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Apr 26, 2023

To get a fragrance, a perfumer is not enough: Mathilde Laurent’s Quotes

“To make a fragrance, a perfumer is not enough,” stated perfumer Mathilde Laurent. After starting her career at Guerlain, where she authored her first successes like Pampelune or Guet-Apens, Laurent became Cartier’s in-house perfumer in 2005. At Cartier, she created several iconic fragrances like the collection Les Heures, La Panthère, Carat or L’Envol.

The students of the Global Master for Luxury Business Professional had the unique opportunity to meet Cartier, one of the main partners of the program, during their Paris experiential week. Visiting the Cartier International Paris offices, they also got to explore the brand’s perfume lab to get inspired by Mathilde Laurent and discover how fragrances are conceived and made.

We have selected 10 top quotes from Mathilde Laurent’s book The Sense of Scent to celebrate this moment. In her book, the perfumer-turned-author “reflects on her career, her explorations, and shares her convictions about a craft she wants to enable the widest possible audience to discover: perfumery,” as publisher Nez Éditions puts it. Bringing sense, emotion, symbols and art to her creations, Laurent collaborated with journalist Sarah Bouasse to create a personal, engaged narrative as “a genuine manifesto for olfactory sensibility.” 


The Sense of Scent, a book by Cartier's in-house perfumer Mathilde Laurent, published by Nez Éditions

The Sense of Scent, a book by Cartier's in-house perfumer Mathilde Laurent, published by Nez Éditions
  1. When I chose the profession as a teenager, I never suspected how much using my senses to the utmost would fulfil me (…) Being a perfumer has given me the joy of “feeding” my beauty-hungry senses (…) It is a journey: a training that can be compared to an athlete’s and that can lead to an almost aesthetic mastery of gesture (page 117)

  2. Smell is directly linked to the vital breath that gives us life; it is intrinsically connected to our very existence; because it interweaves all the others in its brain pathways and its memorization; for me, smell is the king of the senses. The sense of life (page 13)

  3. I believe that perfume can make us better people, in the humanist sense of the word, because it leads us to accept others better. Learning to “smell” others, to stand them without making hasty judgements, is the condition for hoping to live with them in harmony (…) Perfumery is an art, and it must, as such, teach open-mindedness and freedom, foster evolution and elevation (page 17)
  1. To do my job, you’ve got to completely let go of your olfactory judgements and overcome all your disgusts so that each ingredient becomes a possibility rather than an impasse (…) A perfumer can imagine new perfumes before having created them. This olfactory imagination is the talent required for the job, and that’s how You can recognize a perfumer (page 43-44)

  2. It is high time to do away with the naturals versus synthetics dichotomy (…). What matters first and foremost is the innocuity of each perfume (…) some natural ingredients are actually highly toxic. In addition, the rise of green chemistry, whose application allows us to reduce the environmental impact of chemical products and processes, has globally made synthetics less polluting (page 58)

Mathilde Laurent © Cartier

Mathilde Laurent © Alexandre Isard
  1. To give birth to a fragrance, a perfumer is not enough: You need people who can manage that kind of adventure with panache and creativity, and who can consider all the aspects of the follow-up and financing of the project as it unfolds. So, it would be wrong to think I have to fight against marketing: When it’s done well, it’s just the opposite. We form a team in which I embody the perfumistic dimension (…) and marketing, the houses’ strategy. And we go forward together, with great mutual respect (…) The relationship between creation and marketing must be an interaction, a shared endeavor in which everyone can explain and convince (…) Good marketing doesn’t seek power: It, too, seeks creation and beauty (page 64-65)
  1. That’s what high perfumery must speak of, in my opinion. Of style, creative freedom and a vision of the future (…) The world of luxury is often solemn, pompous, as though you couldn’t be respectable without being serious (…). To create, You need to play, laugh and be uninhibited! I try to bring creative joy to customers (page 75-76)

  2. I believe this new era will digest the sacred and therapeutic stages of perfume and conjoin them into a global vision uniting body and mind. A form of spirituality beyond religions (…) we’re experiencing a surge in olfactory artworks (page 80)

  3. “Choosing a perfume is voting.” I wrote this sentence in my office many years ago and I believe it more than ever. Today, when buying a fragrance, consumers do more than choose a brand: They support an approach (…); our era no longer wants novelty. It wants what’s right (…) In a market that lacks sense or style, consumers look out for brands with distinguished know-how. I am convinced that the great classics of perfumery will make a comeback (…) and that people will once more turn to brands that have the expertise and talent, just as they are doing for fashion (…). I even think that young consumers, in the wake of fledging influencers, will soon turn to references whose aesthetic value is recognized and undisputed (pages 87-91)
  1. I deeply believe that perfumery is an art. That said, as the use of fragrances has become increasingly democratized over the past decades, there isn’t always an artistic intent behind every launch, just a response to demand. This is not good or bad; it’s simply the reality of our industry today (…). Creating art and seeking consensus are, to my mind, contradictory. If the global market of the past decades has seen the birth of masterpieces like Angel or Cologne de Thierry Mugler, l’Eau d’Issey by Issey Miyake or For Her by Narciso Rodriguez, it is precisely because bold decision-makers took a creative risk (pages 106-107)



Silvia Manzoni
Journalist and Beauty Expert, Paris