Cartier So Pretty Eau De Parfum (1995): Timeless Young Chypre {Perfume Review}


But never mind those trifles.

This ideal marriage which sealed the alliance of two families linked by both ties of friendship and business affinities took on a more realistic turn and ended up in a less glitzy divorce in 1910. Louis's sister, Suzanne Cartier, was also to marry a grand-son of C.F. Worth, Jacques.

So Pretty by Cartier was launched in 1995 reportedly to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Louis Cartier's marriage to the grand-daughter of couturier Charles Worth - Andrée - whom he used to call "My so pretty." The nuptial alliance of two luxury names is great marketing material. Except that a certain poetic license was taken as the historical wedding took place in reality in 1898 while 1895 marked the year of the death of Charles Frederick Worth.

The loose symbolics and appeal to the tradition of the house of Cartier surrounding So Pretty become a bit more concrete when looking at the cap of the flacon designed by Cartier and Joël Desgrippes and made by glass-maker Pochet: it represents the Cartier Trinity or "rolling' ring. A detail one does not notice immediately and which adds charm to the design is that the top of the cap is openwork, evoking a hollowed-out rose bud. Luxury is in the small details and preferably the hidden ones; although not higher-end in terms of price, the perfume thus manages to create a sensation of refinement. If you don't have money you can always flaunt style. 


Notes are Italian mandarin, neroli, bergamot, clear jasmine, exotic dewberry, iris, rose centifolia from Grasse, Damascus rose, diamond orchid from Brazil, osmanthus from China, white peach, vetiver from Java, Mysore sandalwood, oakmoss, benzoin, musk. Not mentioned, but most certainly present in the formula are galbanum and vanilla.

I was initially taken by the perception that the floral bouquet in the composition seemed to be a nosegay intended to please those who hesitate between the different atmospheres of the rose, iris and jasmine. It turns out that the effect is intended: the notes are "braided" to reflect the structure of the ring but the three notes that are officially showcased are rose, iris and sandalwood, according to I am reminded at this point of Encre Noire pour Elle which also gives the distinct, even stronger impression of addressing itself to the dominant classical floral tastes, all at the same time.

The perfume was composed by a nose who has made perfume history, Jean Guichard (Obsession by Calvin Klein, Loulou, also Eden by Cacharel...) He has also contributed less well-known works such as Fifi Chachnil, Caresse by Fragonard, Ego Facto Prends Garde à Toi, Deci-Delà by Nina Ricci..) So Pretty is one of those fragrances that insist on living in relative discretion. It is not a highly publicized perfume. It can pretend to the status of hidden gem. Yet upon smelling it and comparing it to a cohort of available fragrances in the market today, it strikes you for its genuine qualities: its technical excellence, its classical workmanship which is never stodgy, and its prettiness which is very different from the prettiness experienced in girly scents in more recent times. This is a real perfume with a real 3-D presence, real body, presence and wit. It is anything but lame and pretentious. For part of its persona, it is a perfume steeped in tradition. Here it is a prettiness on the way to becoming a more mature beauty. It alludes to a woman who is young but will take on the qualities of her mother in a decade or so and age well like good wine. The perfume evokes a classical femininity without breaking points in the continuum of generations.

Re-reading my review of Caresse just before publishing the article, I realize that many of the themes I discovered in So Pretty are typical brushstrokes belonging to the palette of Jean Guichard. The perfumer seems to have a knack for capturing a light, pretty kind of femininity which is sophisticated, not dumbed down. 

So Pretty was launched admittedly as a neo-classic composition in the middle of the 1990s, but it was a classic signature that betrayed the wish both in its name and scent-personality to incorporate a young, vernal twist. At least this is how I interpret this rosy-cheeked green floral chypre with a verdant bite almost as acidic as a crunchy Granny Smith and a squirt of citrus in your eye. The verdancy of the floral accord nearly offers the tingling sensation of Wasabi on the edges of the rose petals that bloom in the perfume. The tag line was "Que serait l'audace sans la grâce" which means "What would be audacity without grace." This scent is not completely tame.

These different sensations you can encounter on a certain continuum of thoughts, but are not there per se as foody impressions.

What I find interesting in retrospect is that the ideas of youth and freshness here are conveyed in an elegant manner. It is a timeless young and youthful perfume - a paradox to some extent - untainted by the juvenile contemporary earworm accords of fruity-florals, candy and milky notes as we know them although a fruitiness is present, that of the rose itself and of osmanthus as well as notes of mandarin, dewberry, peach but counterbalanced by a dry and almost mustard-y facet like mustard made with champagne. You could not really say to what generation this perfume belongs and it belongs to no sociological movement.


So Pretty is also classical in style because it pays homage to the queen of flowers, rose. And as I realized after wearing it for several days - first feeling after two days that the rose ensconced in the perfume was like an old acquaintance, a familiar face I could not quite put a name on and on the fourth day perhaps, let out its name by chance as the rose came back to me under the wind: Nahema by Guerlain. Eurêka, yes, it was the same all-out fruity rose with a wish to be a raspberry but hidden in the folds of the perfume.

Jean-Paul Guerlain has said that although Nahema was not a commercial success it is a a rose soliflore that has earned him the private accolades of his colleagues. This to me is one of those expressed in the language of perfumery.  

I was telling a reader the other day that there is a distinction to be drawn in my mind between wearable and dull fragrances and this is the perfume I had in mind at the time. You can have personality without being difficult and a porcupine. Or like a water that is so tasty, clear and easy to drink that you go back to it over and over again without thinking even, So Pretty is a perfume that you can wear ad libitum.

I note also that this easiness of personality was not left to chance as the composition, however you may spray it, in higher or lower dose, never feels like it is too much. It just seems to never get high-pitched, shrill, loud, and always seems to resorb to the right level. It is quite amazing in that regard. The only notes that seem to escape from the composition to surprise you are here and there a gentle, playful facet. Suddenly, a white peach seems to have left the confines of an orchard and it is summer, or a succulent rose ripens in the air, or a downy puff of iris leaves an elegant trace of powder on the skin but the green always feels like spring.

So Pretty was also who I had in mind when I referred to perfumes that are able to hold a conversation with your senses. They always seem to have something to say and they certainly don't tell you all at once. 

The composition is advertised for having included for the first time a note of Diamond Orchid in perfumery. I am at a loss to tell what it smells like in reality. It could have been a jewelry-sounding perfume note fit for Cartier. The note has reappeared in the past few years in Tocca by Stella but also mass-market scents like Enchanting by Celine Dion (2006) and in Bath & Body Works Velvet Tuberose (2007). It could be a sparkling rendition of a particular sweet-smelling orchid (there are so many of them). I was not able to find a mention of the smell of Diamond Orchid in Roman Kaiser's The Scent of Orchids.

To my nose, So Pretty started chronologically over the days like a sparkling floral bouquet on a luminous chypre base and evolved into a rather ravishing rose perfume in the last analysis. But it has fruity, powdery, green, iris-y facets. It possesses a green character that is carried by the galbanum, a rather frank rendition of it which evokes the old Vent Vert and its cut in a bleeding, sappy blade of grass, even before conjuring up the slightly strange galbanum and iris of Chanel No 19 which for me evokes the equally strange charm of Charlotte Rampling. So Pretty is not strange. It is precious, it is oh-so pretty, it is vivacious and it is elegant. It is not, at least on the surface, visibly less than lovely although some of the notes in the composition introduce a a slight underlying discordance if you pay attention which might be the indispensable dose of exaggeration and near-ugliness to prevent the jus from becoming pretty, boring and lifeless. The push of the galbanum here is less raw and straight-up than in Vent Vert yet it keeps a good measure of the same brash character underneath it all, together with the citruses. When you smell Vent Vert next to So Pretty you realize how much more fruits there are in the latter and it also reminds you of an earlier mental note: the oakmoss in So Pretty is probably different from the initial 1995 rendition since there have been new regulations concerning this ingredient since then. It has that slightly flat, plasticky quality but adroitely camouflaged here. It also betrays the presence of white musks in the base which might have been added and are a little "now" as opposed to timeless. But overall, it preserves an eternal-spring quality to it and for this reason ought to be worn by whoever needs a little rosy blush on their cheeks at any age.     

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Related Posts

4 Comments | Leave a comment

  1. Before the original launch od So Pretty with the beautiful Dominique Isserman b/w photo, Cartier wanted to have an ad campaign with either Julia Roberts or Richard Gere in it. The Pretty Woman movie was the most successful romantic comedy at that moment and Cartier wanted SP to be a hit in the US. Somehow it never happened, it wasn't well received back then for movie actors to do advertising. How things have changed...


    • If they wanted to do that ad in 1995 it might have felt a bit stale, no, to advertise with actors for roles they played 5 years before? Oh, but you mean, before the launch of So Pretty. Yes, I suppose the name can also be linked to the movie. Now, there is the Barbara Orbison Pretty Woman perfume named after the song that came out in the end of 2009.

      I read that So Pretty wax exceptionally launched both in the US and Europe at the same while in the past Cartier usually preferred to launch overseas first.

      Thank you for this info, it shows that the perfume's concept was also influenced by pop culture.

      Chant Wagner
  2. I really want to carry on using this perfume .I love it but can't buy it anymore.Are they going to re-launch it soon

    christine greenow
    • I would have to inquire. One of the prettiest rose perfume there is.

      Chant Wagner

Leave a Comment