Cartier youth classics come easy

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By SOUMITRA DAS
  • Published 20.02.04
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Say “Cartier” and you think maharajas, treasure chests, the Duchess of Windsor, panthers slinking around in a blaze of diamonds, Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard, jingling rainbow-hued baubles of gemstones called tutti-frutti, and the intricate bamboo design this jewellery house had created inspired by exotic India.

But now, Cartier, instead of wooing royalty alone, is courting “the common man” in the same spirit that the great couturiers had started pret-a-porter collections, and Coco Chanel created the little black dress that became an absolute must for every well-dressed woman’s wardrobe.

Cartier biggie Olaf van Cleef, who is in town with his mother, Madame Alice Giraud, on what is turning out to be annual visits to Calcutta, said on Thursday morning that without compromising either on quality or aesthetics of design, the jewellery house has recently launched a line of trinkets that is within the reach of young people.

They come with or without diamonds and other precious stones and can be gifted without burning too big a hole in pockets that matter. These are within the price range of 4,000 to 20,000 Euros, but can be got for 600 Euros.

The designs are not gender specific. In keeping with the times, classic designs are being redefined. Romance and constancy are not being equated any longer. Instead of fixed-for-life bracelets, these tokens of love can be worn or discarded at one’s will.

The design of a diamond bracelet or a ring in the archives is enjoying a rebirth in limited-edition amethyst-and-turquoise avatars. Chalcedony replaces sapphire. A safety pin in white or yellow gold features a clasp decorated with Cartier’s signature initial. A leather or silk cordelette can be worn around the wrist. One can take one’s pick of delicate charms to make a personalised fashion understatement.

To match the mood of these warlike times, machismo and military are in. So some designs have a “dash of onyx”, says van Cleef.

India is being celebrated in the Delice of Goa line. It resembles the celebrated tutti-frutti, but it comes in combos of coral, amethyst and turquoise and without hands-off price tags.

The long strings of technicolor stones complement saris.

They go with Western dress, too, for they have the “sporty” look favoured by Chanel. The same collection comes in different sizes.

These ornaments, priced at between 4,000 and 20,000 Euros, were designed to lure Indians, for though Cartier is allowed to sell only pens and watches here, it feels more confident about making an entry, now that Louis Vuitton leather cases are available here. Besides, Indians abroad are big shoppers.

Cartier has six showrooms in China and motifs from Sinic art, such as the dragon, other fantasy creatures and ideograms, come dressed in sparklers or in stark gold, to be worn as pendants hung from a string of silk or links of gold and gems. But this is no chinoiserie. It is international chic — for 3,000 Euros and more. Cowboys can wear them and so can South Americans, given their close resemblance to Aztec art, says van Cleef.

The accent being on youth, the new Cartier perfume launched only in America recently is Baiser du Dragon, or Kiss of the Dragon. Cartier breaks the price barrier and comes down from the ivory tower.