By  on May 21, 2007

NEW YORK — Growling panther sculptures, a signature Cartier motif, decorate Frédéric de Narp's office in the luxury jeweler's Fifth Avenue mansion here. But deep down, he's a softy.

It's Love, take two. Cartier is adding pieces to its Love collection, such as a gold cuff with the screw motif for $38,000, a sparkling pavé diamond pendant with black ceramic at $36,500 and a watch that has a small round case with multiple strap options and a bezel with the option of diamond markers from $5,000 to $10,300.

"Love is in the air; there is love everywhere," said de Narp, president and chief executive officer of Cartier North America. "You see people in love in the street. You see people give their hands and it's extremely pleasant to see."

Last year, in tandem with the push for the company's Love collection — a signature line of gold jewelry featuring a stamped screw-head motif symbolizing love, passion and commitment — de Narp successfully lobbied New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg to designate June 8 "Cartier Love Day."

"We are answering to the questioning and the requests of our own customers [for more Love styles]," said de Narp, who became president and ceo in September 2005 after working for Cartier since 1991. "We wanted to design the collection with more earrings and pendants. The values of this collection are the same as the values of Cartier."

The original Love bracelet, which needs to be screwed onto the wearer by another person, was created in New York in 1969. The status symbol has been worn by iconic couples such as Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton and Steve McQueen and Ali MacGraw. It was even the crux for the storyline on an episode of HBO's "Entourage" this month — the noncommittal protagonist Vincent Chase is cuffed by a new girlfriend.

In addition, Cartier is following up its celebrity charity initiative. Last year, the firm appointed eight ambassadors, including Salma Hayek, Sarah Jessica Parker and Liv Tyler, to each represent a charity. Cartier then created the Love Charity bracelet with a rose gold charm on a silk cord strap with a color that corresponds to the particular cause. The company donates $100 for each of the $475 bracelets to the corresponding charity.Since the June launch, Cartier has donated more than $1.2 million to causes such as U.S.A. Harvest, UNICEF and The Breast Cancer Research Foundation. de Narp said some of the firm's top clients, who typically purchase high jewelry are buying the charity bracelets in droves and for gifts, as well as stacking several on their wrists.

In the spirit of continuity, de Narp said Cartier has appointed more celebrity ambassadors for a new slew of charity bracelets that will feature a white gold charm. Faith Hill, Tim McGraw, Djimon Honsou, Eva Mendes, Julianne Moore, Elie Wiesel, Rachel Weisz, Rihanna and Usher are on the roster to represent charities such as the Neighbor's Foundation, the Tuberous Sclerosis Alliance, Believe and the New Look Foundation.

On June 8, when de Narp will ring the opening bell at the Nasdaq exchange, 10 percent of all proceeds from the Love collection will be given to charities. That's in addition to the $100 from the sale of the bracelets at all 34 Cartier U.S. boutiques. And 10 percent of sales at the firm's two Manhattan boutiques will be donated to the Mayor's Fund to Advance New York City.

Select pieces from the Love jewelry collection will go on sale at Saks Fifth Avenue's Manhattan flagship, the first time Cartier jewelry will be sold outside of a Cartier store. Only its watches are wholesaled. There are no plans to wholesale jewelry, de Narp said.

In keeping with the conviviality at the Compagnie Financière Richemont-owned brand, Cartier has teamed with French contemporary artist Agnes Winter on "Monument to Smile." Winter photographed some 400 smiling faces on the streets of New York and they will be projected in a collage onto the facade of 30 Rockefeller Center here. The work will be up evenings from May 31 to June 9.

"Cartier spreads smiling…Cartier is about hope and optimism," de Narp said. "And when there is hope, there is peace.…This is a gift to New York and a gift to the world."

De Narp also is working to boost the brand's retail network with a concept by Parisian architect Bruno Moinard. The look, first seen at the Manhasset, N.Y., boutique in 2003, is meant to be more inviting and airy.Stores across North America are being, or already have been, refurbished, renovated or relocated for optimum performance. The company has increased its selling space by 60 percent.

In September, Cartier opened a 1,320-square-foot store in Naples, Fla. The company increased the square footage of stores in Puerto Rico, Costa Mesa, Calif., and Short Hills, N.J. This September, the San Francisco store will move across the street to 240 Post Street, going to 6,000 square feet from 2,700 square feet. In October, the brand will move a store to Dallas' NorthPark Center from Dallas Galleria, increasing to 2,500 square feet from 1,200 square feet, and also will reopen its renovated Palm Beach, Fla. store. New stores are slated to open this year in Topanga, Calif., and within the Neiman Marcus unit in White Plains, N.Y.

"Our strategy is to grow the brand and to work on service with our clientele with a large assortment of products," de Narp said.

Watches and high jewelry continue to perform well, he said. Last month, the firm introduced the Ballon Bleu watch, which it hopes will be the fifth pillar of the firm's classic watch assortment, joining the Santos, Pasha, Roadster and Tank styles.

Handbags and accessories also are a priority. De Narp said the Marcello, a fashion-forward bag, will be launched next month.

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