Cartier in the Twentieth Century

The first wristwatch Cartier created was in 1904, the square-shaped Santos-Dumont bracelet for the Brazilian pilot of the same name who had complained to his friend Louis Cartier, the grandson of the founder, that he couldn’t tell the time with both hands on the controls whilst flying. It was arguably the Tank prototype of 1917, however, that set a new standard in contemporary wristwatch design.

Legend has it that Louis took visual inspiration from the small two-man Renault FT-17 light tank seen on the First World War battlefield for his prototype. Here the strap is seamlessly integrated into the bran card – as in the vertical sidebars – that resemble the parallel treads of the tank. Whether true or not, it does certainly make for a great piece of design history.

The Tank sees a perfectly square face attached to a band with complete integrity. The design is also unapologetically industrial, its undecorated vernacular echoing some of the modernist ideals, of functional design, floating around at the time.

It instantly became an icon of modern design, a standard for good taste of contemporary luxury seen on the wrists of so many a celebrity from Jackie Kennedy to Yves Saint Laurent, Rudolph Valentino and Mohammad Ali – we particularly love the petit proportions on his more masculine wrist. Later variations saw the watch stretched, narrowed, enlarged – but the original has a purity of execution that defines its timeless appeal.

Cartier in the 20th Century is a sober account of the story of the brand in the last century told by authors Pierre Rainero, director of image, style and heritage at Cartier and Margaret Young-Sánchez, a curator at the Denver Art Museum. This handsomely designed, slipcased volume is published to coincide with the exhibition Brilliant: Cartier in the 20th Century at museum.

Drawing extensively from the rich Cartier collections and archive, it features not only a sumptuous array of rings, bracelets, necklaces and tiaras, but also cocktail and smoking accessories, mystery clocks and lavish gifts exchanged by movie stars and maharajas, all created by Cartier’s ateliers in Paris, London and New York.

Organised thematically into seven sections that take us from 1900 to 1975, the book features the jewels and accessories of the likes of Grace Kelly, María Félix and Elizabeth Taylor. Experts and scholars Martin Chapman, Michael Hall, Stefano Papi and Janet Zapata have contributed insightful essays here.

Cartier has a history of courageous design, flirting with abstract jewellery as early as 1905, later creating some true classics such as the Trinity ring (1924) and the love bracelet (1969).

There is the wonderful panther series – 56 pieces of which were re-released earlier this year to celebrate the 100th anniversary – inspired by the painter George Barbier’s 1914 advertising campaign. Three years later, Louis gave a cigarette case with the panther imagery of the artwork to his friend Jeanne Toussaint, who later joined the company as artistic director of high jewellery.

Nicknamed La Panthére for her love of the design, and bold, elegant personality, she created the first panther ring in 1935, using yellow gold and black enamel… and the panther – powerful, elegant, beautiful – became a symbol for Cartier.

Times have changed significantly since 1847, when the house of Cartier was founded. The market is full of luxury choices demanding even more of a certain something to shine.

Cartier has retained its sense of timelessness through its design – the clean-lines, precision… an almost engineered aesthetic – and through its fantastic history full of intriguing stories and colourful personalities.

Cartier in the 20th Century is published in association with the Denver Art Museum, and a collaboration between the Vendome Press in New York and Thames & Hudson in London to accompany the exhibition.

Nargess Shahmanesh Banks

Design Talks | 5 – 25 Scrutton Street | Old Street | Shoreditch | London | EC2A 4HJ?W | UK

Design Talks is published by Spinach Design

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Objects of desire: Pavilion Art & Design

It is Frieze Week, as it is come to be known, and London is at the centre if an art-frenzy. There is so much going on that the sheer volume is exhausting, and it is impossible to keep up. It is also becoming increasingly tough to shine in such an art-packed annual schedule. The art world – its collectors, aficionados, hangers on here for the parties alone – have descended on the capital city, and artists and galleries want to be seen, be heard, be bought.

The London incarnation of the Pavilion Art and Design, established eight years ago as a spin off of its long-standing Parisian sister, has set itself apart by offering more than contemporary art. Here, beneath the elegant pavilion constructed in Berkeley Square, the thick tree trucks of the square extending dramatically within the structure, 20th-century art and design sits happily alongside carefully selected contemporary pieces of art, design and jewellery, as well as tribal and Oceanic art.

The space is limited to 62 galleries only – tiny compared to Frieze Fair and admittedly much more pleasant to manoeuvre. This year saw 45 returning galleries and 17 newcomers with 28 design specialists.

There is plenty to see here. At the entrance Carpenters Workshop Gallery presents Windy Chair 1 by Yinka Shonibare inspired by the artist’s work Nelson’s Ship in a Battle. It is a vibrant sculpture as well as a functional seat expressing his dual nationality by the movement of fabric – the colours are inspired by his Nigerian background – caught in wind.

Jewellery by Artists at Louisa Guinness Gallery also sees artists involved in design. Here a selection of work includes a debut project with Jason Martin as well as works by Annie Morris, Anish Kapoor, Claude Lalanne,Tim Noble, and Sue Webster.

Elsewhere, Japanese artists Toru Kaneko’s Slim at Katie Jones UK sees his characteristic meticulously detailed relief work, and delicate treatment of the surface of metal, applied to two slim copper vases. Whilst Jeremy Wintrebert’s Clouds gives Murano glass a contemporary perspective, and architect Georges Mohasseb at Lebanon’s SMO gallery reveals his craftsmanship with Marguerite des Sables, a brushed brass coffee table made of 241 daisies with welded stems and hand hammered hearts.

PAD London has evolved through the years to increasingly offer this mixed-genre collecting. Ultimately what sets Berkeley Square apart is that it presents very much a niche, you could say continental sensibility, a far cry from the more global one offered by the larger fairs  here this week.

Nargess Shahmanesh Banks

Design Talks | 5 – 25 Scrutton Street | Old Street | Shoreditch | London | EC2A 4HJ?W | UK 

Design Talks is published by Spinach Design

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F1 inspires men’s jewellery line

The world of high-performance racing cars could not be further away than that of jewellery, so it was intriguing to see the outcome of a recent collaborative venture between the king of Formula One McLaren and jeweller Links of London.

Fashion is often flirting with carmakers. High-end brands such as Rolls Royce, Bentley and Aston Martin are forever commissioning luxury marques such as Louis Vitton to create bespoke luggage for them, or to help style a one-off car. Sadly, the outcome isn’t always that inspiring.

Here, however, the results are quite different. The small collection of men’s jewellery and accessories, which go on sale this month, really do capture the spirit of Vodafone McLaren Mercedes F1 cars.

The process was quite simple. Links of London’s creative director for men’s jewellery Philippe Cogoli visited the McLaren Technical Centre, met with some of the team including director of engineering Tim Goss to get a feel for how McLaren operates and what this company stands for.

Anyone who has visited the Foster-designed building (and DT has done here) cannot help be captivated not just by the architecture, but the whole immaculate set-up where company boss Ron Dennis famously scrutinises each and every move, down to the daily flower arrangement in the lobby and the various contemporary art pieces that sit alongside old F1 cars and a cabinet proudly displaying the company’s many, many racing wins.

This is where Cogoli went to get inspired, returning to his London headquarters with some screws and bolts leftover from making the latest F1 car for inspiration. His collection is clearly mechanically inspired. It captures what McLaren stands for which on the one hand is movement and energy, and on the other, first class engineering and the use of very sophisticated material that are needed to create these ultimate speed machines.

We caught up with the Cogoli and Goss in London before the launch at the McLaren Automotive showroom in One Hyde Park to find out more.

DT What is the first thing you consider when designing a F1 car?

Goss The process will invariably start with a brainstorming session when we work out how to extract the most performance from the constraints the regulations place on us.  In the face of obstacles we are constantly challenging mechanical design requirements.

DT What attracted the two companies to one another?

Cogoli Both brands share a similar philosophy of excellence in their fields, of producing products with a purpose, of pushing the boundaries with design and they share a pride in being British.

DT Was it difficult to marry these very different worlds of F1 and jewellery?

Cogoli Yes definitely – it was a real challenge. By essence they are totally different in their own environment, therefore only some of the elements were transferable and so a certain amount of subtlety was required to achieve products that are wearable but with a distinctive look.

DT Were there any similarities in the process and your design steps?

Goss Research is definitely a stage that both Philippe and I go through. Through our research activities this may be finding new materials, or inventing new systems, the overall philosophy and layout of the car starts to take shape. Though clearly the activities are different the process the same.

DT What was the starting point for you in terms of the design process?

Cogoli The starting point was learning more about the McLaren organisation and DNA, and translating this into the jewellery world, ensuring the core values of both brands were represented.

DT Philippe was working with different materials for this collection, how do you work through the challenges of complex material development?

Goss Material development and production processes are often what make the unachievable achievable. We place impossible demands on designers to achieve an aerodynamic. The resolution is to maybe find a new material or to rethink an existing one.

DT What aspect of the cars most inspired the jewellery collection?

Cogoli Various spare parts of the car, high-tech material and functionality. In addition we used inspiration from the McLaren Technology Centre, taking the trademark screw used in the building (which appears in the jewellery collection).

DT How closely did you follow the technical components of the car when designing the jewellery?

Cogoli Various parts of the car provided inspiration loosely but a balance has to be achieved between the engineering and the fashion/jewellery world.

DT What inspired you the most when you visited MTC?

Cogoli The level of perfection and ultimate achievement of the highest standard with every aspect of their field, from small details through to the overall futuristic building.

DT What inspired the men’s accessories range?

Cogoli The idea behind the small leather goods was to introduce a touch of high-tech material such as Kevlar – well known in the car industry – and a hardware piece integrated into the shape inspired by the rear of the F1 car.

DT Did you have a specific male customer in mind when designing the line?

Cogoli From the start it was clear that McLaren Sport and Links of London share a similar type of customer so it was very clear to whom the collection should be aimed. After that the aim was building a collection that allowed that customer to purchase a piece suited to their own personality.

DT Both the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes F1 car and the jewellery collection are functional yet surprisingly elegant. How do you achieve this?

Goss The car is designed to great precision, down to the paint thickness, which may alter its aerodynamic profile. It’s the weightlessness of the car that gives it its elegance. Philippe in his collection has brought that elegance and precision with the end result being engineered art.

DT For you what were the major challenges of working with automotive designers?

Cogoli The major challenge was to create a jewellery line that best mirrored the intricacies, precise engineering and technical brilliance of an F1car. I believe the shapes we have chosen and the fabrics we have used have helped us to achieve this.

DT Do you have any plans to design another collection – perhaps one for women?

Cogoli Hopefully this is just a start of a long and successful collaboration and additional designs are in study. The option for a unisex line is open to development.

Nargess Shahmanesh Banks

Design Talks | 5 – 25 Scrutton Street | Old Street | Shoreditch | London | EC2A 4HJ?W | | Bookshop | Published by Banksthomas

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Emerging designers at LDF 2010

Product design students at London’s Royal College of Art are being trained to transform their innovative design proposals into commercially viable solutions. The Design Products Collection, launched at the London Design Festival in September, is a new initiative by the RCA’s Design Products department to help students create products intended for serial production.

The inaugural edition – to be exhibited next at the 2011 Milan Furniture Fair – includes 14 products by 13 designers. The most familiar will be El Ultimo Grito, the design team of Roberto Feo and Rosario Hurtado who have contributed a table made of cardboard soaked in resin. Feo studied furniture design at the RCA and is a tutor in the Design Products department. The other designers from the UK, the Netherlands, France, South Korea, Finland, Norway and Israel have all graduated from the Design Products masters course since 2005.

With a strong emphasis on furniture, the Collection also includes lighting, a clock, a radio, ceramics, jewellery and accessories to create a 3-d computer game avatar. Visit the Design Products Collection for more details about the design.

Nargess Shahmanesh Banks

Read about the highlights of this year’s festival in our report London Design Festival 2010.

Design Talks | 5 – 25 Scrutton Street | Old Street | Shoreditch | London | EC2A 4HJ?W | | | Published by Banksthomas

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