By  on May 18, 2009

It's not only about jewelry and watches at Cartier.

The house has been a player in accessories almost since its inception, and now offers an array of handbags, pens, eyewear, scarves, stationery, small leather goods, cuff links, lighters and home accessories, such as frames, clocks and objets d’art.

Frédéric de Narp, president and chief executive of Cartier North America, says accessories have taken on greater importance over the last three years, with sales having grown 40 percent. They represent an accessible way for consumers to capture the Cartier experience. The company launched accessories salons in 20 U.S. stores beginning in 2005 and is focusing increased attention on the category. All new and renovated shops will have the salons going forward.

Cartier’s accessories carry the same aesthetic as its jewelry, says de Narp.

“Whether it’s a $100 key case or a $1 million necklace, all of our designers use the same inspiration as they do for the jewelry,” he notes. “They reinterpret designs, and design an entire collection with one style.”

Popular watch and jewelry designs such as the Santos and Panthère have successfully carried over into Cartier’s accessories items. De Narp says that collectors of such specific styles “understand the code” and appreciate the “world Cartier is creating,” and often purchase the same Cartier style across multiple categories.

Cartier’s handbags, created in the early 1900s, have resurfaced in the last two years after providing luxury consumers with evening and day bags throughout much of the 20th century. The popularity of Cartier’s bags and small leather goods remained strong throughout the century, until the early Nineties, when handbags began to play a more important role in the wardrobe.

“When bags started becoming fashion accessories, we realized we weren’t a fashion brand and decided to let it go,” de Narp points out. “We didn’t care for designing four bag collections a year, we weren’t into that game and it wasn’t who we were.”

Early in the 20th century, evening bags were spun in gold and pleated mesh and contained jeweled ornaments. Minaudières and clutches often took inspiration from exotic influences such as Egypt, China and India.

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