Interviews

    Scent Treks through Time ~ Mathilde Laurent, Thierry Wasser, Harry Fremont and Serge Lutens

    by Marian Bendeth, 12 December 2008

    Editor's note: These interviews are the final part of a series in which Marian Bendeth explores what a panel of modern perfumers would say if they could travel back to the time of their choosing, to meet, chat and co-create with a perfumer of the past. An introduction to the series and table of contents is here.

     


    Mathilde Laurent

    In-House Perfumer, Cartier Parfums

    Creations: Bespoke Perfumer for Cartier Parfums, Roadster by Cartier, Attrape-Coeur La Maison Guerlain, Aqua Allégoria: Ylang Ylang et Vanille, Pamplelune, Herba Fresca, Rosa Magnifica (more...)

    Marian: If it was possible to travel back in time to any particular century and decade of your choice to meet your number one inspirational Perfumer:

    When would that be and who would you like to meet?

    ML: Around 1915. To try out this era of pure creation, and this feeling of the early history of perfume. I would like to meet François Coty for his genius and Jacques Guerlain to confront what I believe to have included/understood of him by so much that I have sought it at Guerlain!

    MB
    : What specific questions would you want to ask them?

    I wish I could watch them at work, see their methods, their manias, understand their specific approach and their vision of perfume.

    MB: If you could team up together in that time period, who would you like to co-create a fragrance for?

    Camille Claudel (French sculptor and graphic artist) for her sensitivity, creativity, and amazing modernity for her century.

    MB: If you could bring anything back with you, what would that be?

    The virginity of the 'market' at that time, it did not have as much olfactive hubbub there!!!! The perfume was a true element of luxury, it had not become a product like so often today.


    Thierry Wasser

    In-House Perfumer, Parfums Guerlain

    Creations: Guerlain Homme, Diesel Fuel for Life Pour Femme , Hypnose Lancome, Emporio Armani Diamonds, Fendi Palazzo, Iris Ganache Guerlain, Quand Vient la Pluie, Dior Addict & Eau Fraiche, Truth Calvin Klein (more...)

    MB: If it was possible to travel back in time to any particular century and decade of your choice to meet your number one inspirational Perfumer:?

    When would that be and who would you like to meet?

    TW: It would be between the two Wars - WWI and WWII in the 20th century. Just after the industrial revolution, the whole world was yet to be discovered and I think the creativity of the arts, especially in Paris with the Ballet Russes with inventions of every kind, through improvising the lines for furniture etc. was so exciting.

    Who would I like to meet? Of course, Jacques Guerlain! With the wonderful new position I have just taken as Perfumer for, I have a very privileged relationship with Jean-Paul Guerlain, Jacques' grandson! For me, this is the next best thing because I now have access to first-hand information and another brilliant Guerlain family member.

    MB: What specific questions would you want to ask?

    Just watching him, I would love it because it is a very lonely mental process and this abstraction to me is hard to explain. What we do is so empirical, we have to try and try and try again and it's not so logical - I wouldn't want to bother him but watch and learn.

    MB:
    If you could team up together in that time, who would you like to co-create a fragrance for?

    He was curious about many things and knew many people - He was into scientific discoveries, he was a friend with artists, collectors, and designers of furniture - a versatile kind of man! I would love to work together with him to create a fragrance for the famous Josephine Baker. She was so perfect for that era.

    MB: If you could bring anything back with you, what would that be?

    People were aware of their time, were wide open with their eyes, nose, and ears - absorbing what was going on around them. Stravinsky with the Ballet Russe started the Le Sacre du Printemps (The Scared Rite of Spring) - it was a scandal back then but it was a revolution of music and Ballet. There was also the great Art Deco movement too! So many things. I would love to bring back the era of 'no boundaries', to just let go and I think the fragrances of that time like Mitsouko in France were also revolutionary with a freedom of expression.

    The Wars were so intense so that intermediate time was 'light' .This lightness has disappeared today because we have to think of the planet and so many global problems. Perfumery back then was changing because there were discoveries of new scents every other day! People who were curious enough to experience them were so excited the sky was the limit. Back then, Guerlain were creating perfumes for that evening or a particular event and to me that is music to my ears. People were having fun and wearing fragrances for fun - it was like fireworks and after that, another horrible War then nothing for a while. It was an era of expression.

     


    Harry Frémont,

    Master Perfumer, Firmenich

    Creations:
    cK One –Calvin Klein (with Alberto Morillas), David Yurman, Romance – Ralph Lauren, Harajuku Lovers – Baby, Homme Exceptionnel – Montblanc, Calvin Klein Man (with Jacques Cavallier), Coach, L. L.A.M.B. Gwen Stefani, Noir de Noir and Tuscan Leather Private Blend Tom Ford, Tuberose Gardenia- Estee Lauder, Juicy Couture, Vera Wang Princess [more...]


    MB: If it was possible to travel back in time to any particular century and decade of your choice to meet your number one inspirational Perfumer:?

    When would that be and who would you like to meet?


    HF:
    Back to the future: If I could travel back in time, I would definitely like to go back to the beginning of the 20th century when modern perfumery was really just beginning, advancing with each passing day.  Like a painter discovering new colors on his palette, perfumers were gaining access to new molecules being established by chemists, and using these new ingredients in combination with traditional natural extracts, oils and absolutes to create completely new olfactive forms.

    One perfumer stood out completely: François Coty, the man who completely revolutionized the perfume industry.  Though he had very minimal training in Grasse, he was able to compose and launch completely original fragrances, creating new perfume categories and families.  Edmond Roudnitska, who I believe is a source of inspiration for every perfumer today, said about François Coty that “he was nothing less than a genius and a visionary.”  To have had the opportunity to collaborate with him would have been an incredible experience.  He had a complete holistic approach to perfume (fragrance, bottle/packaging, advertising and distribution). Not only was he an incredible perfumer, but also a unique businessman, who would build an empire from the ground up in a very short period of time.  Unfortunately, he was also a megalomaniac, which in combination with other factors would ultimately destroy him.

    MB:
    What specific questions would you want to learn from them?

    HF:
    I would have been curious to know if there were any financial constraints he put on himself when creating a new fragrance.   It seems to me that he did not have any, as he used the best bottle makers of his time like Lalique, and his formulas were very rich.   Examples of this are formulas like Chypre or L’Aimant.  When these were finished compounding, they were entirely complete.  No water or alcohol needed to be added, as he was using infusion and tincture of natural products to dilute the rest of the formula.  During this time, fragrance was truly a luxury product.

    MB:
    If you could team up together in that time period, who would you like to co-create a fragrance for?

    HF:
    I would love to have worked side by side with François Coty to invent new olfactive forms like L’Origan, which opened the floral oriental family up to fragrances with an orange flower twist (L’Heure Bleue would follow later).  Mostly though, I would have loved to have worked with him on the Chypre family.   To invent a new family of fragrances, launch it on the market and make a huge success of it is the most amazing achievement and the ultimate dream of any perfumer today, especially since the shelf-life of the fragrances we create can be just a few months.  I believe that having perfumers still talk about the Chypre family and create variations of it would be the most fulfilling experience for François Coty if he were alive today.

    MB:
    If you could bring anything back with you, what would that be?

    HF: I would choose to bring two specific things back with me to that time period.  Most importantly, I would choose a molecule developed by Firmenich called L’Hedione High Cis.  In the 1900’s, having a product like this in the olfactive palette would have allowed a perfumer to add air and fluidity to their fragrances, making each one breathe better…almost like pumping oxygen into them.  The second thing I would bring back in time would be head space technology to really make fragrances come to life using nature as a source of inspiration, something that is very important to me as a perfumer.

    Despite everything that can be said about the state of the industry, perfumers in 2008 possess the finest palette of ingredients ever:  the best extraction of natural raw materials with quality that was unheard of even 15 years ago, a huge collection of molecules with amazing properties of diffusion, character and tenacity and wonderful analysis techniques, allowing us to understand and become inspired by any scent on the planet.  I think that if we could use this palette to its full potential, a lot of problems that the industry faces today would fade.  The consumer would develop an attachment to their favorite fragrance due to its increase in quality, improving signature and creating addiction.

    Unfortunately in current times, the amount of money we are allocated to create the actual fragrance is laughable compared to the rest of the mix (for each new fragrance that is created, the perfumer is allowed anywhere from 1/30 to 1/50 of the total price with which to work).  

    The consequence is that each new creation is just a pale shadow of what it could have been if the perfumer were given more money to use the palette to its full potential and push the accord responsible for the signature of his creation to its best proportions in the formula. Today we use the minimum amount for a perceived effect in the fragrance, something I know François Coty would have hated!

     

    Serge Lutens

     

    Auteur de Parfums, Director Les Salons du Palais Royal Shiseido

    MB: If it was possible to travel back in time to any particular century and decade of your choice to meet your number one inspirational Perfumer:?

    When would that be and who would you like to meet?


    SL:
    Since this is a game, I will say that I have no desire to climb in the past or  descend in the future.

    The most interesting period for me could not be determined by perfumes persay, but rather in regards to literature. I refer here to the book by author, Patrick Susskind “ Perfume, The Story of a Murderer”, and I would choose Eighteenth Century Paris!

    The character of this story, a perfumer who never existed: ‘Grenouille’, born on a pile of rotting fish. It has no soul, no smell, and yet, it has the most powerful nose in the world. Since he can smell money behind two walls, amongst other things ... unique!

    MB:
    What specific questions would you want to ask them?

    SL:
    I think Grenouille could answer all the questions , the ones that, precisely speaking, I wouldn’t pose myself!...not any more than him in fact!

    MB:
    If you could team up together in that time period, who would you like to co-create a fragrance for?

    SL:
    With Grenouille of course! He was ready for anything and knew the power of smell.

    MB:
    If you could bring anything back with you, what would that be?

    
I believe that I would bring back a bottle and put Grenouille in it!



    This was the last in the series of Scent Treks. Return soon as we take a look at the responses from fifty perfumers and find out what we have learnt.

     end of article




    Marian Bendeth

    About the author

    Marian Bendeth is a Global Fragrance Expert based out of Toronto, Canada. SixthSen@aol.com. Marian has won three fragrance industry editorial awards for her writing.

    All articles by Marian Bendeth

    From the Basenotes Fragrance Directory

    The following fragrances and houses are mentioned in this article. (In order of appearance...)

    Cartier
    Coty
    Guerlain
    Serge Lutens Les Salons du Palais Royal Shiseido


    Roadster by Cartier (2008).
    Attrape Coeur / Guet-Apens by Guerlain (1999).
    Aqua Allegoria Ylang & Vanille by Guerlain (1999).
    Aqua Allegoria Pamplelune by Guerlain (1999).
    Aqua Allegoria Herba-Fresca by Guerlain (1999).
    Aqua Allegoria Rosa Magnifica by Guerlain (1999).
    Guerlain Homme by Guerlain (2008).
    Fuel For Life pour Femme by Diesel (2007).
    Hypnôse by Lancôme (2005).
    Emporio Armani Diamonds by Giorgio Armani (2007).
    Palazzo by Fendi (2007).
    Iris Ganache by Guerlain (2007).
    Quand Vient La Pluie by Guerlain (2007).
    Dior Addict by Christian Dior (2002).
    Dior Addict Eau Fraîche by Christian Dior (2004).
    Truth Calvin Klein by Calvin Klein (2000).
    Mitsouko by Guerlain (1919).
    cK one by Calvin Klein (1994).
    David Yurman Eau de Parfum by David Yurman (2008).
    Romance by Ralph Lauren (1998).
    Harajuku Lovers - Baby by Gwen Stefani (2008).
    Homme Exceptionnel by Mont Blanc (2008).
    Calvin Klein Man by Calvin Klein (2007).
    Coach The Fragrance by Coach (2007).
    L - L.A.M.B by Gwen Stefani (2007).
    Noir de Noir by Tom Ford (2007).
    Tuscan Leather by Tom Ford (2007).
    Private Collection Tuberose Gardenia by Estée Lauder (2007).
    Juicy Couture by Juicy Couture (2006).
    Princess by Vera Wang (2006).
    Chypre de Coty by Coty (1917).
    L'Aimant by Coty (1927).
    L'Origan by Coty (1905).
    L'Heure Bleue by Guerlain (1912).

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