People: Olivier Polge

Born: 1974 France

About

Olivier Polge is the current in-house perfumer at Chanel. A native of Grasse, he is also the son of Jacques Polge, a perfumer who held the same title for thirty-seven years.

After graduation from high school, Olivier first went on to study history of art. However, an internship at Chanel changed his mind and brought him back into the fold of the family business. Of the experience he said, “I got in touch with all the ingredients that you can never smell separately if you don’t work in a lab and realised it could be my job.” His revelation changed the course of his life, and he commenced training at Charabot in Grasse, where he began to learn the structure of accords, fragrance families and structures.   

In 1998, Olivier joined International Flavours and Fragrances as a trainee perfumer. During his fifteen years with the firm, he was co-credited with developing best sellers such as Dior Homme, Lancome La Vie Est Belle, Viktor and Rolf Flowerbomb and Paco Rabanne Invictus

In 2013, Chanel announced that Olivier would take the reigns as in-house perfumer, making him only the fourth person hold the title since the release of No.c 5 in 1921, following in the footsteps of the great Ernest Beaux, Henri Robert and his own father, Jacques Polge. For two years he worked alongside his father and perfumer Christopher Sheldrake, before taking over in 2015 after his father’s retirement. 

For his first two fragrances, Olivier brought to life two pivotal characters the life of Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel. Misia was inspired by the role Misia Sert played in Coco’s life after the death of her lover, Arthur “Boy” Chapel. As she grieved, Misia introduced her to Venice, whose architecture later influenced both jewellery and fashion collections at Chanel. During the same period, Coco was introduced to the founder of the Ballet Russes, Sergei Diaghilev. Olivier revealed that the powdery notes in Misia are an homage to the scent of the ballerina’s stage make-up. 

His second fragrance for Chanel’s “Les Exclusifs” collection was inspired by Arthur “Boy” Capel, Coco’s muse, benefactor and the man she claimed was her one true love. Boy financed not only the opening of her first boutique, but also inspired her first collection and the interplay of masculine and feminine styles that she became known for. Olivier wove this concept of gender fluidity into Boy, taking what he describes as a traditionally masculine accord (the fougere), but remaking it into a feminine version - though the feminine side only comes out when worn on a woman’s skin, he claims. 

Olivier’s interpretation of Chanel’s classic No.5, entitled No. 5 L’eau launched in the Autumn of 2016. The fifth reinterpretation of the iconic fragrance preserves its heart of Rose De Mai, but reworks the greener notes to make it “the freshest version of No5”. The current ad campaign is fronted by Lily-Rose Depp, daughter of the actor Johnny Depp and French singer Vanessa Paradis. 

Advertisement

Perfumes created by Olivier Polge