Evening bags: Precious cargo

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Los Angeles Times Fashion Critic

Evening bags have been a part of Cartier’s history since 1906, when the first “jewelry bag” debuted, a gold mesh design known as the hibou (French for “owl”) because of its unique owl-shaped clasp with emerald eyes.

Some of the most extraordinary bags were one-offs, single pieces made to order for the likes of the Duke of Westminster, who reportedly purchased a black, white and gold enamel tube-shaped clutch with the initial “C” enscribed in diamonds for his mistress Coco Chanel in the 1920s.

Those special creations continue to inspire even today. Cartier is building on the success of its Marcello collection of day bags launched in 2007 with a new line for evening. (The designs land in stores this month, but Emma Stone, January Jones, Lily Collins and Elizabeth Banks have already taken them out on the red carpet.)


Materials include satin, lacy calfskin and metallic goatskin. The speckled clasps are inspired by the house’s panther motif.

One design, a long rectangular clutch in silk woven with silver threads, is made in collaboration with the Lisio Foundation in Florence, Italy, which promotes the art of hand-weaving with precious materials. It takes an entire day for a craftsman to weave just 4 square inches of the material, and there are more than 32 square inches used on each bag.

To ensure the bags reflect Cartier’s design heritage, Marlin Yuson, accessories creative director, logged hours in the archives in Paris and Geneva looking at Cartier pieces the design house had bought back at auction. Her favorites? Gloria Swanson’s Art Deco diamond and rock crystal bracelets, a matched set the actress purchased in 1930 and famously wore in the 1950 film “Sunset Boulevard.”

Perhaps another new design will soon be ready for its close-up.