There is movement in the streets, tens of thousands of people protesting the unbearable increase in the cost of living, but Paris is still a party. From the vernissage to the soirée, from the after-dinner to the party and from there to another party, like this up to fifteen soirees in a single night, is happening. In front of 13 Rue de la Paix, Lou Doillon, Jane Birkin’s daughter-in-law, and Farida Khelfa, ex-model and muse turned documentary filmmaker, throw on some cigarettes behind the red velvet cord. It is another type of demonstration: the one called by Cartier at the end of last October to celebrate the reopening of its historic location in the epicenter of luxury in the French capital, after the complete renovation operation that has left it nickel-plated to meet the expectations of consumption of our days. Who said superinflation.

“The situation is strange, people talk about crisis and precariousness, but the city is full of tourists, especially Europeans. It is as if there was an appetite for Paris, even exaggerated, perhaps a consequence of what we have been through with the pandemic. That means you have to move on. And we are moving forward because our clients are also moving forward”, admits Pierre Rainero. Guardian of the essences for almost four decades of what was proclaimed “king of jewelers and jeweler of kings”, Cartier’s director of image, style and heritage approaches the complete renovation of the brand’s flagship from pragmatism, without romanticisms: “Let’s say there was a discrepancy between the prestige of this location and its ability to appropriately welcome the visitor.” The one on Rue de la Paix is ​​not the biggest store (the one on the Champs-Élysées wins there), but it is the oldest. The place where it all started.

It had also moved on the street at the end of the 19th century, although more because of the joyful excitement of the Parisians than because of social discontent. It is estimated that up to 200,000 passers-by came and went each day enchanted by the brand new and clean boulevards designed by Haussmann at the behest of Napoleon III, what Émile Zola dubbed “nouveau Paris”, with the Rue de la Paz cutting through the layout like a diamond from the Opera Garnier to Rue de Castiglione and the Tuileries via Place Vendôme. It was, of course, the place to be: jewelers, watchmakers, perfumers and fashion houses settled among banks, cafes and upscale hotels. The fact that Worth occupied number 7 was, in fact, decisive for Alfred Cartier, heir to the founder, Louis-François, to move the original headquarters to the artery in vogue: his son Louis —the one who would later make the house a world reference— he was married to a granddaughter of the designer of haute couture. The store opened in 1899; 123 years later, the only thing that remains intact is the lower part of the façade covered in portoro, that black marble veined with golden pyrite whose comforting sight reminds us that Paris is still Paris.

Panthère necklace from the Cartier high jewelery collection.
Panthère necklace from the Cartier high jewelery collection.Caterina Barjau

Two and a half years of mammoth work have, yes, transformed the interior: from 700 operational square meters to 3,000, spread over six floors open to a large atrium. At 13 Rue de la Paix, (natural) light has finally come on. “It was logical, to get more comfort and space; on the one hand, so that the client feels free to establish their own relationship with the house and decide how they want to buy, and, on the other, to display the collections in different ways, because the context can change the perception of the pieces and it is our responsibility to show all its possibilities”, explains Rainero. Everything in the renovated establishment revolves around the buyer, who is offered a total experience, whether he is on a fixed gear or prefers to think about it for a while, while having a coffee or drinking champagne, “challenging his tastes, engaging in conversation, looking for other opinions”. “Internet has changed the way of buying and we must know how to respond to it.” Also to the ways of the youngest: “They have managed to blow up the barriers of luxury, they are no longer afraid of it.”

The six floors of the building open onto a large atrium, in the manner of Parisian hôtels particuliers.
The six floors of the building open onto a large atrium, in the manner of Parisian hôtels particuliers.Caterina Barjau

The architecture studios Moinard Bétaille, Studioparisien and Laura Gonzalez have taken care of it. The relationship of the three of them with the brand is long-standing, and they have already left their mark in other stores or special projects, but here they have done the rest, reimagining rooms as the offices of Louis Cartier and Jeanne Toussaint (first artistic director , creator of the iconic panther); sumptuous salons with an Art Deco, Indian or Islamic inspiration, greater privacy for those clients with special demands, and even the huge archive and workshops where most of the pieces are designed and created, including the high jewelry collections. The icing on the cake is the La Résidence penthouse, an intimate room conceived as a living-dining room for exclusive celebrations and VIP entertainment with the elegant Gonzalez seal. “Transforming the store into a series of spaces with the warmth of home helps to strengthen the connection with customers. It is the evolution of the sales area, which is no longer limited to displaying the product, but also provides an immersion in the universe of the brand”, concedes the French interior designer of Spanish origin.

One of the private rooms for high jewelry.
One of the private rooms for high jewelry.Caterina Barjau

The interventions of artisan artists (métiers such as the master stonemason Hervé Obligi, the cabinetmaker Lison de Caunes, the mosaicist Lilipkó or the Midavaine lacquer workshop), a regular collaboration that the school understands as a commitment to the preservation and transmission of ancestral handmade , round off the play. “Before a question of style, it is about the expression of our values, which must resonate in architecture and decoration. You are in Cartier, not in any other store”, concludes Rainero. “And this is special, the oldest, with all its legacy, from which the historical collections came, the one that supplied royal houses such as the British or the Spanish. But neither should we forget that it has been the origin of modern Cartier, where its great designers worked and key decisions were made. Our mission has always been to create pieces with meaning at all times, that go with their time. The same thing happens with stores, but without compromising vision. We don’t change just to change.”

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