Alfarom speaks Zurich-based perfumer Vero Kern.
Some of your fragrances have been compared to huge classics of the past such as Mitsouko, Djedi and Sous Le Vent among others. How's your relationship with the aforementioned compositions and have you actually been influenced by them?
The so-called "classics" are my favourite scents in fact. Some of these have been with me every day since my youth. Such as Jicky, Shalimar, Vol de Nuit and Mitsouko and later Nahema - in other words mainly Guerlain fragrances. All these fragrances have a personal story with me and belong to a particular part in my life. At times I have also worn Shocking by Schiaparelli and Tabac Blond by Caron.
The relationship with my fragrances has always been a libidinous one, very intimate ... I felt the scents as part of my personality, of my DNA, my identity ... All these fragrances have also inspired me deeply and lasting, and for me it was always clear that I wanted to create just this kind of perfume.
Fortunately, I was taught at Cinquième Sens in Paris by Monique Schlienger, which in turn was trained at the Ecole Roure in Grasse by Jean Carles. That is to say, in the tradition of all these wonderful classics. This then has influenced me even more.
The fragrance market seems to be a bit saturated. Your style have always been quite different from most other brands. You always seemed to have a more *classical* and restrained approach to the whole thing but proposing a restricted range of compositions offered in different strengths and different variations. You seem to not follow any trend and, instead, you do your own things with honesty and passion. How is it to survive the plethora of new brands, new launches, aggressive marketing campaigns?
In fact, the market is full of new products and is increasing daily. We learn of strange "shocking" perfume concepts with blood, semen, urine and other body fluids. After a while I just stopped thinking about it and do what’s right for me.
I see myself as someone who has learned a craft that refuses to let go, because I'm extremely interested in it. My goal is to make a good product, and not to be a famous perfumer. And my goal is to create the perfume as a “Gesamtkunstwerk”, with the right bottle, the appropriate packaging and at the heart an original emotionally touching scent. Drama, passion, opulence, structure, complexity and serious craft are my criteria. This type of composition is very complex, time consuming and something of the hardest there is. It needs a lot of courage to go their own way and not follow any trends. For example, the Oud trend ... I love Oud but use only pure solid Oud wood that is very precious and rare, solely for personal incense rituals.
My fragrances are very complex and I am absolutely aware that this complexity that also shapes the style of my creations might overwhelm some perfume lovers. However, this kind of complexity was the secret of good perfume, a perfume style that was also called Haute Perfumery for a long time. And even though as I said my fragrances are very unconventional, there are now sophisticated fragrance lovers who are enthusiastic about them, looking for something special in my creations, love and finally wear these scents also. For me the most beautiful and biggest recognition of my work ever since!
But besides this, I am experiencing also a growing “massification” in all perfumery
sectors, even in niche. And with this more and more an ongoing lack of understanding and knowledge about the beauty of special creations. It takes place a trivialization, ignorance, a vulgarization in this industry – all the way down to bloger and customer. Absolutely terrifying!
How being a former aromatherapist reflected in your work as a perfumer?
During my many years of training as an aroma therapist, I learned all about the natural essences and that in turn helped me later during my perfumer training. The knowledge about the natural essences is an important component in the classical perfumer training and in my case it was deepening existing knowledge. In my creations, which I largely compose in the traditional way, I use a high proportion (up to 60%) in natural essences, together with the remaining synthetic raw materials.
I always work with the risk that any one of a special natural resource is not available in sufficient quantities or not at worst. Synthetic products cannot simply replace many of the natural essences. That makes my work not easy. Since the objective complexity in my case can only be accomplished with a good mix of natural and synthetic products, this uncertainty is always present.
This also explains why this type of perfume has no chance of survival in a global market and why the bigger perfume houses have adapted and modified their formulas accordingly.
Tell us about the Mito Extrait.
With Mito Extrait I wanted to create a nocturne variant to the existing EDP.
Mito EDP is a dreamy-sunny-airy-sensual interpretation of the garden of Villa d'Este at daytime. Mito Extrait is the olfactory implementation of this jewel of a garden in the moonlight:
The garden is there, peacefully and quiet. The darkness enhances the sound of the cicadas, maybe a nightingale is singing and thousands of little fireflies are dancing in the warm and dusky air. The soft, milky moonlight embraces the pearl white marble statues. Emerald green water sparkles in the candlelight. Snatches of music and whispering love babbling that blow with the wind across a dinner party at the Villa…Mito Extrait is a scent of strong feelings, a collage of art and kitsch, of pathos and protest, like a cliché from an old Hollywood movie. A fragrance like an séance, a love letter to the love, awakening desires that can never be fulfilled –
The perpetual projection of eternal love, at the same time scary and addicting - glorious and as dramatic as in the Fotoromanza we read through in one go - over and over again.
For this more dramatic interpretation of the garden I have replaced the Jasmine in the EDP by the Tuberose and by complementing the base notes with warm ambry components. Thus the scent appears slightly warmer and heavier - as it should be for an Extrait.
A lot of exciting news from you this year. The Les Voiles D'Extrait versions of all your range. Can you introduce them to us and how the Les Voiles differ from the previous versions of the EDP and Extraits?
Les Voiles d'Extrait complement as standalone version and as an enrichment to the existing collection with the four fragrances Kiki, Onda Rubj and Mito. With the Voiles we would like to offer a somewhat milder form of the Extrait concentration and are responding to many requests and wishes from our customers for an Extrait to spray beside the Extrait to dab.
EDP's and Voiles are offered in the same bottle with a different label.
In the structure, the two versions are completely different. The EDP’s are in contrast to the Voiles more sparkling, light and fruity with a separate formula. The Voiles on the other hand, have the same formula as the Extraits but come in a lower dilution. The Voiles are temperamentally softer and more complex than the EDP’s. Whether one decides for the one or the other variation is a matter of personal preference and choice.
Dab or spray? You know there are people that only like to spray fragrances. Even extrait dilution. They simply decant some juice into an atomizer and go away with it. What's your take on spray vs dab?
The Extrait version of a perfume is the most concentrated form that is being offered. The extrait is one hundred percent “French style”, and this kind of drop wise perfuming is in my opinion the most erotic form to perfume around. This has already understood Marilyn Monroe when she dabbed on her Chanel 5. Dabbing the Extrait has for me to do something with rafinesse and cultivated eroticism.
With the Voiles we have created the possibility to use the Extrait as a spray. Personally, I prefer dabbing the pure Extrait… I want to feel and smell the scent on my skin and not on the clothes. In addition, dabbing is the most ecological way of perfuming. The pure Extrait to dab on will always be especially for cultivated Eccentrics!
If you were supposed to collaborate with another perfumer, who will it be and what kind of fragrance you would like to create?
So far, I have encountered only perfumers as loners. Both, in the choice of raw materials as well as in the personal style in creation. Just now, I cannot imagine a possible collaboration in creating a scent together with another perfumer. As far as I know we find this kind of cooperation only in the industry but under very different conditions.
Beside perfumes, what are your biggest passions in your life?
I see myself as a passionate person with different passions. One of my biggest one is about loving good food, eating and cooking at regular times, at home and also away. At home I cook mainly beloved Italian dishes with fresh organic food that I buy at the local market. Away I prefer French fish and seafood cuisine in the Brasserie Lipp here in Zurich. This feels so being in Paris!
But the absolute ultimate culinary highlight is a shared meal in exciting company in one of Europe wide best Japanese restaurant here in Zurich: Sala of Tokyo! Pure heaven!
Who have been, perfume-wise, the most influential person in your life?
I’d say Monique Schlienger from Cinquième Sens in Paris.
Have you already started working on a completely new Vero Profumo's fragrance?
I'm working on a fragrance with a rose theme. The rose seems very abstract and alienated in this fragrance - the launch is scheduled for 2014.That’s all I can say about it on the moment. It shall be a surprise...
My creations evolve with me. I am inspired by what I am going through.