The panther has a distinctly feminine power: it's slinky and lithe, fine but no less dangerous. Dressed in robes of inky black velvet or dappled gold, it stalks its domain in the dying light of the evening. A creature of the shadows, it remains unnoticed until the last minute, when it’s already too late.
Cartier’s first panther motif appeared on a wristwatch in 1914 as an abstract design inspired by the feline's iconic spotted coat. But it wasn’t until the era of Jeanne Toussaint and the women she outfitted who were “distinguished by their character, daring, and freedom” that the panther became a truly iconic symbol, said Arnaud Carrez, Cartier International Head of International Marketing and Communication. The fine jewelry maison's powerful feminine muses over the years, including the Duchess of Windsor, Daisy Fellowes, Maria Felix, and Monica Bellucci, have redefined their times, an energy that's only continued through modern figures like Mariacarla Boscono, Ella Balinska, and Karen Mok. Now, Cartier is celebrating all of them through its latest Panthère de Cartier pieces and campaign.
Toussaint, a birdlike beauty with a penchant for the fabulous and exotic, captured the attention of Paris from the moment of her arrival. Her magnetic aura and the feline fur coats she draped herself in earned her the nickname “La Panthère.” Her creativity and eye for style gained her the regard of Louis Cartier, a muse and collaborator. In 1933, Toussaint became creative director of jewelry at Cartier, ushering in an era of recognizability and collectability with a feline mascot that continues to inspire new trends.
Over the past century, jewelry masters have streamlined the challenge of capturing the panther's graceful movement, resulting in a new collection that serves to enhance a woman’s innate power. In many Panthère de Cartier pieces, speckled cats leap across the wearer’s wrist, completely fluid as if in mid-hunt. Spots of onyx dot the crystalline fur, drawing the eyes like black holes. The panther’s arresting stare is translated into glinting emeralds.
As timeless as the image of the panther is a woman’s appetite for freedom. The Cartier panther represents a century of embracing power and femininity as mutually inclusive. A woman can take on anything and let the power of the panther imbue her with the hypnotic fluidity and strength that define both the feline and the feminine. The Panthère de Cartier collection reminisces the original ‘La Panthère,’ and “the image of assertive femininity” that she embodied, says Pierre Rainero, Cartier's International Director of Image, Style and Heritage. According to Carrez, the campaign “pays homage to strong personalities and confident styles.” Rainero applauds Toussaint’s memorable ability to notice the “symbolic potential and power of attraction” of the panther, creating a symbol that is equally empowering and iconic.