Long before Chanel, Christian Dior, and YSL made their way into the fashion world, English designer Charles Frederick Worth arrived in Paris with £5 in his pocket and eventually established himself as the couture king with an enviable client list that included the who’s who of the Parisian court. A contemporary of Louis-François, Worth had recorded a stratospheric rise within Parisian high society, and it was very unlikely that a nondescript jeweller like Cartier in those days could negotiate a marriage proposal with the Worths. However, the ambitious Alfred Cartier found a chink and used it to pursue his eldest son Louis’ alliance with Charles Frederick Worth’s granddaughter, Andrée-Caroline.
Believed to have been born illegitimately and therefore unsuited to marry into aristocratic circles, Andrée-Caroline was not the wife Louis desired. Her strange demeanour reminded him of his mother, Alice, who ended up in a sanatorium and he wanted to avoid another “nervous crisis” in the family. Torn between the larger good of his firm and personal happiness, Louis finally gave in to his father’s demand on the condition that he could seek a divorce from Andrée-Caroline in future.
While Louis was already put off by the idea of this marriage, Andrée-Caroline’s “lack of reverence” on the wedding day shocked Louis’ younger brother Jacques Cartier. “I believe her to be ill, a young girl…to whom the idea of consent cannot have any value,” said Jacques in one of the letters quoted in Francesca's epic chronicle on Cartier the family. As expected, Andrée-Caroline proved to be the Cartiers’ passport into the French luxury world. Thanks to a handsome dowry, Louis could now buy a small store on the prestigious Rue de la Paix in Paris and tap into his father-in-law’s reputable client base.
Extremely creative, curious and headstrong, Louis was a genius at work, but his marital life was turbulent. Thanks to the Worth family, he got easy access to Parisian socialites at popular clubs, and that’s where he would spend his evenings, networking his way through potential clients, their wives, lovers et al. Eager to help his daughters-in-law, Jean-Philippe Worth also offered some of his best men, René Prieur and Paul Muffat, to help Louis. This marriage of convenience was more than a boon for the Cartiers, who collaborated with the Worths to open their first store together in London in 1902. While Louis and Andrée-Caroline’s marriage was falling apart, their extended families were getting closer. Just a year before the couple’s divorce in 1908, Louis’ sister Suzanne married Andrée’s cousin Jacques Worth, whose connections further strengthened Cartier’s presence in the jewellery business.