There’s an indescribable feeling walking into a space that feels as if you belong. Those first moments where you can’t help but soak everything in – your eyes darting across the room as each fresh flash of light and deepening of shadow reveals something new. A new crevice to be discovered, or rediscovered. It’s a sense of familiarity and comfort that beckons, “stay a little longer” – and so you do.
It’s not an experience you encounter often, but stepping across the threshold and into the sensorial dreamland that is Cartier’s newly unveiled Oceania flagship boutique, this energy wave is felt in magnitudes. Located at the epicentre of Sydney city’s bustling George Street luxury district, the new – and highly anticipated – home for the Maison is a breath of fresh air. For a luxury jeweller with a history so deeply rooted in the creation of memories, storytelling and connection, it comes as no surprise that this was Cartier’s intention for the flagship from the beginning. It’s a sentiment that not only is communicated through the Maison’s timeless and expertly crafted designs but, equally, it reverberates through the spaces Cartier calls home across the globe. For Alban du Mesnil, Cartier Oceania’s Managing Director, immersing guests of the flagship in the essence of these core pillars was fundamental to the boutique’s creation.
“When someone first enters the store, the most important emotion for me is that they feel connected. People come to Cartier to enhance some of the best moments of their life – it could be a celebration of love, friendship, milestones, congratulations, anything related to people’s emotions. It’s what makes our role with this boutique so important, to create the space that hosts these special moments. We want the surroundings to feel meaningful and authentic.”
This spirit Mesnil refers to is something that takes years to foster, and with duo Bruno Moinard and Claire Bétaille – of Parisian design agency Moinard Bétaille – at the helm once again, the long-standing friends and collaborators of the Maison have injected an openness and harmony to Cartier’s new address that instantly connects you with the jeweller. It’s an energy Moinard has been exploring for more than two decades now, after being given the task of creating the concept for his first Cartier boutique 20 years ago. On a video call from their office in Paris, Bétaille explains to me that their ongoing collaboration with the Maison – which, in addition to the Australian outpost, also presently includes the reopening of Cartier’s iconic 13 rue de la Paix boutique – has experienced a journey of natural but exciting evolution over the years.
“Bruno’s first interaction with the Maison was through the initiative of Fondation Cartier, but the most rewarding part of this journey has been the opportunity to develop Cartier’s boutique identity collaboratively over the years,” Bétaille says.
“When Cyrille [Vigneron] came on board, the three of us decided to bring a new vision to the boutiques, one that not only celebrated our design practice, but also spoke to the deeper connection Cyrille wanted to bring to the spaces. Bruno and I are deeply inspired by travel, curiosity and the magic of experiencing a new location with what we call our ‘children’s eyes’. What we have had the honour of doing with Cyrille for the past six years is breathing these local elements of culture or tradition into all the boutiques we create in a way we hadn’t done before,” she continues.
For the Australian flagship, Moinard Bétaille didn’t waste any time sourcing and connecting with local artisans and craftspeople. Energised by the opportunity to incorporate Australia’s rich historical culture and tradition into the space, the pair refused to allow the distance, (and an unfortunate inability to travel), to create an absence of honesty and authenticity. Instead, they leant on their most valuable resource – imagination.
“When we begin a project, it’s important for us to cement a really strong visual language within the space. In the case of Cartier, the foundation of this stems from the ongoing threads of craftsmanship and design details that are consistent throughout all the stores. Then, we build in the unique territory that speaks to the locality of the space,” shares Bétaille.
“In creating the Sydney store, we worked quite closely with the local Cartier team to help give us that direction. There was endless back and forth – shipping different materials to Paris for us to touch and feel, Zoom meetings with a variety of inspiring craftsman... But at the end of the day, Bruno and I had to really rely on the projection of our vision and, most of all, trust the process of imagination.”
Of the selected artisans, it is perhaps the work of Manapan and Bula’Bula Arts, an Aboriginal, locally owned and governed organisation in Ramingining, East Arnhem Land, that has made the most impact within the boutique. The hero moment of the flagship is undeniably the custom, uniquely woven textile masterpiece, framed in Australian hardwood, that occupies one of the walls. The collective’s ancient cultural practice – which weaves pandanus leaves dyed with natural colours of the Australian bush – brings a sun-dipped aura and warmth to the space.
This traditional weaving technique is a skill that artist Daphne Banyawarra learnt at the feet of her mother and grandmother, and the opportunity to create this piece alongside her fellow artists at Bula’Bula Arts is something she’s “really proud of.”
“Weaving means to me and to the people... it’s our cultural ways of living and acknowledging our totems, the environment in which we belong.”
Mel George, Executive Director of Bula’Bula Arts, echoed Banyawarra’s sentiment, sharing: “What this means for the people in this community is valuing their cultural identity, Yolngu history and identity, by commissioning something quintessentially Australian, sustainable and something all Australians can be proud of.”
Elsewhere in the boutique, allusions to the ocean take shape in the presence of curved corners and soft, rounded fittings; the generosity of nature peaks through in beams of light sneaking through the filter of the façade. Each detail has a story to tell – using a texture, colour or material that elicits an emotional charge. And while the Maison encourages us to uncover our own moments and stories within the space, it is the flagship’s embodiment of the art of metamorphosis that Cartier is itching to tell. Moinard Bétaille and Vigneron’s vision is to continue to create boutiques that are “compatible with life” – serving as a space for conversation, education and meaningful experiences. With the afternoons long and the Maison’s signature champagne flowing, Cartier has found its Australian home.
The newly unveiled Cartier flagship boutique is located at 388 George Street, Sydney. You can discover more about the grand opening and space on the Cartier website.