When Cartier’s flagship boutique reopened in Rue de la Paix, Paris on December 2005, so did their bespoke fragrance program began. In this programme, a client can have his or her custom fragrance developed by in-house “nose” Mathilde Laurent for 30,000 to 60,000 euros.
Mathilde Laurent completed her studies at the Institut Supérieur du Parfum des Cosmétiques et des Arômes (ISIPCA) perfumery school, before being taken under the wing of master perfumer Jean-Paul Guerlain. For 11 years, she worked in Guerlain as Jean-Paul’s apprentice, until she joined Cartier in the Valentine’s Day of 2005.
Since joining Cartier, Laurent has taken charge in developing most of their mainstream fragrances, including Roadster, Cartier de Lune, and this year’s releases, Cartier Oud & Musc, Cartier Oud & Oud, and Cartier Oud & Rose.
It is also by Mathilde Laurent’s expertise through Les Heures de Parfum that Cartier’s place in High Perfumery was established. One of the fragrances under this collection, La Treizième Heure, won the very prestigious Perfume Creator’s Prize and Specialist’s Prize.
One of Mathilde Laurent’s most celebrated fragrances, the Cartier Baiser Volé, bear us witnesses to the wonderful talent of this “nose.” Dedicated to the lily, this perfume aimed to bottle its scent without being the expectations of a floral fragrance.
Nicknaming Cartier Baiser Volé as an anti-floral fragrance, Laurent wanted the perfume to be different in the way it addresses women, without bottling the very essence of femineity in but by remaining true to the purity of the lily scent: “When crafting this lily scent, I wanted it to appear very natural, very genuine, very plant-based, and very refreshing, and to create the impression that one is inhaling the scent of a bouquet of flowers.”
As Laurent discusses the complexity of making this fragrance: “It is important to understand that the lily does not exist in perfumery. We have essences of rose, lavender, jasmine, and tuberose, but the lily does not provide an essence. It cannot be distilled, and its basic substance cannot be extracted.”
However, it is in making bespoke fragrances that Mathilde Laurent’s skill and talent in perfumery is even more masterfully exhibited. Keeping in line with Cartier’s known tradition of private jewellery orders, bespoke perfumery is envisioned with the same kind of passion and developed with the same drive to achieve perfection.
In an interview for Cafleurbon.com, Mathilde compares perfumery to jewellery making: “When you have a wonderful diamond or stone, you don’t need to put (many small stones of many colours) as you have a wonderful piece of jewellery already. So when I am trying to create perfume with few ingredients, I get inspiration in the ingredient. (I) try to (make it) pure, (and) access (the) rarity of the ingredient.”
Though a less highlighted role, bespoke or custom perfumery could take a year and a fortune to make. It begins with an initial, almost intimate meeting with Mathilde Laurent. For three hours, the client is exposed to a palate of favourite food and drinks that will serve as triggers and guides to articulating their olfactory desires.
Then comes months of scientific research, of going back-and-forth with the clients and their partners, and of coming up with “sketches” or choices, until the perfect bottle is achieved. Bespoke perfumery is a delicate and deliberate process that often begins with up to 50 ingredients in Laurent’s list. “When I start to write down the first ingredients on my list, I don’t know what the others will be.”.
According to Laurent, creating a bespoke fragrance is much like writing a book, with the same amount of time given to “gather inspiration, find the concept, and research the ingredients” that will help in bottling the client’s memories, emotions, or persona.
Once finished, the formula is then kept under lock and key. It is possible to re-order the scent, much like an heirloom jewel is passed down throughout the generations.