Look: Limited Edition Cartier Purse Inspired by the Brand's Iconic Pieces of the Early Century

Felines take center stage in Cartier’s new collection.

While many know Cartier as makers of fine jewelry and watches, the company is also well-versed in the art of bagmaking.

As early as 1906, Cartier made a bag-bauble that reflected its identity as a premier French jewelry house. Covered in chain mail and adorned with an owl-head clasp, it fit right in with Cartier ’s language of opulent but elegant jewelry—a style suited to kings and queens such as the Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna of Russia, who received a tiara of sapphire and diamonds, the Maharaja of Kapurthala, who ordered a head ornament of emeralds, and Kate Middleton, who wore a halo tiara on her wedding day.

The black limited edition Panthère de Cartier crocodile clutch

Many a bag style has been dreamed up by Cartier, which draws from the rich tapestry of history and culture, from the great myths of Egypt to the liberation of women in the 1920s. The latter, in fact, made possible the creation of the vanity case or the evening clutch, little things that symbolized not just luxury but also freedom, for they provided anytime access to what women wanted in those times: red lipstick and cigarettes. These small bags came in all sorts of shapes such as a golden cylinder with a “C” spelled out in diamonds or an enameled rectangle with a pattern of diamonds, rubies, and emeralds.

Evening bags from 1957, 1930, and 1924

The ’20s also saw another turning point in the company’s bagmaking history. The appointment of Jeanne Toussaint, lovingly called “La Panthère,” as director of the company’s new accessories department led to a sea of change as Cartier explored more fanciful or joyous designs, incorporating, for example, animals such as flamingos, parrots, and, of course, panthers. (Legend has it that, upon spotting the feline in Africa, Toussaint said, “Onyx, diamonds, emeralds—a brooch.”)


The Hibou evening bag, 1906

Making the Paon bag, 2016

An evening bag from 1929

Today, the panther remains one of the enduring themes of Cartier, appearing in countless forms, including the magnificent evening bags of the Panthère de Cartier collection. Cat lovers will be drawn to the new incarnation of the house animal: more linear and very modern. A black croc clutch features the panther in the style of a stencil, while a chainmail bag makes use of the creature in all its glory, covered in diamonds plus a set of emerald eyes and an onyx nose.

But if you prefer something really serious and more sumptuous, there are always the high jewelry bags. These boast handmade atelier jewels and flowers and animals expressed in embroidered crafts, feathers, or satin pleating. Another thing to note: Reminiscent of royal parures, a bag adornment can be transformed into a brooch or pendant. For days when you want something more subtle, just pop it off and wear alone. Greenbelt 4;

This story was originally published in the February 2018 issue of Town&Country.

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Clifford Olanday
Senior Fashion Editor, Esquire Philippines
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