Knowledge Center

6 Questions: Olivier Gillotin

"Creative perfumer is an explicit way to describe my work, but philosophically speaking a composer of mood would be a better description."

Interview by Marci Lash

What is your most memorable fragrance experience?

Many of my fragrance experiences are souvenirs of the past, taken from distant places, journeys and life experiences. One of my most memorable came from a journey when I was nine years old; leaving my birthplace by the sea and arriving at a boarding school in the mountains close to Grenoble.   Coming from the seashore, the odor of the mountain surprised me. The verdant density of the pine forests, the resinous sap of freshly cut spruces and firs, and the coolness of the mountain in the spring time. I still remember it; I don’t even need to close my eyes to remember. As humans, the scent of the journey is one of our greatest souvenirs.

What inspires you?

My inspiration comes from many different paths, more than often I can find it within nature, but also in a piece of art or in a culinary experience. Overall, I think the most important way to come about inspiration is to have a good sense of observation. I find that it is essential in our field of creation.

Is creating a perfume like creating a work of art?

A perfume is a piece of art, where the harmony of the perfume has to work within a space and time. It must have a direct effect on a person who wears it, giving a positive experience.   And similar to other arts, the final perfume has to be superior in quality and beauty than each ingredient in the fragrance would be on its own.

Is there a particular scent or aroma you dream of capturing in a perfume?

I wish I was able to give an odor to happiness, can you imagine a perfume that makes everyone happy just by smelling it?

From a philosophical point of view, how would you describe yourself…nose, perfumer, composer?

Certainly not as a nose! My dogs and alpaca have much better noses. Creative perfumer is an explicit way to describe my work, but philosophically speaking a composer of mood would be a better description. However, in the complete opposite to music, where a piece can have the ability to make people cry and still be beautiful, making a perfume that brings people to tears is not a good intention! It still has to be pleasant.

What is your favorite smell?

I don’t have a favorite smell, but there are odors which touch me, pieces of my life, from the simple and comforting to significant life moments. The odor of a freshly cut wheat field in the summer, the odor of the ocean during a summer storm, the odor of a new born, the odor of new shoes when they are made of good leather, and the odor of fire in the winter. All of these and more conjure time, places and spaces I have been.

6 Questions: Laura Slatkin

"Our sense of smell is the most powerful of all our senses and it can conjure extraordinarily emotional reactions from all of us."

Interview by Marci Lash

What is your most memorable fragrance experience?

As a little girl I spent most of my winters in Palm Beach. Each year my mother would take us all on a family outing to the nearest orange grove and we would spend the day picking oranges. I still remember the beautiful aroma of the orange blossoms and the sweet, juicy smell of the fragrant oranges—the combination of the floral blossoms and citrus notes was incredibly memorable. When I was working on creating the NEST Fragrances Collection, I had planned 12 very diverse fragrances. The president of Neiman Marcus was pleased to launch the collection but only if I included an orange blossom fragrance, which wasn’t in the original line-up. In the gardens at our home in Palm Beach we have bushes of bougainvillea, mimosa, and hibiscus growing, all of which inspired my Orange Blossom fragrance. It was such a pleasure to revisit all of those wonderful memories of growing up in Palm Beach with the beautiful aroma of orange blossoms.

What inspires you?

I am often inspired by art when creating fragrances. When I see a beautiful botanical artwork – whether 18th Century or modern – or an extraordinary German Expressionist exhibit at the Neue Galerie, I am inspired to create a fragrance that resonates with the art. While walking through the Met or MoMA, I can be inspired by a Picasso or a Twombly. Great art creates a mood; a beautiful work of art can evoke thoughts, memories and olfactive expectations.  I work closely with master perfumers to meet those expectations. It enables me to connect with my consumers both visually and olfactively.

Is creating a fragrance like creating a work of art?

Yes, I think so.  Of course, many might argue about that being a subjective question.  Most people have very different ideas and opinions when it comes to art.  By definition, art is the “expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as a painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.”  Our sense of smell is the most powerful of all our senses and it can conjure extraordinarily emotional reactions from all of us.  I think we all appreciate fragrance for its beauty and emotional power and we acknowledge that a tremendous amount of creativity and imagination goes into composing a fragrance.  So, fragrance certainly falls into the category of art.

Is there a particular scent or aroma you dream of capturing in a perfume?

While passing the time recently at the Dallas airport after my flight was delayed, I wandered into a book shop. As I scanned the shelves I was drawn to the most beautiful book jacket I think I have ever seen.  The book is called The Signature of All Things: A Novel by Elizabeth Gilbert and the jacket is jet black with a soft-touch finish and it's covered with an exquisite botanical rendering of ferns, herbs and moss in an 18th Century botanical style, similar to Mrs. Delany, one of the sources of inspiration for my fine fragrances collection. I was so moved by the beauty of the cover art, I bought the book for that reason alone. Then I decided to actually read the book during the flight home and it turns out the story itself is just as beautiful.  And now I want the essence of that book in a bottle of perfume. Stay tuned!

From a philosophical point of view, how would you describe yourself…nose, perfumer, composer...something unique to you?

Nose. NEST Fragrances has a very specific DNA and I know a NEST fragrance the second I experience it.

What is your favorite smell?

Anything gourmand. I fall in love with gourmand fragrances. One night I was home alone and the doorbell rang. It was a messenger delivering a package for my husband from one of the leading fragrance houses. I was bored so I opened the package. Inside was a salted caramel-fragranced candle and I just had to smell it. Oh my gosh – it was so fabulous I felt like running away and spending the rest of my life with this candle! Then Harry came home and I figured I should probably stick with him instead. However, I kept the candle and, ever since then, Harry complains that the marriage has been a little crowded.

6 Questions: Serge Lutens

"I would define myself as an essentialist. I always look for the true meaning of what I have to say."

Interview by Marci Lash

What is your most memorable fragrance experience?

Making a fragrance is a personal experience for me. The end product does not preoccupy me as much as the impact of the creative process on my life does. Moreover, one cannot put the clock back so I never delve in the past when the fragrance is done. My memory is active only during the creation and I never return to the matter once it is over.

What inspires you?

My inspiration always comes from within as is the case for many artists if I may so call myself.  It lies deep within me and it manifests itself as something into which I must breathe life. As Oscar Wilde said, “The ultimate goal of a gesture is to display style.”  Gesture is pretext and the pretext only displays the reality, not its meaning.

Is creating a perfume like creating a work of art?

When creating a perfume, my only aim is to find the perfect balance between what must be expressed and what I need to express in a fragrance. These are opposite things but one is worthless without the other.

Is there a particular scent or aroma you dream of capturing in a perfume?

The most important thing for me is to find the coherence or the incoherence that will create the perfect harmony in me. The fragrance and myself establish an organic but yet torturous seductive relationship and, it is it that leads the way to the perfect blend.

From a philosophical point of view, how would you describe yourself…nose, perfumer, composer?

I would define myself as an essentialist. I always look for the true meaning of what I have to say. For instance, a fragrance name discloses as much as the fragrance itself. The creative journey and the words attached to the fragrance bring sense to it as well. Creating fragrances allows me to express feelings I cannot express with words.

What is your favorite smell?

The smell of my own truth, which might be a lie.

6 Questions: Nick Calderone

"And love shall always exist to be discovered and rediscovered. On an emotional level, love is compassion and on an active level, love is caring for another person."

Perfumer for Cashmere Mist

Interview by Marci Lash

What is your most memorable fragrance experience?

As a kid I worked on my aunt's farm in the Berkshires, and I remember the rolling green meadows interspersed with bales of hay, the smell of freshly cut grass, the scented colorful wild flowers, and on warm summer days, the sweet smell of honey. I loved taking walks into the forest nearby to take in the fresh clean woody scents of white long-needled pine trees, accented occasionally with the subtle musky hint of horses, which passed along the trail earlier.

What inspires you?

Nature.

Is creating a perfume like creating a work of art?

Absolutely! Perfumery is art! No different than music and painting. Each form uses its own palette of notes and colors; and although all work is very individual due to differing styles and techniques, the common variable is passion and imagination. Creating perfume is a love of taking one’s passionate feeling and realizing the fragrance product.

To create anything, we only discover what already exists, as in nature! Our potential is so amazing, simply because we all share in the commonality of what already exists. It’s exciting to consider what remains to be discovered. E=mc2 always existed…and then it was formally discovered by the great Albert Einstein.

And love shall always exist to be discovered and rediscovered. On an emotional level, love is compassion and on an active level, love is caring for another person. Women naturally get this…it’s so simple. Unconditional love.

Is there a particular scent or aroma you dream of capturing in a perfume?

Yes, I love my work to be very pleasing and to capture smiling happy faces. I want a scent that emanates a good feeling about one’s self that says, “I enjoy life!”

From a philosophical point of view, how would you describe yourself…nose, perfumer, composer?

My vocational title is perfumer, but it’s the process of being a perfumer that I enjoy most. Perfumery is my vehicle for self-expression. Passion, those strong feelings inside each of us, gives way to ideation and the ability to make a vision a tangible reality. Passion magically manifests itself into something beautiful and results in an indirect form of sharing. Everything is connected…we are all connected!

What is your favorite smell?

Mother Nature…all of those scents that take me back to my most memorable fragrance experience… freshly cut grass, hay, wild flowers, creeks and streams winding their way through the green mountain meadows.

6 Questions: Antoine Lie

"I wish I could capture olfactively the effect of Prozac or antidepressant onto our brain to give the world a chance to be less stressed, more happy and peaceful just by inhalation with no side effects."

Perfumer, Takasago

Interview by Marci Lash

What is your most memorable fragrance experience?

I don’t have one in particular.  There are so many that it would be meaningless for others because they are very intimate, but this is what I can share:  Sometimes during the creation of a fragrance, I know I’ve done the right modification, the one with the right signature, with the right impact, the one that will have the big influence on the development; and I know it, and that moment is really unforgettable. For example, I still have this very alive memory of that moment for my first big creation back in 1992, which was a fragrance developed for Josie Natori with Ann Gottlieb for Avon.

What inspires you?

I have been inspired by a lot of different things during my career from very “corporate” marketing visuals to the most inappropriate and incredible themes, but what is really inspiring me right now are some very challenging projects that have never been tried before because I really think the fragrance industry needs an evolution if not a revolution. Lately, I have worked with Comme des Garçons on the Pharrell Williams fragrance called Girl, but it is unisex and just based on woods and some floral aspects, which is a daring choice in a market where sweet and fruity signatures lead the celebrity fragrances business. That is very motivating and inspiring for me.

I think that we also need to link more high technology to perfumery to change the way we diffuse and communicate olfactive messages. I am working closely with Scentys, a company proposing systems and technologies to diffuse the fragrance in a new way, and it is very captivating.   I’m also working on the fragrance for a famous artist, but the goal is not to work on a scent for who he is and what he represents, like the usual celebrity fragrance, but to try to reveal an olfactive interpretation of his artwork…a very unusual approach.

Is creating a perfume like creating a work of art?

This is a very subjective question. What is the definition of work of art in general, anyway? To me, on one side, the purpose of creating a fragrance is to communicate a defined emotion, but the ultimate destiny of a bottle of fragrance is to be sold in big quantities, forcing the perfumer to moderate his real inspiration, compromising his vision for marketing reasons. It is more a business overall than a work of art.

But today, we are seeing some brands with more daring ambition and conceptual vision closer to artistic expression. As an example, I can claim “Secretions Magnifiques” from Etat Libre d’Orange as the most subversive and disruptive fragrance ever done; causing the most diversified comments on the net with very passionate critics, but it is still more of an olfactive experience or a conceptual statement.  Sometimes we need to push the limits to trigger some reflections about our industry.

Is there a particular scent or aroma you dream of capturing in a perfume?

I wish I could capture olfactively the effect of Prozac or antidepressant onto our brain to give the world a chance to be less stressed, more happy and peaceful just by inhalation with no side effects.

From a philosophical point of view, how would you describe yourself…nose, perfumer, composer?

Like a composer to music, I would just define myself as a perfumer to keep an accurate qualification to my function even if there are already a lot of common terms used in both.  But perfumer is very generic to me and we, perfumers all have our very specific territories of expression: commerciality, technicality, classicism, avant garde-ism, etc…

What is your favorite smell?

I have three children and they all have their natural and unique smell.  There is nothing comparable and more comforting than putting my nose into their hair and smelling their head. Definitely my best creations!

6 Questions: Ralf Schwieger

". . . What I really like is the expectation of a scent. A summer rain - that moment before the first raindrops fall on hot asphalt, the special, hard to describe scent is already in the air."

Master Perfumer, MANE

Interview by Marci Lash

What is your most memorable fragrance experience?

I remember vividly a close encounter with a sloth in Costa Rica. It was an animal that had been wounded, living on an animal rescue farm where it was nursed back to health. Someone gave me the sloth to hold, or rather, it held onto me. Its greasy, fragrant fur was a pure olfactive pleasure – somewhat like musk, skin, leather, hair and hay all in one. Perhaps not to everybody’s liking, but I was overwhelmed, positively!

What inspires you?

Anything can inspire me if I open up to the world surrounding me and stay receptive and curious. People, of course. Life.

Is creating a perfume like creating a work of art?

A perfume can be considered a work of art if no concessions are made in the creative process. That is a rare pleasure.

Creating a commercial perfume is in most cases a collaborative effort, the fragrance is conceived by many and put into form through subtle shape shifting, it is an artistic process but rather artisanal in aim and better summed up under design.

Is there a particular scent or aroma you dream of capturing in a perfume?

I am still striving to achieve the ultimate floral fragrance. It is a daunting task to capture the smell of flowers  - I consider it the ultimate refinement in perfumery. Naturally I am rather drawn to woody, citrusy or spicy notes, readily available on a perfumer’s palette. On the other hand, floral notes have to be diligently constructed as the natural ingredients are either too expensive or very far removed from the actual scent of flowers.

From a philosophical point of view, how would you describe yourself…nose, perfumer, composer?

The nose is just the receptor and not an appropriate description of my profession. I do not even need the nose to create a fragrance. I personally use the word ‘perfumer’ and do not like ‘composer’ as it is too closely related to music. I rather compare building fragrances to architecture – or cooking.

What is your favorite smell?

There are so many but what I really like is the expectation of a scent. A summer rain - that moment before the first raindrops fall on hot asphalt, the special, hard to describe scent is already in the air. A walk toward the dunes at the beach, expecting that salty, sandy herbal note. Or smelling a flower, approaching my nose, eager to experience it again: that incredible intoxicating fragrance of a rose. But what a disappointment to come upon a beautiful rose without a scent! A sphinx without a secret.

 

 

 

6 Questions: Annie Buzantian

"Like an architect, perfumers build and give shape to a scent. Like a composer, we create in the language of music – with accords and tonality. Like a painter, we design with colors and textures."

Master Perfumer, Firmenich

Interview by Marci Lash

What is your most memorable fragrance experience?

It was visiting the rose fields in Bulgaria with my grandparents. I was six or seven-years old. My grandparents bought me a few tiny, wooden carved cases each containing a vial of the rose oil as souvenirs, and I treasured them. When I was 19, I left Romania and Communism, and those rose oils were one of the very few things I was able to take with me. I still have them – in my office, and they still smell of the enchanting rose oil.

What inspires you?

Life.

Is creating a perfume like creating a work of art?

Perfumery shares many different creative forms. Like an architect, perfumers build and give shape to a scent. Like a composer, we create in the language of music – with accords and tonality. Like a painter, we design with colors and textures. My favorite way to create perfume is to translate visual form into olfactive emotion…so to that extent yes, it is art! Yet I think of the perfume as a creation “signed” by the perfumer as well as the client.

Is there a particular scent or aroma you dream of capturing in a perfume?

I always wanted to create the scent of beauty. You start with a rough idea that you shape into something beautiful. It must be beautiful because ultimately it is an object of beauty and seduction.

From a philosophical point of view, how would you describe yourself…nose, perfumer, composer?

Perfumery is all of those. For simplicity, I would say Perfumer. I would also describe myself as a very fortunate person to have been given the opportunity to learn this beguiling craft. I am a craftsman.

What is your favorite smell?

The smell of flowers. Of course rose, and every other flower I smell. Gardenia, white flowers… each becomes my favorite at that very moment.

6 Questions: Carlos Benaim

"The smell of my father’s hands after a day of work in the distilleries. The smell of pennyroyal mint essence on his tobacco stained yellow fingers is more evocative than a portrait."

Master Perfumer, International Flavors & Fragrances

Interview by Marci Lash

What is your most memorable fragrance experience?

My grandfather’s snuff tobacco.  He used a variety of tobacco that grows wild in Morocco.  My father perfumed it with a violet scent in his laboratory. Remembering the ritual, the gold engraved snuffbox, the handkerchief soaked with violet, has kept the image of my grandfather very alive in my mind.

What inspires you?

My inspiration can come from many places:  nature, memories, travels, observations, feelings, visuals…

My richest source of inspiration is the ongoing dialogue between nature and my mind.  What I smell at a given moment is inextricable from a lifetime of thoughts, feelings, and memories.   For example, the scent of orange flower infuses my childhood recollections of Tangiers in my native Morocco.  I remember walking through groves of orange trees.  I remember the sprinkling of orange flower water that filled the air when people celebrated in the streets.  I remember savoring the candied orange flower petals we called letuario.

It is a smell I will forever associate with certain thoughts and feelings; an olfactory invocation of an atmosphere.   This unique marriage of immediate sensory information and all that it evokes -- that is my palette.

Is creating a perfume like creating a work of art?

Very much so.  The perfumer’s creative processes are those of an artist.

Inspiration begins for me as a gut process that seems to emerge from the realm of daydream or fantasy.   However, this raw material must be filtered through critical thinking for the perfumer to transform his whimsical notion into a formula.

Once inspiration has been found, how does creation begin?  The first step is to allow the mind to play freely.  I daydream, often straying into an irrational mental realm. What emerges is an olfactory image in my mind.

Picasso said, "D’abord je trouve, puis je cherche"—“first I find, then I seek.”  I work backwards to find the unique blend of ingredients that can express my idea.  In the meantime, new accords emerge by association, enriching the original theme.

Emile Zola says, “The artist is nothing without the gift, but the gift is nothing without the work.”  The process of perfecting and refining the fragrance can and almost always does take months of trial and error and truly hard work to make the dream come true.

Is there a particular scent or aroma you dream of capturing in a perfume?

The smell of my father’s hands after a day of work in the distilleries.  The smell of pennyroyal mint essence on his tobacco stained yellow fingers is more evocative than a portrait.

From a philosophical point of view, how would you describe yourself…nose, perfumer, composer?

I think of myself as a composer of scents: a perfumer.  I do not like to be called a nose because it is so limiting - the nose is only to the perfumer what a camera is to a photographer. As the famous photographer, Nicolas Muller, said, “Photography is an art, if behind the lens is an artist.”

6 Questions: Calice Becker

"I love so many smells, but when I think about my favorites they are all the ones that make life’s journey so pleasurable. . ."

Executive Perfumer VP, Givaudan

Interview by Marci Lash

What is your most memorable fragrance experience?

I’ve recollected this story many times, it was when I was 4 years old and my world was all about love, security and discovery. My mother’s warm, protective arms helped me out of an evening bath when I noticed a bottle with a drawing of five orange flowers on its label. I pointed to the bottle of eau de cologne. I can still remember how fresh and delicate the smell was and my immediate love for this indescribable fragrance. I couldn’t understand how this magnificent smell was put into this tiny bottle. My mother simply said, “It’s made of flowers.” I had a vague idea of how the flowers went from the garden onto the label, which was an easy technique: drawing! But how did the flower go into the bottle? I couldn't see them! The cologne was crystal clear. Coming up short on an explanation, my mother gave me her final answer, “You’ll understand when you grow up.” Then, as luck would have it, “it” magically happened. I grew up. And years later while starting my studies in perfumery school, I received not just an answer to the flowers, but many answers all together. More than what my emotions and memories could quickly assimilate. I froze at this moment of epiphany. It was not just learning that this smell came from neroli, the water distillation of orange flower, but that I finally got my answer and suddenly recognized this moment of being “grown up.” With such an emotional connection, neroli has forever imprinted my life as a perfumer.

What inspires you?

There are so many places to find inspirations, but I constantly find inspiration in observing the artistic process across many genres like music, painting and sculpting. As a perfumer you can apply the philosophy of these techniques to your own craft.

Take sculpture for instance, when an artistic begins the process, he or she is working with a medium such as marble or wood, removing and carving to uncover a new form. When an artist works with clay, there is this process of adding to the medium, building dimension and shape. In painting, watching an artist transition from darker palettes to add lighter shades, creating shadow and depth. All of these processes are so inspiring to re-evaluate how I approach a structure of a perfume.

Is creating a perfume like creating a work of art?

It depends on how you define art! There are so many different periods.

I believe that perfumers are artists, but not in the way of the modern art we see today. When you look into the different periods, I think that perfumers today reflect the period of antiquity to pre-Romanticism, when artists were working in studios and workshops being commissioned for their creativity, craft and technical skills. After Romanticism, the impressionists, cubists, etc. were creating and experimenting new expressions. Post Romanticism to Modern moves to an even broader definition where the idea is more important than the realization of it. Take the example of modernist painters by using only three colors they were able to speak volumes through this minimal approach.

So, in a long short answer, yes, I do think that creating perfume is like creating a work of art but from an approach of a specific period.

Is there a particular scent or aroma you dream of capturing in a perfume?

Yes, that wonderful smell of living jasmine in bloom. While we do have natural and headspaces available, it’s been a challenge for me to recreate a living jasmine and its bright, clean and beautiful floralcy in the air. Living jasmine gives off a certain amount of indol that we do not have access to as perfumers. Getting this delicate balance and texture of the jasmine flower as it breathes is a mystery.

From a philosophical point of view, how would you describe yourself…nose, perfumer, composer?

I connect with all three, but inevitably it is more of a question of language depending on whom I’m speaking to and their fragrance experience. A nose to me is about technical skill, aesthetic appreciation, knowledge of the history and of modern fragrance tastes today. A perfumer in France is someone that has a boutique which sells fragrances. A composer is a broader definition that fits many art forms, like music. I have referenced all three in my career, it’s not easy to define our work as perfumers as sometimes we are even ghost writers for fragrances and not associated with some perfumes we create.

What is your favorite smell?

My immediate reaction is the smell of cooking plums! I love so many smells, but when I think about my favorites they are all the ones that make life’s journey so pleasurable, ones that are offered by nature or moments of happiness. For me it’s the smell of drying hay in the summer, the smell of crushed grass and mint together when you walk in the garden, and when I swim in the mountains the smell of soft water in a cool lake. The smells of my experiences or a place in time, the smell of a baby, of a honeysuckle, of a chocolate soufflé coming out of the oven, and freshly brewing oolong tea; all these things have a special place in my memory and brings me an immediate joy.

6 Questions: Jean-Claude Ellena

I like to describe myself as a writer of smells. Smells are words, perfume is literature.

In-House Perfumer, Hermès

Interview by Marci Lash

What is your most memorable fragrance experience?

When I created my first perfume, First for Van Cleef & Arpels. Such an apt name…

What inspires you?

Inspiration is such a portmanteau word; it doesn’t illuminate anything for me. I think every kind of creation obeys some sort of impulse, an urge to say something, and that urge is realized in the work. It’s not the idea that’s important but the way it’s executed.
But if it were just one thing it would be my love of life.

Is creating a perfume like creating a work of art?

Creating something doesn’t follow a set process; it’s first and foremost a need, a necessity, an impulse manifested in the realisation of an idea. There are lots of ideas and their starting point might be a text, a word, an image, a smell; everything constitutes an idea. The problem is choosing. Choosing is creating. Then the time comes to make it happen, to write it in olfactory terms, in other words to tell the story in a smell by taking my own personal route.
Perfume is a profoundly artistic and poetic act.

Is there a particular scent or aroma you dream of capturing in a perfume?

The smell of the wind.

From a philosophical point of view, how would you describe yourself…nose, perfumer, composer?

I like to describe myself as a writer of smells. Smells are words, perfume is literature. By defining perfumes like this, I define myself as a writer. I tell stories, perfumes; my words are the raw materials I use, juxtapose and offset.

What is your favorite smell?

A smell with the resonance of a perfume, or a perfume with the resonance of a smell, either way: the smell of my children’s and grandchildren’s skin.

6 Questions: David Frossard

David Frossard is the Founder and manager of Différentes Latitudes and believes the perfumer needs to be fed with emotions and stories to be able to create.

Interview by Marci Lash

What is your most memorable fragrance experience?

One of my favorite scents is the scent of the cellar, which is both humid and dry. I remember as a child, walking down the cellar and feeling both excited and frightened by this under world. I guess it is because of this feeling that the memory of this scent has been engraved in me.

What inspires you?

People, humans, their love, hates, stories and psychologies. I love nature, landscape and so on, but without a human subject I think it is useless. Both cognac and perfumes are masterpieces, which are binding people together.

Is creating a perfume like creating a work of art?

In a way yes, but I think it would be too simple and a mistake to forget the craftsman and to only think of the artist. A perfumer is both, and he or she needs to be challenged to be able to get the best out of their skill. I don’t believe in the caricature of the perfumer as an artist in front of his white page, creating perfume. I think the perfumer needs to be fed with emotions and stories to be able to create.

Is there a particular scent or aroma you dream of capturing in a perfume?

The smell of my children!

From a philosophical point of view, how would you describe yourself…nose, perfumer, composer?

A man who loves to tell stories through fragrances.


What is your favorite smell?

The smell of the skin.

6 Questions: Laurice Rahme

New York City is always fresh and new, and all of us who live here feel that constant renewing fast-paced forward-motion that sparks creativity everywhere. It informs everything we do.

Creator and Founder, Bond No. 9
Interview by Marci Lash

What is your most memorable fragrance experience?

September 11 was the catalyst for me to make New York smell good again, and Bond No. 9 was born. I wanted to make the city smell good again and celebrate its courage and creativity by being courageous and creative. It was a big risk of course, but we had no fear, followed our intuition and our desire to be different. We began creating fragrances to celebrate the neighborhoods, the city’s unbreakable spirit, its energy and dynamism. And with this we created a totally new fragrance category, The Scent of a Place. And to our big surprise and excitement this launched a whole new category in the fragrance industry.

What inspires you?

I get inspired every day by life in New York City and by its incredible energy. New York City is always fresh and new, and all of us who live here feel that constant renewing fast-paced forward-motion that sparks creativity everywhere. It informs everything we do.

Is creating a perfume like creating a work of art?

The way we craft our artisanal fragrances, the emotion and feeling we capture in each of the scents and the way we express it is our art and our way to give back to interpret and express all that is the city of New York and its many facets. I feel that what we do at Bond No. 9 is truly art.

Is there a particular scent or aroma you dream of capturing in a perfume?

Oh, I have lots of dreams, all the time! I can’t imagine doing a line for any other city than New York. It is just the most amazing place in the world. But then again, you never know, the sky is no longer the limit. Like New York City, Bond No. 9 never rests.

From a philosophical point of view, how would you describe yourself…nose, perfumer, composer?

I like to think of myself as an artistic perfume creator at heart who believes that what we do brings a little bit of beauty, hope, and delight into the world.


What is your favorite smell?

My favorite place to discover scents is at The New York Botanical Gardens, it’s always different, and it’s always well-kept, it is the most exciting place in New York for smelling.

6 Questions: Fabrice Penot

I'd love to create a perfume that would make people cry, that would move people's emotions to the point of tears.

Interview by Marci Lash

 

What is your most memorable fragrance experience?

Silence. For a few months years ago, I lost the sense of smell. After smelling ingredients and perfume pretty much everyday for the last 12 years, it was a long moment of olfactive silence. Scary, as you don't know if and when it will return, but it was, I have to admit, a very meditative state for the nostrils.

 

What inspires you?

Beauty, to a very large sense of the term, and it can happen at any given moment. This morning I saw this guy in a downtown NY coffee shop, very elegant and raw at the same time, and he did not seem to really be aware of it. Thought he was really emblematic of the future of cool to me. He seemed unaffected. I wondered what this guy should wear as a perfume and had an idea for one that would fit him perfectly. The samples are being made in the lab as we speak.


Is creating a perfume like creating a work of art?

I don't know. When I smell a small amount of the 1400 new perfumes this year, even the "niche" ones, I really don't think so. I have too much respect for the word "art."
As a matter of fact, it all depends on the intention with which you are entering the creative process.

 

Is there a particular scent or aroma you dream of capturing in a perfume?

I'd love to create a perfume that would make people cry, that would move people's emotions to the point of tears. I don't even need to create it myself; I just would love for someone to achieve this so that I would be able to experience it myself.

 

From a philosophical point of view, how would you describe yourself? Nose, perfumer, composer?

From a philosophical point of view? I try not to describe myself anymore.

 

What is your favorite smell?

Santal 33. It is my perfume, I can't get tired of it, it is just touching, something magical to me.

6 Questions: Kilian Hennessy

I am a Fragrance Designer, an Artistic Director. Similar to a film director who bases his movie on a script, I need to know the emotion and the story I will convey.

Interview By Marci Lash

 

What is your most memorable fragrance experience?

My most memorable fragrance experience was probably my childhood trips to the Cognac cellars. Many of my fragrances today carry this childhood memory as they are reminiscent of the sugar in the alcohol and the wood of the cognac barrels.

 

What inspires you?

Everything! My collections are always inspired by a mix of Sculpture, Music, Movies, Poems…they are all pieces of the emotion I am trying to convey, the story I am trying to tell. When I launched by Kilian, my goal was to put perfumery back on its pedestal and return it to its former glory, the way perfumery existed in the late 19th and early 20th century. While maintaining this sense of eternity, it was also very important for me to add a contemporary twist.

 

Is creating a perfume like creating a work of art?

Plato said: «There must be Beauty in the City»…because Beauty implies nascence, it is a light that shines. This means that the role of beauty, both in art and in our profession, is to remove the darkness from reality. Only the sectarians of thought could dare to create a distinction of class and nature between Beauty in the fine arts as being noble, and Beauty in life through the works of our art as being vulgar and mercantile. Brancusi said: “Things in Art are mirrors in which each sees what looks like him”. This is especially true of fragrances, which offers individuals a faculty for harmony and allows them to express a facet of their personality through their own interpretation. This is why the great works of perfume are both “substance” and “spirit”… and why I consider that a great perfume should be a great story long before being a beautiful olfactive harmony!

 

Is there a particular scent or aroma you dream of capturing in a perfume?

The scent of my wife’s skin!

 

From a philosophical point of view, how would you describe yourself…nose, perfumer, composer?

I am a Fragrance Designer, an Artistic Director. Similar to a film director who bases his movie on a script, I need to know the emotion and the story I will convey. One cannot imagine a director making a film before writing the script. It is exactly the same in perfumery. I create perfume as an art. I also believe that perfume should also have a conscience and that real luxury should not be disposable. That’s why all our bottles are refillable and all our packaging is reusable, because nothing is meant to be thrown away. The bottle you buy is the bottle you keep for a lifetime. This is our eco-luxe philosophy.”

 

What is your favorite smell?

The scent of Tuberose.

6 Questions: Ben Gorham

". . . it's been important to me that people understand a perfume, whether they like it or not."

1. What is your most memorable fragrance experience?

My most memorable fragrance experience was probably my childhood trips to India. [The scents] are quite extreme and they vary from less pleasant smells to beautiful, unique experiences.

2. What inspires you?

Everything. When I started BYREDO I was very much focused on the link between memories and smell but as the brand has grown, inspiration really comes from everywhere: people, places, emotions and so on.

3. Is creating a perfume like creating a work of art?

I think so. I think it has its similarities. Since BYREDO is a commercial business, it´s been important to me that people understand a perfume, whether they like it or not. I think that notion is less important in art.

4. Is there a particular scent or aroma you dream of capturing in a perfume?

I come across things every day that I think about in terms of smell and sometimes it´s specific experiences and sometimes it´s fragments of something that I´ve smelled or experienced.

5. From a philosophical point of view, how would you describe yourself. . . .nose, perfumer, composer?

Creative Director. I am nowhere close to possessing the know-how and experience of a perfumer but I´ve been fortunate enough to work with two very talented perfumers; Jerome Epinette and Olivia Giacobetti.

6. What is your favorite smell?

When my daughter was a baby.

Brian Boye – On Scent

“I do believe that fragrances can take you places. Ideally, it’s somewhere you dream of going. Sometimes: not.”

Long before it was my career, I was on a personal mission to look and smell my best. How well I accomplished that as a younger man is open for debate, but I do believe that fragrance can take you places. Ideally, it’s somewhere you dream of going. Sometimes: not.

As a kid growing up in the 80s, I was what marketers would today call an “early adopter.” In high school, I was into “new wave” music and alternative clothing. I had a zig-zag pattern shaved into the purple hair on my head and Drakkar Noir was my “signature scent.” I also had an unlikely fascination with Brooke Shields, but that’s another story.

For my last year in high school, I had the unfortunate luck of starting a new school. Within a month of classes starting, I was voted “best dressed.” For me, that trumped valedictorian, prom king, or any of those other teenage titles. For the yearbook class favorites photo shoot, I cleaned up my act. I wore my dad’s vintage mohair sweater and Drakkar Noir. The “best dressed” girl showed up in ratty jeans and smelled like rum. I was less than thrilled.

Sitting in the offices of L’Oreal 20 years later, I was asked to feature my teenage fragrance in Men’s Health. I couldn’t fathom recommending it. It took me back to an awkward time.

In the meantime, I continued my journey of finding new fragrances that would take people places they – and I – did want to explore. I discovered my adopted hometown through Bond No. 9’s imaginative take on New York City and set sail with Nautica’s Voyage.

You can say a lot about this industry, not the least of which is: fragrance houses know how to get beauty editors revved up about new products.

In 2007, Eau d’Italie’s Sienne l’Hiver landed on my desk. No hype. No press trip. Not even a press release. I was an instant fan. The mix of warm, earthy notes, geranium, and sweet florals made an impression. We featured it in our Grooming Awards, which prompted a thoughtful thank-you note from founders Marina Sersale and Sebastian Alvarez-Murena. In part, it read:

“Sienne l’Hiver really is a special baby to us; its creation took a very long time because we were determined to create an image of a timeless gentleman in his own inner world which we visualized as being inside a beautiful palazzo in Siena - a sort of Proustian gentleman around whose shoulders the notes of Sienne l’Hiver would drape themselves with the elegance of a hand-tailored coat.

When we got to the final result, we felt that no matter how it would be received, we had reached our goal, and we thought, hoped, wished that someone sooner or later would understand it. And now you have become that someone.”

Their note finished with an invitation to visit them should I be in the vicinity of their summer home in Positano, the town that inspired their brand and is home to Le Sirenuse, the hotel owned and run by Marina’s family.

As it happened, I was going to be in Italy, and in an unlikely (for me) move, we made plans to meet. With my best friend in tow, we set off to discover Positano and meet this husband and wife team of which I knew only two things: they were eloquent and they made gorgeous, unusual fragrances.

The discovery of Sienne l’Hiver led to many wonderful revelations: The Amalfi Coast, the breathtaking Le Sirenuse Hotel, exquisite meals at restaurants I can’t name but can take you to and two people I now count as dear friends. Over the years, we’ve traveled together. We’ve shared many good times, and a few difficult ones. We’ve had champagne-fueled nights talking philosophy, perfume, Lady Gaga and love.

Drakkar Noir takes me back to my youth; a time of discovering my identity and myself. Sienne l’Hiver reminds me of the possibilities of the future, and the importance of taking chances and exploring the world.

I love my job because I’m inquisitive by nature, and like to be the first to know. Better yet, it has brought people into my world that makes my life richer than I ever imagined.

Emily Dougherty – On Scent

“I’ve got 12 bottles of awesome on my dresser at home.”

Snow days, bubble wrap, the air before a thunderstorm: writer Neil Pasricha lists these and other supremely satisfying things on his awesome blog, 1000awesomethings.com, and in his awesome book, The Book of Awesome. More than a few of Pasricha’s awesome things are scents, from nostalgic crowd-pleasers like the smell of Play-Doh and crayons to everyday hits such as bakery air and the dangerously delicious aroma of gasoline (“one of life’s simplest pleasures,” he writes, and I agree.)

I’ve got 12 bottles of awesome on my dresser at home: comfort fragrances that make me feel happier, calmer, cozier with every breath. Just as with comfort foods (ELLE editors' guilty pleasures cover the spectrum from basic gummy bears to In-and-Out burgers, Animal Style), our comfort perfume preferences vary, but most of us share a few notes in common. “I’ve found that American women find musk quite comforting. If a cloud had a scent, it would be musk, soft and comfy,” says Sylvie Ganter, co-founder of Atelier Cologne.

I've worn Ganter's hot-iron-on-cold-cotton vetiver Bois Blonds every day since I received a sample a few months ago. After I Facebooked Ganter to say thank you for her lovely creation, she emailed back to say that she also hadn't gone a day without it since she first created it back in 2008. "It is so comforting, in a cocooning and familiar type of way, and at the same time makes me feel confident and strong when in the outside world. It's a weird experience: I've been developing, launching, wearing many scents, and this one is almost not a fragrance for me. It is just my scent. What I want to smell like."

Another one of my fragrance icons, Alexandra Balahoutis, the genius behind Strange Invisible Fragrances (my husband says her wine-and-roses-and-lavender Essence of IX smells 'like vacation') shares a list of comfort notes that echoes a spa menu: “Geranium, lavender, vetiver, Himalayan cedar wood, and neroli are my comfort aromas, the aromatic equivalent of home-cooking. They evoke lush, calming imagery and have a very relaxing, nurturing effect on me.” Unlike many comfort foods, these fragrances are good for you.  “There’s an intelligence to our senses,” Balahoutis says. “We tend to understand these botanicals, their energies and curative effects, simply by inhaling their aromatic charms.”

In my younger, sillier days, I treated my signature scent as if it was a sturdy, grown-up pair of shoes, something to buckle myself into before I left the apartment to brave the world. Now I snuggle into my scents as often as I can; perfume is better than a cashmere blanket or favorite pair of pj's, because I can spritz and spritz around the clock, whenever I need a blast of pure happiness.

Amy Keller Laird – On Scent

“My early tastes in scent were shaped by boys – boys who gifted me with perfume.”

When I was a girl, my mother wore Estée Lauder Beautiful and Donna Karan Cashmere Mist, so these fragrances will always be dear to me. But more than anything else, my early tastes in scent were shaped by boys—boys who gifted me with perfume. These are the ones who represent my journey through the world of fragrance.
Gordon: Dior Poison. An unusual and mysterious offering from an unusual and mysterious boy—made even more unusual because of my age (12) and location (a Catholic school in Missouri). From the gangly, Edward Furlong-esque Gordon, I received the tiniest version of Dior Poison; it wasn't one of the clear sample vials you get at the counter now—it was a true, miniature replica of the original apple-shaped bottle. The Oriental scent was potent. It was dark. It was dangerous. It was way over my head, and I dabbed it on as if it were the rarest elixir. To me, it was.
Jeff: Laura Ashley No. 1. What I remember most about this discontinued fragrance is not the way it smelled but the way it looked. The oval-shaped bottle was sweet and girly, covered in flowery vines. It sat on my vanity in a place of honor, like a prized gem, perhaps because of its charming exterior, perhaps because it came from my first love. Online fans remember the scent as a fresh floral: Moroccan rose, Italian iris, and French jasmine mixed with herbal notes. Romantic, indeed.
Nat: Lancôme Trésor. A high-school friend who was almost more, more than once, Nat gave me Trésor as a graduation memento. I remember the hand-written note that came with the bottle, where he'd drawn a small picture of a trumpet (he was a musician—one of his many talents) next to his name. I also remember Trésor's soft powderiness, how grown-up and sophisticated it seemed. Only since becoming a beauty editor did I realize what a classic Nat had chosen—made more special because perfumer Sophia Grojsman originally created it for herself. As she has told me, “Before it went on the market, I would wear it to meetings; everyone would run after me, smelling it.”
Grady: By Kilian Prelude to Love, Invitation. Grady is no boy—he's my husband. And he didn't actually give me this fragrance—I gave it to him. (It would be odd that he's never bought me perfume except for the fact that I was already a beauty editor when we met, in which case perfume would be an uninspired gift.) He and I first tested this By Kilian scent for a unisex fragrance story I was working on. We both loved it, but as I continued to try out other scents (it is my job, after all), he kept wearing it, right down to the last drop of a small sample tube and on to a new full-size bottle. It's so subtly sexy—part citrus, part iris, part grassy—and now a whiff reminds me of Grady. And that's a gift in itself.

Elaine D’Farley – On Scent

“I recall my father wearing Aramis to his office and my mother bathing in Jean Nate.”

I’ve kept journals throughout my life taking notes about things I’m into—the amazing places I’ve visited (thirty seven countries!), shopping lists, obsessions, favorite quotes.
Looking back, I found a few thoughts on scent; musings on a trip to Paris for Issey Miyake’s A Scent; memories of glamorous affairs like Lancôme’s Miracle dinner at the MET in 2000; details on extravaganzas such as Beyonce’s HEAT launch; and inspirational meetings, such as one with ‘the nose,’ Francis Kurkdjian, creator of Maison Francis Kurkdjian fragrances. As I peruse the stories I’ve edited on fragrance in the pages of SELF, I’m reminded when you smell a scent, olfactory neurons send information to the brain’s limbic system that controls memory, behavior, and emotions. Information is then sent to the cortex, where consciousness occurs. That’s why we find ourselves drawn to scents related to fond memories or ones that evoke a certain mood. Scent is like music. A song you hate can make you irritable, whereas a favorite tune can suffuse you with good feeling.

What suffuses me with good feeling? I’m not sure, so I do a little detective work and look at the fragrances I have at home and identify all of the notes. I discover that bergamot, vetiver, patchouli, jasmine and fresh spicy florals rule. I recall my father wearing Aramis to his office and my mother bathing in Jean Nate, the scents my sisters and I supplied on annual holidays. I recall the early part of my childhood when we were the picture of the American Dream (pre-messy Seventies “Love American Style” divorce).  I looked up the notes in Aramis: bergamot, patchouli, vetiver. And, in Jean Nate: aquatic, fresh, spicy floral. Clearly my olfactory neurons are seeking out the comfort of childhood memories and translating them into my current tastes.

Today, I’m married to a guy born and raised in Hong Kong to expat British parents. When it comes to aftershave (and most things, actually, from politics to food) he has a
hybrid sensibility that swings between being European and having grown up in
a hot climate. As far as fragrance, he’s experimental. I’m particular. When my daughter, born in Nanchang, China, came into the picture (she’s four), he started dowsing her with fragrance, too.

They l-o-v-e it. Luckily, he spritzes her with mine, so I get to smell my favorite scents on her.

I l-o-v-e it. And, as my family expands and I experiment with new notes (namely Madagascar Orchid), I realize that fragrance is a family affair.

Ying Chu – On Scent

“[Fragrance] can transport us to a time or place or moment more vividly than a photograph or song.”

My earliest memories of fragrance have nothing to do with blotters, an atomizer, or essence of Bulgarian rose distilled into a crystal bottle. They recall the surroundings of everyday life: the musty scent of my dog’s coat as she ran through our dewy, fresh-cut lawn; the salty air and damp driftwood logs of Vancouver’s Kits Beach; the crispness of lychees, pomelos, and the other Far Eastern fruits my mother would find at our local grocer.

By the time I graduated to actual perfume, my scent destiny was sealed: One whiff of the sparkling—and comfortably familiar—tropical fruits and flowers in Prescriptives Calyx, and I was hooked. And so at age 12 or 13, I saved up and bought my first bottle.

That’s what makes fragrance so impactful: It can transport us to a time or place or moment more vividly than a photograph or song. Our sense of smell is our greatest tool in evoking memory; it is linked to our brain’s center of emotional perception. Indeed, perfume is all about bottling up these elusive memories—and sharing them.

Just ask the subjects I’ve interviewed as a beauty editor, from expertly trained noses who can impressively identify the inflections that soil or season can impart on a flower (perhaps relating it to a discovery on a scouting trip they’d once made), to countless designers and celebrities who have tapped their own memory banks to conjure up inspiration for their namesake splashes.

Burberry creative chief, Christopher Bailey, recently cited the scents of washed denim, of his Italian grandmother’s warm baked bread every day, and, having spent his childhood in England’s Yorkshire countryside, of livestock—horses, cows, sheep, and all—as reference points for the brand’s collection of perfumes, the latest being a men’s and women’s duo called Burberry Sport.

When I met with Hermès’ venerable in-house perfumer, Jean-Claude Ellena, he actually declined to name the specific notes that make up the luxury label’s new unisex fragrance, Voyage d’Hermès, only revealing that its sparkling, frozen accord reminds him to get moving; an impetus to travel.

And for Aqua Universalis, the most popular scent from Francis Kurkdjian’s eponymous line, he interpreted his own memory of fresh laundry and turned it into not just perfume, but candles, scented leather bracelets and incense papers, and, of course, laundry detergent.
Even Reese Witherspoon—a perfume novice by comparison—summoned up the heady aroma of the white magnolia flowers from a tree in her parents’ yard in Nashville for her Avon scent, In Bloom.

Will others share these olfactory sentiments? That’s the hope.

As for me, I met my current match after a trip to Mauritius, an idyllic island in the Indian Ocean that’s dotted with frangipani trees. Serendipitously, Camille Goutal—daughter of perfume legend Annick—had also traveled there a few years back and, equally enamored with her experience, dreamed up Onges, an intoxicating frangipani blend.

Now whenever I put it on, I’m instantly reminded of warmth, sunshine, and surf—even on a blustery day, walking through the cramped streets of Manhattan.

Yesenia Almonte – On Scent

“Fragrance has always been about more than spritzing on perfume and knowing that I smell great. My mom always said smelling good would take me far.”

Ever since I was a little girl, my mom (who was born and raised in the Dominican Republic) would tell me how important it was to look my best—whether I was going shopping, to class or to a job interview. I always took that to mean that I need to look good and smell good!

Some of my fondest childhood memories involved going to the doctor (it’s true!). While most kids were scared at the thought of getting a shot (and I was too, I admit) I was excited because I knew going to the doctor meant that my mom would buy me new clothes, shoes, and even new underwear! She would smooth my hair until it was polished perfection, and she would bathe me in light body lotions and powders that smelled so clean and innocent. She would fully deck me out for the doctor! For my mom, having her daughters looking top-to-bottom perfect had a deeper meaning—it symbolized the American dream of success. As I grew into a young woman, it did for me, too.

As you could imagine, back-to-school shopping was a big deal in my home. I was always excited about buying new jeans and shoes, but I especially looked forward to the fragrance I would wear. In middle school, my signature scent was Exclamation! (Even to this day, every time I go into a Duane Reade store now I can’t help but go to the fragrance section and spritz it on.) In high school I graduated to a more sophisticated scent and look—I wore my signature matte red lipstick, blow-dried my curly hair straight and spritzed myself with Calvin Klein’s Eternity or Escape. Then, in college, it was all about Guerlain’s Samsara. My then-boyfriend, who is now my husband, loved smelling it on me—and it was the scent I wore on my wedding day.

Fragrance has always been about more than spritzing on perfume and knowing that I smell great. When I get ready every morning and finish up my beauty routine with a few spritzes of perfume, it reminds me of all the sacrifices my parents made to give me and my sisters the opportunities they never had. My mom always said smelling good would take me far.

It’s because of my mother’s influence that I fell in love with all things beauty, but especially fragrance. In large part due to her influence, I am doing what I believe I was meant to do—I now get to help Seventeen’s 12.7 million readers look their best. I get to encourage them to be more confident, because with confidence, you can grow into powerful, inspiring young women. My mom always said one spritz of fragrance can make you feel like you can take on the world, and I truly believe that! I hope I can continue to make my mom proud and prove that she is, as we would say in Spanish, ¡todo un exito! (a huge success!)

Jacques Polge, Chanel, Perfumer

“Fragrance is a silent language that does not use words.”

Why has Chanel No 5 remained one of the world’s great all-time fragrance classics though it was introduced in 1921?

There are a lot of things to say about that. I don’t believe there is just one reason. Not only was Chanel No 5 the first couturier fragrance, but Mlle Chanel was the first to link the world of fashion and fragrance together.

Then there was the presentation, particularly the bottle. It was something very new at the time, and proved to exemplify modernity from generation to generation. It is interesting to note that the bottle has been photographed more than any other in or out of the industry over these many years.

The name was also something new, as was the fragrance. In the 1920s, fragrance was always related to the precise smell of flowers, but Chanel No 5 was the first abstract fragrance. In a way, I believe this was the reason why it never went out of fashion.

At the same time Chanel No 5 has become almost mythological, which is something very few fragrances ever achieve. Perhaps there are things you cannot explain. What can be said is that the fragrance has been managed, since the time it was created, by dedicated perfumers who are committed to the highest standard of quality. Chanel No 5 has always been very carefully watched and every element which makes a fragrance a success is there and has always been there.

When Mlle Chanel created the fragrance, she was fighting against perfumers. Her idea was that the bottle should be as simple as possible and everything should be in the fragrance.

 

What are your thoughts about how dramatically our industry has changed in contemporary times?

It is not enough to look to the past. We must all be concerned about what is around us. Obviously, when a new fragrance is introduced, we all want it to be successful. The question we face, however, is will it last? In reality, very few fragrances do.

What inspired you to become a perfumer?

It’s very difficult to say, because there are things you are aware of and things of which you are not aware. My father was a doctor and had no connection with perfume. But I think because I was living, by chance, in Grasse in the south of France, from the time I was twelve until I went to the university at eighteen, I became aware there was such a profession as a perfumer. If I had lived in the north of France or in Paris, I would not have known.

From your perspective, what do you think women want from fragrance in today’s world?

Women want to feel free and are eager to be comfortable with who they are. For instance, since I started long ago, the tremendous difference between what was called a woman’s fragrance and what was called a man’s fragrance has narrowed considerably. In fact, some companies have been very successful with unisex fragrances. Really, it all depends on what is right for a particular company. For us, there is still the important difference between the two and I think women want that, regardless of age.

As for the influence of fashion on the fragrance experience, how important is this connection in the creation of a fragrance?

Perfume is at the service of fashion. Fashion leads. It gives the style. The biggest problem for the perfumer is when you compare it with the business of fashion. In fashion, there are at least four shows during the year and many, many models. We launch a fragrance very seldom, so the problem is to choose a fragrance which will express different fashion trends. In the instance of Mlle Chanel, when she created No 5, it was her influence even more than that of the great perfumer, Ernest Beaux, who interpreted her vision. The same is true of all of the Chanel fragrances. It was always, and still is, Mlle Chanel’s influence, more than the perfumer, which gives each fragrance its unique character.

How would you convey your personal feelings about fragrance?

What I like about fragrance is the poetic element; the fact that fragrance is a silent language that does not use words. One can express with fragrance things that cannot be expressed in any other way. And, that’s what I like. It is the very subjective, invisible, silent part of fragrance which greatly appeals to me.

The moment has come that the perception of perfume, which for such a long time was only considered from the point of view of seduction, has changed and now many men and women cannot start their day without fragrance and that probably means all the psychological elements are important. The key, I believe, is that fragrance makes people feel good about themselves.

6 Questions: Francis Kurkdjian

“Anything can inspire me as long as it becomes the beginning of a story that I can translate into a fragrance.”

What is your most memorable fragrance experience?

By far, my most memorable experience is the creation of Le Male. I was 25, fresh out of school. The recollection of the day I met Chantal Roos and got the brief is still nailed in my memory. It brought so much to my career and to my life.

What inspires you?

Anything can inspire me as long as it becomes the beginning of a story that I can translate into a fragrance.  For my own line, a trip to Lebanon inspired APOM, which is an acronym for A Piece Of Me. When I work for others, it is like acting. I need to be touched by the screenplay.

Is creating a perfume like creating a work of art?

I believe that all creative processes are identical. First, you need an idea, and then you need to rely on your technique to achieve your idea. Each field, however, has its own rules.

Is there a particular scent, or aroma, you dream of capturing in a perfume?

One of my concerns, when I create a fragrance, is to give it a sense of humanity… a breath. Like when you stare at classical Greek sculptures made of marble:  you feel that they breathe.

From a philosophical point of view, how would you describe yourself…nose, perfume creator, composer?

I am a storyteller. I use scents to express what I feel. Maybe one day, I will use words or colors… right now, fragrance is my medium.

What is your favorite smell?

The smell of the neck of the person I love. It is like a refuge.

6 Questions: Francois Demachy

“Odor di femina, the smell of a woman. If you don’t love women, you can’t create perfumes.”

What is your most memorable fragrance experience?

The precision of the memory, and the intensity with which it hit me, when I relived the fragrance of my mother.

What inspires you?

For me, composing a perfume is much easier when I have the image of a woman in my head. For instance, I created Diva for the woman I was in love with at the time. Smell, after all, is a feminine principle. Flowers produce seductive aromas that lure the insects that gather pollen. [I also] visit museums, go to shows and attend the opera where, [I] collect emotions.

Is creating a perfume like creating a work of art?

For me, perfume creation is high-level artisanship [in which] luck, magic and expertise come together in varying proportions.

Is there a particular scent or aroma you dream of capturing in a perfume?

Roses. I would so like to capture the exact scent of roses. Their aromas reveal everything about them…shape, color and character. And just when you think you know everything about them there are always new things to discover. In this profession, the ultimate perfume is ever the next one. And roses are my fantasy perfume, but perhaps I’m better off not attempting to create such a perfume. That way, the desire remains alive.

 From a philosophical point of view, how would you describe yourself…nose, perfumer, composer?  

We perfumers are writer-composers and performers. We converse in a language that many understand, but few can speak. I feel like someone who interprets the moments and events of life… into a musical score of scented notes. [The three words that best describe my personality are] curiosity, doubt and perfectionism.

What is your favorite smell?

Odor di femina, the smell of a woman. If you don’t love women, you can’t create perfumes.

6 Questions: Alexis Dadier

“I will never forget the fragrance of my evening kiss.”

What is your most memorable fragrance experience?

When I was a child, before my mother went out, scented with Guerlain’s Jicky, she would kiss me goodnight, and I will never forget the fragrance of my evening kiss. Inevitably, my most memorable experience is related to my mom.

What inspires you?

Abstraction, I think. I find the current fragrance market almost devoid of abstraction. An abstract creation, one without any known scent of tree, flower or fruit, has a more mysterious charge – mystery being the essence of perfume - that’s highly seductive and appealing.

Is creating a perfume like creating a work of art?

As perfumers, I think we bring as much heart and passion to the creation of a fragrance as others do to a painting or sculpture. When a perfume is a great classic, like Guerlain’s Shalimar or Chanel N ° 5, then we can talk about art. Only when all the elements – the name, the bottle, the advertising and, of course, the scent – are perfectly integrated, can a fragrance be a work of art.

Is there a particular scent or aroma you dream of capturing in a perfume?

The smell of spring. It’s a feeling, an indescribable sensation, that makes me happy every year.

From a philosophical point of view, how would you describe yourself…nose, perfumer, composer?
 A nice mixture of the three.  I find the smell in my head and imagine a piece of music composed of notes and accords. Then, where a composer would arrive at the perfect balance of notes and adjust with his ear, I adjust with my nose.

What is your favorite smell?

Oh, the smell of sand – an aroma that evokes memories of the Opal Coast beaches of [my] childhood and catapults [me], across space and time, into endless summer. Wet or white-hot in the sun, its smell is complex and rich in sensuality; all at once feminine and masculine with a certain duality that lies somewhere between mineral and water.