Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Les Must-have collection

Awwwww, cute ... Cartier the leopard cub at his photo shoot.

The cuff links were inspired by the Tank watch cabuchon

Tortoise shapes are a big motif in the new collection

Unless they are quirky, big labels are not usually something I am too crazy about but there are a few top brands that I do admire, respect and aspire to: Vogue, Chanel and Cartier. I have been lucky enough to have some exposure to the latter, thanks to the South African connection with the Richemond Group (one South African journalist gets a chance a year to go to Paris, including Gary Cotterell from Wanted and Kate Wilson from marie claire mag and last year, it was my chance to see the 2008 Biennale collection and then go on to the Cartier Polo in London) and found that everything to do with this brand is classic, classy, understated and infused with a quiet civility.

So I jumped at the chance to go and view their new Collection les must at the two year old Sandton boutique. Even more so because I have been enjoying the new Les Must ad campaign with the little leopard cub, being an avid lover of cats both great and small. In each picture he is more cute than the next as he munches on the expensive leatherwear (ouch!) or watches it fall out of with the sky with big Tom Kitten-round eyes. Apparently this effect is achieved by the animal trainers distracting him with fascinating objects on sticks. Although the cub's private circumstances is kept as hush-hush as 007's whereabouts his actual name is Cartier and he is the mascot for the campaign. Cartier the cub reportedly eats two chickens a day, although I am sure by now he is up to six or so! Apparently he had a great rapport with the photographer and at the end of the campaign shoot the two stared at one another with huge interest.

One of the lovely things about Cartier the brand is the recurrences of themes; the cub being a perfect example, as he fits into the "Panthere" history. Even the perfume bottles tops echo the shapes of the archetypal Cartier watches, the cabuchon swivel, for example, being echoed as the lid. So the new Les Must collection contains all the echoes of the past, with some sexy new twists. Such as the Cartier tank watch camouflaged with leopardprint which I spotted in the latest Vogue. Another echo of Cartier the cub... and something that should be a bestseller in South Africa, practically the home of leopardprint.

The original Les Must de Cartier was part of the 1970s and 80s when luxury objects became much more accessible to more people and included things like luxury lighters, perfume, leather goods, watches, pens and sunglasses. It made some aghast to see a disappearing age of fabulous bespoke pieces which only a wealthy few could afford, but the trend was in line with what was happening in the world and these lines have continued to this day without Cartier losing one ounce of its reputation. A tribute to their superb marketing skills.

The 2009 collection is aimed at the young and funky market and the goatskin and snakeskin purses, notebooks and cardholders veer away from the usual monochrome, coming in shades of fuschia, indigo, bright green and caramel. They are also within the realm of affordability; even an impoverished journalist could save up for one to raise her style quota! Cufflinks are in the shape of gaming tokens such as clubs or dice or tortoise-shaped. The animal motifs pop up again in the shape of mother of pearl or white tortoises (tortue) on filigree chains, or stylised scarabs. There is silver and gold - rose-gold, yellow gold or white gold, all of which is matched up to the stones. Delicate necklaces can be worn alone or as a threesome, enhancing a woman's neck. There are Entrelace silver and gold rings which you turn in circles like pasta before you pop them onto your finger. And Entrelace bracelets and necklaces. More animals ... a cute cocker spaniel is introduced with the barrettes, and if you like you can keep his ears in order by pinning them back gently. It's witty, quirky and wearable even by someone older.

As we look at the collection I am served a glass of champagne (for breakfast!), the Cartier Cuvee placed on a saucer which is also customised. Even the perfume papers carry the logo. As usual whenever I come into contact with anything Cartier-esque I feel like a million dollars and swank off through Sandton with my beautifully presented press kit. Even the carrier bags are fabulous .... and heads turn.

My parents were friends with an eccentric billionaire golf-course designer who once told my mother: "Every woman should have something by Cartier in her wardrobe." Never was a truer word spoken.

A classic ... the iconic Tank watch.

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