Fashion designers may rule the day at New York Fashion Week, but this year Cartier won the night. To kick off the week-long celebration of style, the Parisian luxury brand unveiled an unforgettable makeover of its own—transforming its Fifth Avenue mansion into modern, artsy garage to showcase the latest iterations of its iconic Juste un Clou and Écrou de Cartier collections.
Titled the Cartier Precious Garage, the experience launched with an epic, star-studded party that took over the multi-floor space. The buzzing event began outside, with well-lit exterior windows displaying gilt automobile parts and garage tools. Upon entering through the 52nd Street doors, visitors were greeted with a wireframe sports car that was similarly given the Midas touch.
Two floors up, the interactive installation continued with a tire-changing and quick-lube area filled with tools, oil cans, hubcaps, and metal oil drums. Another long narrow space, in the shape of a hexagon, painted black with bright white lights, appeared to be a futuristic car factory. Robotic arms held display cases with the new jewels. The mix of grit and elegance set the ideal stage for Swedish singer-songwriter Lykke Li, who regaled the stylish crowd with two performances before the night was over.
No detail was left unattended. Male servers clad in black jeans and white t-shirts passed appetizers on glass trays that revealed nails and screws. Upright rolling tool cabinets had drawers filled with wrenches and nails made of chocolate and cookies in the hexagon shape of lug nuts. Champagne was served in what looked like beer bottles, emblazoned with the Cartier name.
If the Precious Garage sounds more like an art installation than an event space, that’s no accident. The concept was designed for Cartier by Desi Santiago, the Puerto Rico-born New York-based artist who has gained international recognition for his sculptures, costumes, and particularly for his installations that bridge art and fashion. Santiago first teamed up with Cartier for the Precious Garage concept in April 2017 during Milan Design Week; the centerpiece for that exhibit was a gold-painted 1978 Corvette C3 hovering over the space on a gold-painted car lift.
The overall design focusing on hexagonal shapes and nails offered aesthetic support for the new introductions of the Juste un Clou and Écrou de Cartier collections. The design was certainly appropriate, as the Juste un Clou is based on a nail, and the Écrou de Cartier uses a lug nut motif. Juste un Clou was created in the 1970s by Aldo Cipullo for Cartier New York.
Cipullo was perhaps the most important designer for Cartier New York and is most famous for the unisex Love Bracelet. Juste un Clou was a follow-up to his first success. The use of a nail as jewelry is considered by some as a turning point in jewelry design, from feminine designs to masculine themes. The bracelet is the signature piece, consisting of a single bent nail that wraps around the wrist.
This motif has been interpreted across a full collection of jewels and styles over the years. (This year, Cartier focused on slimmer versions of bracelets and rings.) The bracelets are available in 18k rose and yellow gold, and the rings in 18k white, rose, and yellow gold. While not included in the newest collection, one standout piece at the Precious Garage was a pavé diamond and 18k white gold nail necklace that had the appearance of a luxurious snake.
The Écrou de Cartier collection, introduced in 2017, uses a hexagonal hardware nut to create a complimentary line of jewelry for the Juste un Clou. The Écrou de Cartier II pieces introduced at the event are an 18k yellow gold bracelet ($6,600) and 18k white, yellow, and rose gold rings, from $2,300 to $2,470.
Mercedes Abramo, president and CEO of Cartier North America, who hosted the event along with Bernadette Hitt, director of the Cartier Fifth Avenue Mansion, said the new jewels and the pop-up installation “are indicative of the bold, independent spirit of New York.”
Promoting a more accessible line of their luxury offerings, Cartier also emphasized a hip side of the company with the Precious Garage. In addition to music by Li—who blends indie pop, dream pop, and electronic music—guests at the event included Zoe Saldana, Justin Theroux, Armie Hammer and Elizabeth Chambers, Lily Collins, Troye Sivan, Sofia Coppola, Taylor Hill, Charlotte Lawrence, Athena Calderone, Eva Chen, Nicky Hilton Rothschild, and Suki Waterhouse, not to mention scores of social media influencers. If entertaining a roster like that is daunting, DJ May Kwok showed she was equal to the task, spinning tracks as the party stretched late into the night.
Below, see more pictures from the resplendent event:
The Precious Garage installation at the Cartier Fifth Avenue Mansion, 653 Fifth Ave., will be open to the public through September 26, Monday–Saturday, 10 a.m.–7 p.m.; Sunday, 12 p.m.–6 p.m.
Following the opening event Thursday, a matte black truck pulling a gold trailer housing the Precious Garage experience goes on the road, first to Nashville, September 14–16, and then Seattle, September 28–30.
Follow artnet News on Facebook:
Want to stay ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to get the breaking news, eye-opening interviews, and incisive critical takes that drive the conversation forward.