- Interview -
a woman who exudes happiness
Regarded as one of the most reputed ‘noses’ in the world, Mathilde Laurent has created some 30 perfumes for Cartier. Her most recent creation, Carat, shines like a diamond, surprises and sparkles, just as she does herself.
There are around 500 perfume-makers in the world, which makes this profession very elitist, but you have nonetheless had a very successful and exemplary career. How did you manage this?
More by luck than anything! Ever since I was a child, I had the potential to become a perfume-maker. When I finally did, I completed the required studies and I passed the ISIPCA* entrance exam. At the end of my course, I bumped into Jean-Paul Guerlain and asked him if he would like to hire me for an internship at the end of my studies. My cheek paid off! I got a job at Guerlain where I spent 11 years during which I learned thousands of things.
Would you consider yourself more to be an artist?
Not at all! I feel like a child who has been given thechance to play at being a perfume-maker. There is a fun and completely irresponsible side. To work for a Maison like Cartier, one has to be completely oblivious to certain external factors, otherwise it’s impossible. Too much pressure and responsibilities are extremely paralyzing when it comes to creation.
How do you create your perfumes?
Firstly, together with the teams, we find a theme, so nothing olfactory comes into it. Then when I start creating the fragrance, I know exactly what result I want and how I am going to achieve it. After that, the alchemy comes into play and works its magic.
Are there places or people that inspire you?
No, my inspiration is very intellectual. It has nothing to do with random external inspiration. I work much better in a neutral room with white walls than any other place.
You have created perfumes for Guerlain and now you do so for Cartier. Has your way of working changed according to the DNA of the respective brands?
Absolutely! Actually, that was in fact the toughest thing when I started at Cartier and I therefore really needed to soak up the spirit of the Maison. My office was located between the gemstone department, accessory design and the Jewelry and High Jewelry departments, so I was completely immersed in the Cartier Universe, which helped a lot.
You create fragrances, but do you also work on the choice of name and the packaging?
Absolutely! One of the things we are most proud of at Cartier is being able to design everything internally. It is a major luxury company that produces perfumes to the same standard of excellence, research, creativity and style as its Jewelry and High Jewelry collections. I take part in every stage by contributing my ideas.
Perfume-makers often travel, and love wine and food. Do you?
As far as I am concerned, I enjoy eating and being surprised by an unlikely spice in an ice cream or by a flower used in cooking meat. I adore being baffled or surprised by the unusual. I also love wine and am a great fan of tea. For me, tea is a fragrance that one drinks. So I’m very epicurean but I hate traveling. It’s very hard to get me to go anywhere. The hardest thing is leaving everything that surrounds me and that I love.
*Institut supérieur international du parfum, de la cosmétique et de l’aromatique alimentaire (a Paris-based international higher education institution dedicated to perfume, cosmetics and flavoring).
Based on an interview by Anouk Julien-Blanco