For fans of the emblematic Panthère de Cartier collection by none other than the Jeweller of Kings itself, Jeanne Toussaint may certainly ring the bell as she was the brain behind the collection.
Born in 1887 at Vaucouleurs in Lorraine, Jeanne Toussaint became a well-known figure of Parisian society alongside artists such as the portrait painters Giovanni Boldini and Paul Helleu, the caricaturist Sem, and the interior designers Paul Iribe and Christian Bérard. She first met Louis Cartier in 1918, when she was in her dazzling early thirties.
Her charm, her knowledge of the decorative arts acquired from the antiques dealer Charles Michel, and her inventive handbags, which enjoyed immediate success, persuaded Louis Cartier – the grandson of Louis-François Cartier – to entrust her with the Cartier accessories department.
During her stint at the revered maison, Toussaint gave its jewellery a breath of modernity with liberal use of simple shapes, opulent shades and imaginative ways to wear. She invented jewellery clip and promoted yellow gold and Indian-style enamelled gold jewellery sourced from Delhi.
She also incorporated bunches of pearls, stones or gold into a slew of accessories such as pendants, brooches and rings that were sometimes paired with a pale ruby from the exotic isle of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). Her style played an essential part in influencing Cartier’s sense of creativity, from watches to fragrances.
Often draped in a turban and long chains of pearls with fancy clasps, sporting Russian boots, wearing nothing but navy blue during the day and pyjamas or a Chinese suit in the evening, Toussaint made the panther fashionable through a stream of personal accessories such as vanity case adorned with black and gold stripes and an onyx panther.
Working in her own salon at Cartier, she worked as an advisor to the elegant elite women such as the Duchess of Windsor, Barbara Hutton, Mexican actress Maria Felix, Francine Weisweiller and Daisy Fellowes — devotees of her Panthère jewellery collection.
Designer and artist Peter Lemarchand was entrusted by Toussaint to design the panther-inspired line as Lemarchand is known for his sensitivity, malleability and sense of movement in his sketches.
His works were known to contain incredible impression of lithe suppleness, which was captured magnificently by the skilled hands of Cartier artisans.
Though Toussaint had ceased walking the earth since 1978, her legacy remains at large with Panthère de Cartier boasting unsurpassed popularity among high and fine jewellery connoisseurs and collectors around the world.
Apart from bejewelled accessories, Jeanne too loved her bags. In an interview with Jardins des Modes, Jeanne revealed that when she started creating bags, it was considered a sort of novelty.
“They met with success, so Louis Cartier told me that he was going to give me a department for jewellery. He didn’t want me to learn to draw. He said: 'If you start drawing, you’ve had it.' And he was right: I would no longer have been able to correct other people’s drawings.”
This year, Cartier launched a tribute collection or according to the maison, an artistic dedication, to the visionary and ultimate icon of style with the introduction of the Jeanne Toussaint fine leather goods collection.
A stunning declaration of absolute elegance, the Jeanne Toussaint collection amalgamates a rare blend of freedom and sophistication.
In fact, it stands more than just a collection of bag but a series of masterpieces made to last for generations, just as how her iconoclastic Panthère collection has been up to this century.
Expressing the excellence of the workshop and of a Maison that pays close attention to the jewellery details and preciousness on all of the hardware pieces of its bags, the Jeanne Toussaint collection clamours utmost luxury. The bag is crafted from supple crocodile skin and half smooth leather with layered materials and styled in a blend of beige tones.
To create a Cartier bag such as the Jeanne Toussaint bag, craftsman needs around five years of experience in order to be able to cut leather properly and almost one hundred operations are required.
Furthermore, the manipulations are delicate and technical due to the complexity and number of steps required for the creation that includes bar tacking, edge staining, and saddle and cross stitching.
Whether it is an openwork piece, a bevelled bar, an entirely handmade chain or a clasp set with obsidian, the approach is always the same: a reflection of traditional jewellery expertise, from stone cutting to polishing. Expert Fine Leather Goods craftsmen create bespoke bags, offering the chance to create a personalised Jeanne Toussaint bag.
A special order to create yourself from crocodile leather in three colours, three stones and three different metallic finishes to form a very personal bag, right down to the initials engraved on the mirror within.