Taking us inside the recently renovated Cartier Mansion in New York is Mercedes Abramo—the brand’s first American president in over 25 years, and the first woman to hold this position. The Mansion opened its doors after its two-and-a-half-year makeover on September 13, and for this edition of Whitewaller, we discussed with Abramo its many inspirations and surprises.
WHITEWALLER: In 1917, Morton and Maisie Plant traded the Mansion for a two-strand pearl necklace and $100 in cash with Pierre and Louis Cartier, and the property has been Cartier’s New York flagship ever since. How does this impact the decisions you made with the design of the new store?
MERCEDES ABRAMO: Upon stepping into the Mansion, there is a large portrait of Maisie Plant wearing the pearl necklace. It creates the feeling that you are a part of our family, and allows you to experience the house of Cartier in the way it was originally intended—as a home with a very warm feeling. We have created environments where you feel that you can come in, explore, and wander, but you can also take your time enjoying our creations and experiencing our story; talking to our sales associates about the history of Cartier and exploring our current offerings.
WW: The store took two-and-a-half years to rebuild and includes 43 different fabrics, 101 window treatments, 35 unique pieces of furniture, and more. How did you go about choosing these details to include?
MA: Pierre Rainero, our Director of Image, Style, and Heritage, worked closely with Thierry Despont on the renovation. Each of the antiques within the Mansion were carefully hand selected, and details from the Mansion were matched and modeled perfectly to prior designs. Pierre helped Thierry to restore the landmark to its original state in certain aspects, while simultaneously modernizing it.
WW: Several rooms are inspired by and dedicated to important figures in Cartier’s history. How does keeping in mind historical references affect the juxtaposition of it with modern design?
MA: We have jewelry and diamond salons dedicated to Elizabeth Taylor and Grace Kelly on the second floor, and watchmaking salons dedicated to Gary Cooper and Andy Warhol. All of these cultural icons have a bond with Cartier, and it is a place where you go for something very special. We design pieces that stand the test of time, and they are always looking for something new and different and Cartier does that. We create new pieces, but our aim is to always design objects of desire for years to come.
WW: Tell us about the Andy Warhol salon that is dedicated to men’s watches. Why was Andy Warhol an influence for this room?
MA: Andy Warhol always wore a Tank, and when asked why, he said, “I don’t wear a Tank watch to tell the time. Actually, I never even wind it. I wear a Tank because it is the watch to wear!” For this reason, we felt he would be the perfect representation for our watch salon.
WW: Cartier has an assuredness to stay relevant, regardless of time, and the archive sketches have been known to inspire recent designs. What is a good example of a new piece of Cartier jewelry that is carrying on that tradition?
MA: We created a very special piece for the re-opening—a pearl necklace inspired by the original strand of pearls which Pierre Cartier used to purchase the Mansion.