Around Paris – Then & Now
Cartier brought to me Paris recently, for a scent-inspired adventure with the brand’s in-house perfumer Mathilde Laurent. After my incredible day with Mathilde, learning about her process for creating Cartier’s perfume line, Les Heures, I partook on my own solo journey.
To embrace being alone is challenging—and special. And to be alone in Paris … it felt hopelessly romantic to wander about aimlessly. I have not explored Paris in solitude since I was 18, and this trip truly helped me appreciate where I been—and have arrived—since then.
I was working as a model, and living in a tiny model apartment in the 11th. Since scent brought to me to Paris, I was reminded of some of the smells that shaped my experience back in the late ‘90s. Nutella crepes. Gummy candy (that was the backbone of my diet back then). Rice and beans for dinner—it was the cheapest food I could make myself. Morning visits to the patisserie—and yes, this candy pastry indulgence did put a screeching halt to my modeling career, as I left Paris significantly heavier than when I arrived. I also returned home with a shaved head and a septum ring—and consequently, a very unhappy mama. I was rebelling, uncertain of who I was or what I would become. I had yet to nurture my creative side.
I could never have imagined I would return, more than 18 years later, on this extravagant trip, collaborating with a prestigious French brand like Cartier, and chatting creation with someone as chic and established as Mathilde Laurent. I was humbled and inspired—and I planned to savor every minute of my journey.
Straight off the plane without much sleep, I was taken to Chantilly castle, just outside of Paris and BEYOND breathtaking. It’s a place steeped in history, from a time of kings and queens, a fantastical world away. The next afternoon I was given a private tour of the Cartier Contemporary Art Museum with the museums curator Grazia Quaroni. I ate at some of the finest restaurants, David Toutain being tippy top on that list! I drank rosé and wrote in my journal at Café de Flore, and ate an insane amount of cheese and baguettes.
I marveled over the architecture at the sites I visited. I was treated to a Guerlain facial at the Mandarin Oriental spa. And I had a diamonds-are-a-girl’s-best -friend moment at the very first Cartier boutique on 13, rue de la Paix, opened in 1899, where I tried on the brand’s signature diamond panther bracelets. All this happened over three surreal days (“please pinch me” might be a better descriptor), and it was truly heaven!
Cartier, and Paris, I am filled with gratitude for this trip, and for the eye-opening realization of how far I have come in my life. It’s these reminders that create that very quiet inner smile. Merci bien.