Of Contrasts, Contradictions, and Opposites

Clash de Cartier is a huge departure from the kind of jewellery that we are used to seeing from Cartier. This new collection balances clean design with an excess of energy and a serious spirit with original charm. It is a clash of attitudes, in other words. Most of all, the new line is also a study in contrasts: It features items that are sharp yet soft to the touch. Despite the hard geometric lines while retaining its femininity. In short, the collection has feminine curves with soft contours that are contrasted with the tension of a taut structure.

The French jewellery house launched the Clash de Cartier pop-up studio in Singapore late last year to showcase the collection. The Maison recreated an experiential pop-up to allow guests to explore the new pieces in an unconventional and immersive space. Guests included South Korean actor Ji Chang-Wook, Malaysian actress Nur Fazura along with Singaporean personalities Rui En, Rebecca Lim and Sheila Sim.

Around that same time, Cartier also introduced Cécile Naour to the Singapore office as its new regional managing director, overseeing the Southeast Asia and Oceania regions. Before coming on board, Naour was Cartier’s regional business development director in Dubai spearheading multiple commercial initiatives across Middle East, India and Africa. In 2017, she was appointed to oversee the international travel retail development as Cartier’s global travel retail director, based in Hong Kong.

In a recent email interview, Options posed some questions to Naour about the latest jewellery collection and more.

Clash de Cartier is a new distinctive style that is broadly accessible and reflects the Maison’s constant creative exploration, says Cartier’s regional managing director Cécile Naour

What were some of the first things you did when you stepped into your role in Singapore?
Three things. The first was to meet with my team, to listen to them, to talk to them individually and collectively. I also wanted to reassure them — as we recently had several changes in the organisation — and let them know that I’m here for them and that we’re going to work together.

The second was to articulate our thinking and objectives around corporate social responsibility (CSR), and to ban plastic use in our boutiques and office. Improving our CSR practices and changing mindsets is a personal objective, and one of my key goals while I’m here in Southeast Asia and Oceania.

The third was to break some walls in the office — literally to break some walls to allow for more co-working and informal spaces for collaboration. We now have a big and comfortable pantry, where people can gather, have a coffee and discuss work topics in a less formal way.

What is it like to be a woman in the mostly male-dominated industry? What do you bring to the table that the men cannot?
I’m very lucky and grateful to be part of Cartier, which is mostly a feminine brand from a clientele perspective. And if we look at Cartier in Southeast Asia and Oceania, 70% of employees are women… I would not say that I’m working in a male-dominated environment.

Internally, Cartier has done a lot to promote women, to give them a voice and a chance, and that’s mostly thanks to Cyrille Vigneron [Cartier president and CEO], who has done a lot since 2016. Externally, Cartier is also very engaged with the Cartier Women’s Initiative, giving women entrepreneurs a voice and bringing their ideas to light.

In my role, my priority is to find the right balance within the team, give room to each one to express his or her own views. It makes the dialogue richer, and decisions more balanced and stronger. If someone is not at ease to speak or just be oneself, then there is something unbalanced which needs to be fixed.

Is representing Cartier — an established brand founded in 1847 — more challenging than leading a brand new one?
I would say yes. I have been working in very different jobs in my career and within different industries and environments, and for smaller and short-term oriented brands. Working for Cartier is not only about developing the business, opening doors and connecting with our clients — you are also responsible for bringing the history of Cartier to them. You can’t do that just by yourself! You need to work with all talents, enable collaboration and transversely within the organisation, and make sure that the success is built with a long-term view.

All our investments, monetary and non-monetary, are important and need to be envisioned in a strategic way to make sure that the brand will benefit from it in the long term. The brand image is as important as the sales. Short term is just one part of the work, long term is as important, if not more.

When you represent a brand like Cartier, keeping its image, making sure that it’s protected and always at the top, striving for excellence… is your responsibility. And it is such an honour as well.

What steps has Cartier taken to attract a younger customer base?
Cartier has built its success through timeless creations, perpetuating the knowledge and savoir-faire of the Maison. I think that younger and older clienteles are both very sensitive to that. And the appreciation of these knowledge and savoir-faire remain the same over time and generations.

Transmission is intrinsically part of Cartier, and explains the long-life cycle of our products. Creations are already adapted to young clientele, but the way we interact, connect and communicate with our younger clientele has changed.

An example is the success of the Clash de Cartier Studio recently held in Singapore. It’s interesting to see how Cartier has communicated with the clientele in a different way — telling the Cartier story, but in a unique manner: Less classic, less intimidating, creating more proximity with clients.

How has Cartier performed in the Southeast Asian market so far? How important is Asia to Cartier
Cartier has performed well in Southeast Asia over the last years, along with the global growth of the Maison. Obviously, Asia represents a fairly important part of Cartier sales, and it will continue to bring growth in the future.

The wealth is growing fast in Southeast Asia, and the region represents today an alternative or a relay to China, with manufacturing capabilities for instance. If you think about where the growth will come from in the next few years, there is no doubt that Southeast Asia is on the map and that we need to invest here probably faster than in other regions.

What are your plans for Cartier in the various countries under your care?
The notion of geographical territory is less important than the clientele, as our clients travel more and more. They are well aware and knowledgeable about our products and prices. At regional level, making sure our clients understand, see and feel Cartier in a consistent way is very important.

Having said that, in the Asean countries where Cartier’s presence is developing, being relevant to the locals is critical. Understanding and connecting with the locals, making sure our boutiques are integrated into the local landscape, adapting our offer, are some examples on how Cartier is developing in a sustainable way.

Timing is also essential in our development as the South East Asia and Oceania Region covers markets at very different stages of maturity. Singapore and Australia are paving the way, whilst smaller markets are learning.

Thanks to our partners, we have been able to develop in some Asean countries at an early stage and we work hand in hand to gradually build the Maison image and tell Cartier stories to the locals.

The Clash de Cartier Studio has been a success. What were the reasons for bringing it to Singapore?
Clash de Cartier is a story of contrasts, contradictions and opposites. It was the right way to resonate with the city of Singapore with its heritage and modernity and East meeting West. It was a natural fit with the city.It was also an opportunity to interact with the different clientele and demographics in a new way.

And it’s been a while Cartier has done something in Singapore… (so) it was the right time to bring Cartier to the forefront and do something different.

Can you expand and tell us about the inspiration for the different themes, such as literature, art and music?
As a collection, Clash de Cartier is a new distinctive style that is broadly accessible and reflects the Maison’s constant creative exploration. The Clash de Cartier design plays with duality and dynamic tension, showing off a clash of opposites.T

o illustrate originality and contradictions, the studio concept was centred on multiple sensory touchpoints to channel emotions, sensations and creative tensions. Listening to a curated playlist featuring music that encapsulates the rock ‘n’ roll spirit of the collection (from musicians like Billy Idol to The Clash) to having an out-of-the ordinary photo booth that plays on optical illusion and wandering in a library highlighting Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde or the picture of Dorian Gray were some of the studio experiences.

The exceptional collaborations with fashion’s leading sound director Michel Gaubert and the artist Thomas Lélu, helped to reveal the singularity of the collection and unleash a new wave.

What was your early recollection of the first Cartier you ever owned? Do you still have it?
My first Cartier jewellery is a white gold and diamond ring from the Inde Mystérieuse collection. A refined and feminine creation which to me evokes the pleasure of traveling and discovering. I have been to New Delhi and Mumbai a couple of times but the other parts of India are a mystery to me. My first watch is a Tank Anglaise and I’m still wearing it as well. It’s perfect for weekdays at work or during the weekends while doing some sports. It’s easy to wear and good for every occasion. 

Clash de Cartier rhodium-plated white gold ring

High contrast
Clash de Cartier possesses an innate sense of proportion that draws on pure Cartier style. In volumes and reliefs, circles and squares, the collection honours the Maison’s penchant for geometry which dates back to the 1930s.

Clash de Cartier coral ring, yellow gold

But Clash de Cartier also breaks up the conventional architecture of shapes by fashioning together contrasting styles. The studs are held in place but free to move. This subtle motion entices light to flit and flicker while the metal seems softer. Crafted in 4N pink gold, the rings can be stacked and layered in all versions. Behind the clean lines and even spacing, Clash de Cartier is a highly complex feat of craftsmanship.

Clash de Cartier yellow gold amazonite bracelet in limited edition

 How are the studs interconnected yet so mobile? The ingenious articulated mechanism was entirely developed by the jewellery workshops. Each element is mounted and polished. Each step calls for a new technique, just the right tool. The Clash de Cartier piece is precisely calibrated to magnetise the forces, to hold the studs in place.The buff-top domed clous carrés are finished with a bright polish that is produced over a series of operations. In a final sophisticated Cartier jewellery touch, the inside of each piece is delicately scalloped for comfortable wear.