HENRI CARTIER-BRESSON, LA PISCINE DELIGNY, PARIS, 1955
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A jewel of a scent – Cartier Carat, an abstract flower made of seven other flowers

Floralia. A new flower made of seven other flowers. A flower previously unknown to all. It has no name, it is a true abstraction. Fresh, preserving the aqueous aspect of its thousand petals.

Cartier Carat is the latest creation by Mathilde Laurent, creative director and the first female in-house perfumer at Cartier since 2005. A fragrance made by applying the same optical effect seen through a diamond: the diffraction of colour. Carat – a name that is as pure as the very nature of the gemstone. In an Art Déco, diamond faceted bottle, the diffraction of the colours of the rainbow create a kaleidoscope of patterns. The olfactory metaphor of diamonds has the scent of white flowers.

Floralia. A new flower made of seven other flowers. A flower previously unknown to all. It has no name, it is a true abstraction. Fresh, preserving the aqueous aspect of its thousand petals. Violet, Iris, Hyacinth, Ylang-Ylang, Daffodil, Honeysuckle and Tulip. «They are actually fake flowers – it is an olfactory diffraction. Just like the seven colours of the rainbow form white light, I selected a bouquet of flowers that would create a single, white abstract flower when put all together,» Mathilde explained. Her favourite flowers include meadow flowers and Peonies. But Rose, Jasmine and Tuberose – no, they hold no interest, not for creating: «If I ever had to use them, I would turn them into something else. These flowers are too simple for use in perfumery.»

«If nature agrees with you,» time lends no added value, when you are creating a perfume. Sometimes a week can be long enough but it took a year to create Carat – to get the right compromise, enough experimentation but not too much with the risk of going astray, «artists appreciate a lack of time, you are forced to trigger your mind and body.» Maybe the quality of a perfume is down to its ingredients. No, «that is just an excuse.» If you don’t know how to show them off or how to assemble them together, it is all quite pointless. «The secret is in being bold» and in imagination. Whereas the ingredients support creativity so that the nose can convey a message: «Light is what comes across with Carat.» The olfactory metaphor of a diamond, «like a beam of sunlight entering you, made for people who want to find their carat hidden within.» It is not linked to a gender, «not at Cartier. Catering for a target is banal. Our fragrances are always ‘desexualized’.» After relinquishing a direction based on an olfactory gender, she explains: «Carat is just flowers, nothing more.»

The olfactory shock? In Corsica, where Mathilde was born. She grew up in Paris but summers were spent on the island with her grandmother. Her first memory of a scent – or perhaps the first scent that was part of a memory –, is «as strong as a slap in the face. The scent of the Mediterranean maquis when they opened the door of the airplane. I can still picture it now, I was five years old.» She still considers Corsica to be her refuge, «I feel relaxed with water all around me.» Like a sunflower, she seeks out the sunlight in Paris, «I go up to the roof terrace where I work, Fondation Cartier, where you can see the city, and the forest, and the sun rising. I go to meditate there, in silence.» Would that be an olfactory silence? «Some things have no scent, and that’s good.» She does not have a favourite smell – «I can’t have one,» to avoid running the risk of creating the same perfume over again. It is the duty of the perfumer, using the ingredients you need and not those you love. Love – «the smell of my daughter. Patchouli is passion.»

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CARTIER CARAT, PINK GLASSES KARTELL, PHOTOGRAPHY A.B.

For each smell, a photo. «In the mind of a perfumer, every smell is an image. When you smell something, you see it.» It happens in the very same instant. «You have to have it all in mind. A photograph that you translate into a perfume.» It becomes trickier when you have to take a Maison and encapsulate it in a small bottle, «you have to be bold,» if you want to discover the code behind its style, adapt it to the 21st century and then «Imagining a future that goes with the past, in the present day and that is timeless for future generations.»

«Par hasard.» It happened by chance. After creating twentyfour fragrances for Cartier, Mathilde still speaks about being oblivious. I did not want to become a nose, “I spent my life taking photographs,” but then every place and every thing had its own smell about it. After two years studying chemistry, she chose perfumery, “I was looking for something new to do, something with more mystery.” The internship at Guerlain – “Never give in. Never bow to compromise in terms of quality,” is the lesson she received from Jean Paul Guerlain, that she still repeats today. She still loves photography, and since we mentioned oblivion – «Maybe I will be a photographer ten years from now!»

Mathilde doesn’t wear perfume – «I can’t» – because I work ‘with perfumes’ and her nose has to be clean. Since prehistoric times, smell has been an innate alert to danger. «This is why an hour after you put on perfume, your nose can’t smell it anymore, it has become saturated so it can smell what is new.» She is addicted to one thing: tea. Jukro, a black tea from Korea with notes of cocoa and grilled meat that she brought with her from Paris. «Tea is a perfume you can drink. I drink tea because it enables me to drink tigers.»

Free gold, liquid gold

She lived in a world of parties, jewels and clothes, passing from one lover to another, unscrupulous, always looking for herself.

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