March 30, 2012
When Mathilde Laurent left Guerlain to become the in-house perfumer at Cartier in charge of bespoke perfumes, the famous perfume critic Luca Turin wrote “it`s the saddest waste of human talent since Rimbaud decided to study engineering”.
But instead Mathilde`s talent bloomed at Cartier: she made a masculine mint-n-cedar Roadster and a number of feminines; most recently Baiser Vole. That`s not even mentioning her brilliant extra-luxe collection Les Heures de Cartier which is praised by perfume aficionados as much as Les Exclusifs de Chanel, Hermessence, Tom Ford Private Blend, and Christian Dior Couturier et Parfumeur. Her talent is compared favourably to Jean-Claude Ellena, Jacques Polge, Francois Demachy…
So Jean-Paul Guerlain should be proud of his apprentice Mathilde Laurent. What was the most important lesson she took from Jean-Paul – find out in my short personal interview.
Sergey Borisov: Please, tell our readers about your background.
Mathilde Laurent: I am coming from the artistic family, my father was an architect and everybody in my family was studying Fine Arts, that explained my fascination and passion for Art.
SB: When did you begin to feel yourself as a perfumer?
ML: I still, still don’t feel myself a perfumer, you know to create a perfume it is like a white page,
I always have a feeling I know nothing; I am not able to do it. I would say that at first you always have vertigo,that is why I always have a feeling that I just start my career. I feel as a perfumer when I talk about the perfumes I have created, when they are finished I feel (like) a Perfumer.
SB: What were your career milestone points?
ML: I would say that I didn’t have real difficulties, real great difficulties, as it is every day a difficulty. What was real hard is the human side sometimes.
SB: And your first perfume was…
ML: First creation? My first creation I ever did was for Guerlain.
SB: Had you ever created anything like bespoke or personal perfumes?
ML: I never created perfumes for me, nor for family. I am not interested by creating perfumes for me, no use… when you choose this kind of artistic job; never choose it to do things for you. I don’t care about me, I care about people who wear my perfume, "me" is not the point. I never created perfume for my mother, husband or lover…
SB: Are you inspired by some people?
ML: It is not the perfumer who said it, I say if you create perfume you don’t take your inspiration on a person, you know, I can understand, I remember, Guerlain used to create perfume for the lady with whom he was in love, but the inspiration was coming from the lady, it is different.
SB: Your Guerlain perfumes – Guet-Apens, Shalimar Eau Legere, the first Aqua Allegoria colognes, and #68 – were extraordinary pieces of art. Did you do some other perfume projects there – maybe, for private clientele? Do you feel that your perfumery style changed much since you moved to Cartier?
ML: I think it has changed but not so much, I had to adopt my style to Cartier style so I am less working in (an) oriental way that I used in Guerlain, orientality is not just for Guerlain so sometimes I do work with oriental. But anyway you can’t get rid of your old style totally J
SB: How do you characterize Cartier style?
ML: It is the same as in jewelry. We use wonderful ingredients and very few ingredients.
When you have a wonderful diamond or stone, you don’t need to put many, many small stones of many colors as you have a wonderful piece of jewelry already. So when I am trying to create perfume with few ingredients, I get inspiration in the ingredient, try to be pure, you can have access in rarity of the ingredient. E.g. you have big stones in Cartier jewelry, so I have big ingredients, you can feel them, you can see a wonderful stone in the middle of necklace.
SB: What was your greatest lesson taken from Jean-Paul Guerlain?
ML: The lesson was on the ingredients, he told me how to choose them, to know them, to get expertise. The most important lesson I took from him is that you should always behave like a “Lion”, you should never give up, create on what you believe in, he was really courageous wanting to impose what is his vision, this is what I took from him. When I enter Cartier, I understood that the best artist is that who defends his ideas, your freedom of creation.
Freedom is to be taken, nobody will give it to you, and of course sometimes I meet some limits but I take all the freedom I can take.
SB; The Guerlainade base is famous for Guerlain perfumes. Is there any kind of similar base in your works for Cartier? Or something common that presents in most of Cartier perfumes style?
ML: NOT TRUE! Never, it doesn’t exist, there is no concrete thing.
SB: What is the Cartier tradition of personal custom-made bespoke perfumes?
ML: Cartier pursues its dream of excellence and the history goes back to 1908, when the jeweler created its first perfume bottle. Stylized, inspired by civilizations of far away lands or based on pieces from antiquity, these bottles for collectors crystallize the tradition of a House that places the decorative object at the very heart of creation. The idea to make personal perfumes came to Cartier in 2005 to celebrate the opening of Rue de La Paix boutique in Paris.
SB: What’s more complicated to create: private perfume to please one person – or niche like Les Heures de Cartier – or commercial mass perfume like Baiser Vole to please thousands of people?
ML: For me it doesn’t matter, as I think only about the creation itself, its existence, difficulty to work for and it is not important whether 1 person uses it or 1000.
SB: Who’s the most picky critic of your own work?
ML: My husband! He has a wonderful nose, on top he knows my works and sometimes tells me something I really don’t want to hear J
SB: Les Heures de Cartier. What a beautiful collection it is. My favorites are IV L`Heure Fougueuse and XIII La Treizième Heure, sweet green smoke of mate, narcissus, birchtar & patchouli. Please, tell our readers about the principles of the collection, about your inspirations, and your favorite perfumes in the collection and maybe your new plans for 2012?
ML: I am impressed, you have chosen my favorite ones, L`Heure Fougueuse and XIII La Treizième Heure are very special to me, to these perfumes I am really attached.
The principle of the collection is the manifesto, it means freedom of creation that I have, it is absolute.
SB: What is the greatest freedom and the greatest luxury, in your opinion?
ML: Greatest freedom – freedom of your spirit, freedom of mind
Greatest luxury – Time
Our thanks to Mathilde Laurent for taking time out of her busy schedule to talk with us.
–Sergey Borisov, Contributor