" Cartier has a real soul", says the house's longtime nose, Mathilde Laurent. The perfumer who has been behind the brand's signature scents for over a decade sits down with Farouk Chekoufi to discuss her love affair with the maison, the importance of men knowing their limits and why a fragrance house that tells you to layer a perfume is lost...

You've been in the industry for years. How did you start your career and where?

My career started in 1994. I'd just finished my course at the ISIPCA school of perfumery in Versailles, and I was offered a job at Guerlain, by Mr. Guerlain himself. I had a very early start in the business.

Can you tell us more about your love affair with the house of Cartier?

Yes, it's been 11 years now. It's incredible because I never get bored. With a house like Cartier there's always something new to discover and to learn. It's a never-ending journey of discovery. It's also a very, very noble house in its soul; Cartier has a real soul, a real way of thinking, a way of behaving. It's not just a house; sometimes it feels like a person, you know? It's a living being, and that's why it's a love story too, because I couldn't have a love story with a house that wasn't as noble as Cartier.

Let's talk about the launch of L'Envol de Cartier...

Yes, as usual my inspiration came from the era we're living in. I look at the market too, and I always ask myself the same question... What can I bring, what can I offer people that they don't already have and will be happy to have? I always try to offer something useful, because I think that's what we need.

The market is always telling men they should be heroes — physical heroes; they have to earn a million pounds, they have to be invincible. It's always the same idea and I think it's totally boring now. Every fragrance on the market gives out the same message. I thought to myself that men shouldn't always have to stretch themselves beyond their physical limits; they should have the right to be thoughtful, serene, and contemplative perhaps. 

Le Envol de Cartier

Layering perfumes is making a come back. Will you be layering L'Envol de Cartier?

I'd say perhaps not. In fact I think layering is for people who have run out of things to create or invent. So they invent layering because that's what a lot of people want. They want to experiment with perfume, and I understand that, and I often say that people have the right to experiment with perfume. People have the right to a layer. But a house that tells you to layer anything and everything is a lost house.

I try to dedicate myself totally to a fragrance. I always try to create a fragrance that I could almost eat, that I could wear, that I could sleep with...

What makes Cartier fragrances so unique in today's market?

I think Cartier fragrances are unique. There are many reasons why, but one of them is that we try to show and offer what we call a daring elegance. These two words, when you put them together, are the crux of the matter. We're trying to offer something you've never seen before, never smelt before, but you can wear it in total confidence.

I'd like to talk some more about this collection and your creation, Les Heures Voyageuses. What do you think about oud today?

Oud is one of my great loves. I've always wanted to use it in a perfume but real oud is so rare and hard to find. The first time I used oud in a fragrance was with Eau de Cartier. Then, when we decided to use it in Les Heures Voyageuses, it was a great pleasure for me to use oud, and to reconstitute oud in a perfume, and it was something that gave me great pleasure to do so.

Les Heures Voyageuses Cartier

Do you wear perfume, Mathilde?

No, I don't wear perfume. It's very rare for me to wear perfume. Perhaps when I go to a wedding, or sometimes at the weekend, but I don't usually wear perfume. If people are wearing perfume around me, I can't work. And to create perfume it has to be made in a very neutral environment.

What's your first olfactory memory?

I think your style of perfume, the perfumes you love and the idea of what constitutes a beautiful perfume, comes from childhood. Many people think that they have to teach their children to recognise a smell from when they're very young, if they want them to become a perfumer. It's terrible sometimes when you see young children training to become perfumers at the age of eight; it's really awful. I'd say childhood is important in perfumery because of the aesthetic you build, but it's not important to memorise all of the ingredients in the world when you're eight. That's not right.

Cartier fragrances are available at leading perfume houses across the Middle East now.