Born in a small town in Romania, Gabriela Chelariu grew up in a world under a restrictive social regime far removed from fine fragrances. But it was not a place without the wonder of scent, for nature offered Chelariu its beautiful bounty. “My grandmother was a big influence in cultivating a knowledge and love for nature. She taught me what the earth can give us if we take care of it and pay attention,” Chelariu said.
“The seasons took on the tones of certain plants and flowers. I knew when spring was coming before I could even see its signs, by smelling it in the air. It was the mixture of the freshness of the lingering snow with the new shoots of vegetation and humid earth. It was intoxicating.”
In 1990, Romania began to slowly open its doors to the West. At that point, fragrances were luxury products and mostly unattainable. And yet, they were able to capture Chelariu’s imagination. When Chelariu started school at the University of Pharmacy in 1992, she used an entire month’s stipend to pay for her first fragrance, Oui-Non by Kookai. “What a love affair!” Chelariu said. “At that time, it was my fragrance. It was me!”
During her last year of school in 1997, she worked in research on aroma chemicals. It was here that her journey into perfumery officially began. Her studies started with a long-distance perfumery course organized by IFEAT (International Federation of Essential Oils & Aroma Trades).
Chelariu moved to the US in 2000, first working at a flavors company then at Fragrance Resources as a perfumer’s assistant. There, she had the freedom and support to pursue her dream. In 2014, Chelariu joined one-time mentor, Honorine Blanc, at Firmenich, where she now works as a Perfumer.
“In learning the craft of perfumery and later in creating fragrances, I always refer to my early olfactive memories. Because of this, I can add my personality to everything—regardless of the ‘established way’. Even when learning to create the accords of flowers, I would adjust them to the way I knew them to be true—without my instructors knowing! I always try to add authenticity to my creations. And I always believe that people instinctually know the difference,” Chelariu said.