Why did “the feral floral,” a tag line used by Cartier to describe its perfume, La Panthère, catch my attention? It’s not that I’m all that keen on the smell of unwashed animals; otherwise, the camel leather belt I bought for my husband in India (now banished to the outside closet) would have satisfied that craving and more. Cartier’s perfumery, on the other hand, is in the hands of talented Mathilde Laurent, and if anyone could make feral smell good, it would be her.
La Panthère was the nickname of Jeanne Toussaint, the flamboyant artistic director of Cartier jewelry from 1933 to 1968, who was responsible for some of the most dramatic examples of Cartier’s art. Named after this tremendous character, the perfume couldn’t be just another well-behaved floral, and Laurent decided on a composition based on contrasts: moss and leather; gardenias and patchouli.