonstrating everything that is modern about its luxury accessories.
“A product is best discovered through an experience that evokes the whole universe of the maison, tells a story, and gives that product its emotional charge,” Mr. Carrez said.
The choice of that majestic site could not have been more suited for Cartier’s presentation of its new fragrance, Cartier Carat, designed by the house perfumer, Mathilde Laurent.
Officially launched in September, Cartier Carat is an ode to light, specifically the diffracted light that traverses a diamond, encapsulated in a scent that seeks to capture the color spectrum and the fiery sparkle from inside the precious stone.
More than a perfumer, Laurent is an olfactory storyteller whose narrative style engages all the senses and typically takes her audience down an unexpected path. Scent is just one way in which she creates an experience that transports, like Marcel Proust’s madeleines, up into a Scented Cloud as she did last year or, this time, inside a brilliant-cut diamond.
If the bright, floral scent of Carat wasn’t convincing enough, the artistically minded perfumer also brought a touch of conceptual art to the craft of making perfume. She commissioned the Bureau of Extraordinary Affairs, a London-based designer duo that specializes in light installations, to produce an immersive experience into the heart of her inspiration for Carat.
The installation, called was presented as an artistic interpretation of the new fragrance, purporting to take the visitor for some 90 seconds inside a diamond, or more accurately inside a Plexiglas box in which a white light was diffused into a million facets of colors, plunging the visitor into the creative mind of the perfumer.
“The installation creates a sensory and emotional experience that is part of our singular approach to perfume making,” a representative for Cartier said. “This experience gives the visual sensation of being inside a diamond.”
The presentation followed that of the Scented Cloud, shown by Cartier last fall in front of the Palais de Tokyo. In the presentation, a suspended cloud in a glass cube separates the fragrant air above from the unscented air below.
(The “Mille Facettes” installation will be set up in a Cartier pop-up shop in the Marais district from October 12 to November 4.)
Up a grand staircase and into the grand ballrooms on the first floor, Cartier presented its new jewelry pieces as well as its new Ballon Blanc timepiece, due out in November.
In keeping with the theme of diamonds and carats, the jewelry show focused on a number of classic capsule collections at Cartier, all of which employ only diamonds, like the Coup d’Éclat, the Etincelle, or the Pluie de Diamants. Reinventing the codes of diamonds jewelry, the new pieces were each designed to be worn in a contemporary and sometimes mysterious way.
Cartier had first experimented with “new-wear” in its designs when it launched its Magician collection some years back. It has now moved its creative designs into its classic lines. The Panther ear cuff and a bracelet that transforms into a headband were the most practical pieces. A number of the pieces were so challenging to wear that guidance was provided by a video.
“Cartier is a house that transcends fashion, and it is the force of its timeless creativity that we show here,” Mr. Carrez said.
Playful and ever inventive, Cartier has taken its iconic red jewelry boxes and turned them into handbags this season.
Cartier’s jewelry boxes have been around since the early 20th century. Originally produced in three colors—black, olive green, and rose—they were finally made in red when the house settled on a distinctive blue-red shade in the 1930s. A gold frieze has always run along the contour of the box, either in the shape of a floral garland or as a row of butterflies fluttering about.
“Cartier has in the past experimented with transforming objects into accessories, for instance taking a nail and making it into the ‘Juste un Clou’ bracelet,” a Cartier spokesperson said. “This year, we have made the jewelry box into an accessory in its own right, suitable for carrying or wearing cross-body.”
This year’s new handbags were shown in a surrealistic “performative” installation that featured models hidden behind a red wall, whose arm and leg protruded through the wall to display the handbags to music in robotic motions.
Like every Cartier Rendez-Vous, the visit ended with a stop at a chic Cartier refreshment bar, where macarons and Proustian madeleines promised to transport the visitor on yet another journey of the senses.