Making Scents with The Divine Feminine

Making Scents with The Divine Feminine

Making Scents with The Divine Feminine

Mathilde Laurent, perfumer of Cartier fragrances sheds light on how we can possess the joy of nature with Les Épures de Parfum.

Mathilde Laurent, perfumer of Cartier fragrances sheds light on how we can possess the joy of nature with Les Épures de Parfum.

Text: Stella Pak

She will graze your soul, trigger memories and drift you into illusions in slow motion. Is Mathilde Laurent a sorcerer, mad scientist, or emotive sculptor? Her latest creation for Cartier is Les Épures de Parfum –  a trifecta of potions energized by the divine feminine. Saturated characteristics of Lily of the Valley, KinKan and Magnolia encapsulate joy in the arms of mother nature when we need her most. As its creator, we’ve asked Laurent to offer her approach to Les Épures de Parfum and to help us extend our perceptions of natural beauty.

You’re a composer of science and poetry. How do those worlds merge for you?

There is a lot of poetry in chemistry and it’s very funny how people consider chemistry outside of humans. Chemistry is often seen as something weird, a little bit like science fiction. Not natural, superficial. When in fact, we’re all made of chemistry. All the behaviours and thoughts of our human body is chemistry. Nature is chemistry. When you dive in the materials as I did in this collection of Les Èpures, you nearly see the soul of the flower. Of the fruit. You go deep and deeper, and deeper as if you are using a microscope, a super microscope. This is where chemistry is merging with alchemy and this is where poetry begins. 

Molecular poetry?

Exactly. Recently there was a game – Everything. It’s a game where you can be infinitely small or you can become a star in the sky. You are a planet in a solar system, a bee, or a molecule. It’s exactly what I do in my perfumery. Diving into a flower to see how it smells. A human body wears perfume, I bring the information back to the human brain and I use it and I offer it to another human brain. It has been taken to the molecular level.

The description of this game seems like a broad stroke introduction to reincarnation. From an herb to a bee, to a sky. 

This is where perfumery becomes an art. It is when you realize you can explore all these worlds and you can be in a spiritual vision of the theory. An emotion – Is it visual or is it molecular or is it the heart or is the brain or is it human? I think it’s wonderful when you can do your job when you can create with this spiritual aspect. 

How did you approach Les Épures de Parfum?

The spiritual, the molecular, the heart, the visual, the everything. To be a perfumer, you need to be able to combine intuition, sensation and scientific knowledge and scientific approach. Once you have the scientific information, you have to find everything else that will allow you to create the emotion. This is where this is art. This is where this is poetry. Because it’s not only you know how to do it because you learned. It’s also something you learned how to do because of feeling. You have perceptions and you try to reach one another’s mind and one another’s body. With what you’ve put from your body, from your head. You reach other people with that. This is where it’s incredible and where it’s something magical. 

When did you feel confident in your approach?

You can feel confident if you have an intuition that you are in the right direction. Even before I started this collection nearly 18 months ago, I was sure that people want to go back to nature. To natural ways of cosmetics. The real pleasure of perfumery was born in nature. Perfumery is an invention. Man had the idea to possess the smell of nature. Same idea for jewelry. It was born for desire. Beauty of nature. They were born with the same will to catch the beauty of nature and to bring it with you and to wear it for pleasure. 

The desire to possess nature feels counterintuitive to spirituality.

I was really convinced it was time to go back to this pure, instinctive, primal pleasure of raw, crude and simple. People want to go back to nature, but we have to protect nature. We cannot harvest nature and destroy nature. We have to respect nature. You have to enjoy nature instead of destroying it, give pleasure without taking it. We have to produce it without harvesting it.

What is clean and natural beauty?

If we consider that nature is clean, we are totally wrong. Then, we have to exploit, harvest tons and tons, and tons of plants to give nature to everybody. And it’s much more complicated than that. And I think that you may know that not everything is good for the skin or body. Sometimes I think “clean” will mean substances that are good for health and good for nature. But not necessarily natural. Maybe what you eat can be claimed to be 100% from nature. I think it’s important to educate and explain to people. People are claiming 100% natural ingredients, but not everybody will be able to do that. It’s not possible. We must find new ways. We have to consider what we keep and what we reject. To be 100% natural means exploiting nature. 

How has this period of enforced solitude affected your creativity, your senses?

I don’t like it very much. But it’s important to say what I was feeling before is occurring now. I didn’t predict this awful epidemic but I have the feeling that this idea of going back to nature, sustainability, less is more, simple things, slowing down our behaviors. For that, it was a good thing. This crisis is bringing good things faster. We want to get out of this crisis and head to a world of better tomorrow. I think many people are becoming more and more conscious of all the things that need to change. What’s really funny is that this confinement has shown how important many little things are. For example, people who had the coronavirus lost their sense of smell and taste. It was the greatest symptom of the illness. I hope they will recover. We are crossing our fingers for you. Many people were amazed to discover how important these senses are and how you don’t consider it daily. It is incredibly important. It has put emphasis on this scent and the happiness it brings. I posted a story on Instagram... a little work of art that said, “Try to live in your confinement without books, without cinema, without perfumes. All these little things that are not important when you’re working or going everywhere.” It has an emphasis on the importance of art. About reading. Escaping your mind by art. To reconnect with all of our senses and all of our art. Because a good tomorrow, a better tomorrow will be built on sensation. Not technology. I think it lost too many things. Spirituality. The mindfulness, meditation, and everything. It was lost in too many decades. Too many centuries. I think this crisis showed what’s important. The social link, the family. Everything. All the things we were neglecting. We discovered nature is also one of these things we have neglected. When in fact, it's the salt of life. 

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