Rodrigo Flores-Roux / Ralf Schwieger / Neil Morris ~ Scent Treks through Time


22nd July, 2008

Editor's note: These interviews are the eighth 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.

 

Rodrigo Flores-Roux

Senior Perfumer, Givaudan

Creations: Donna Karan Essence Wenge Wood, John Varvatos, Cordoroy, Zirh, With Love Hillary Duff (pictured), Black Cashmere Donna Karan (more...)

Marian Bendeth: 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? Please state century and decade :


Rodrigo Flores-Roux:
Although one may be tempted to answer your questions going back in time and reaching far into Egypt, Moorish Spain, Renaissance Florence, etc, I would like these thoughts to be a bit more concrete, taking a shorter step back in history, just 70 or 80 years ago, and landing in the middle of the 20's or 30's...

I have always felt very passionate about classical French perfumes, and I found that the creativity that reigned in our industry in France starting in the 20's was, to say the lest, completely unleashed. Les Annees Folles were a crucible of ideas. Fashion took its shape as an important industry, and so did fine perfumery.

Proto-marketing trends could be spotted, fragrances became conceptual (there were "bandit", "aventure", "fleeting time", "coeur en folie", "revolte" etc... instead of "rose", "violet", "bergamotte" or "mimosa") and a perfume launch would undoubtedly include the work  of not only very creative perfumers, but also, of famous graphic designers, painters, illustrators, photographers, sculptors etc. Names like Mucha, Sonia Delaunay, Picasso, Dali, Leonor Fini, Christian Berard, Raoul Dufy, Fernand Leger, Marie Laurencin, Bakst, Gruau, etc come to mind...

Who would that be?

So, if you ask me which perfumer I would I like to meet, I must answer with the name of a man who was not only incredibly knowledgeable in perfume creation, but who also had an incredible imagination and was able to inspire his colleague/designer (and his lover?) to invent some of the most formidable, exquisitely concocted perfumes that are also standouts in  visual aesthetics... and even more, some of them are considered revolutionary in their conceptualization: I am talking about the founder of the house of Caron, Ernest Daltroff, and also, about Madame Felicie Bergaud (née Vanpouille), his designer and twin soul...

The House of Caron opened in the beginning of the 20th century, and it is early on that this creative duo understood that a perfume was more an idea or a feeling, than a concrete image or portrait. In the span of 25 years, just before WWII, although they had launched a "Violette Precieuse" and invented a black narcissus ("le Narcisse Noir"), their ideas evolved into a festival of roses ("La fete des roses"), then continued with the perfume of infinity ("L'Infini"), the scent of Xmas eve ("Nuit de Noel", a fantastic chypre  that has the embryonic fragrance structure of so many chypres that came afterwards, packaged in one of the most beautiful bottles and boxes ever created for a perfume), the luxury of tobacco and leather in "Tabac Blond", the thrill of a plane flight ("En Avion"), the decadence of drunkenness ("With Pleasure", which came in an adorable wine casket in Baccarat crystal), the perfume depiction of Baroque Rome or Venice ("Farnesiana", "Or et Noir" and "Acaciosa")... and found further inspiration in Italy, referring to Medieval cryptic literature and Mediterranean traditions with the mysteriously named perfumes "Bellodgia", "Alpona" (pictured above) and "Adastra"...
 
What specific things would you want to learn from them?
 
I would  have loved to be able to witness their creative process, in which both of them would decide the original raw idea,concept, smell different olfactive paths for the new scent to come, and fit them with one of these beautifully designed packaging concepts. In a beautiful book on Caron I bought in 2003, there were reproductions of many of Felicie's sketches, showing different versions for the design of a given project. Many weren't  chosen or developed into other things (like a delightful series of drawings that depict the first version of the bottle of "Fleurs de Rocaille", evolving into some other iterations, and then we can see the one that was finally produced, in the shape of a semi circular ink dryer, with a paper lace collar and a magnifying glass on the glass  stopper...)... and even some rejected ideas... including a strikingly ultra modern bottle bearing the name "Reflections"...

Also, I did notice early on that Caron's fragrances had a specific palette. Just like Guerlain boasts the perfect Guerlinade leitmotif (a combination of vanilla, tonka beans, orris etc) as an imprint that is pervasive in all of the house's creations, Daltroff always used a very specific combination of notes that always involve rose (I suspect roses were the favorite flowers of Madame Bergaud's): rose themed fragrances by Caron abound, including the "other" Xmas inspired floral fragrance initially named "Rose de Noel" which became "Voeu de Noel" (Xmas wish) Daltroff was also partial to powdery florals like mimosa or violet,  and always spiked his combinations with an intense spiciness, mostly using  clove and iso eugenol but also black pepper, and hints of leather (not only birch tar noes but heavy doses of quinolines). Only Caron would launch a fantasy-ridden scent called "Poivre" in which the carnation floral aura of Bellodgia developed into a spice mulled juice redolent of black pepper, bay leaf from Saint Thomas and cloves.... which in turn Daltroff metamorphosed into a men's cologne, also very spicy but with a rich leather background reminiscent of the grandiose Tabac Blonds... and called it "Coup de Fouet" (translates into something like "Whiplash")

Daltroff and Bergaud are certainly a duo that fascinates me and inspires me. How I wish I could have been "a fly on their walls", as they say!!

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

You also ask me as a perfumer, with whom would I have loved to partner to work on a fragrance together: Besides the duo behind the Caron scents, I may  have another answer:  I am thinking about Elsa Schiaparelli... but now, that's another story… 

Ralf Schwieger

Perfumer, Mane
 
Creations: Baby Doll YSL, Lipstick Rose, Marc Jacobs Men, Empress Lily Stacked Style, Eau de Merveilles Hermes (more...)

When thinking of traveling back in time to a particular century and decade I can only think of the 20th century as ‘modern’ perfumery was nonexistent before; in might be interesting to have an insight of what perfumery was about two or three hundred years ago but I could not any ‘inspirational perfumer’…

It would be the 20th century and the time after World War II.

Marian Bendeth:
Who would you like to meet?  

Either Germaine Cellier for her almost brutal style of composition or Edmond Roudnitska and his intellectual approach.

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

Nothing in particular, it must be interesting to discuss and smell with them and ask them to criticize some of my own compositions…

MB:  If you could team up together in that time period, who would you like to co-create a fragrance for?
 
I don’t believe that neither Mrs. Cellier nor Mr. Roudnitska would have appreciated ‘teaming up’ as this is a habit which was introduced much later to this field of work… I would have liked to have worked for Schiaparelli after the war – unfortunately she wasn’t fashionable anymore;
 
MB: If you could bring anything back with you, what would that be?

Some animal notes which today are not used anymore… ambergris and perhaps real musk (the stinky one and not what we nowadays consider as being ‘clean’) although I might have left that behind as you have to kill the animal in order to get the smell… this goes a bit too far into forbidden territory, a bit like killing the virgin…

 

Neil Morris

Perfumer, Neil Morris Fragrances

Creations: Aegean, Afire, Zephyr, Coral (more...)

I would travel between 1920 and 1922 to meet Ernest Beaux.

I would first thank him for his great contribution to the art of perfumery with his timeless creation, Chanel No. 5. I would like to ask him when the thought came to him to create perfumes using aldehydes, the hallmark of many of his compositions. Many of my favorite perfumes of all time - including Chanel No. 5, No. 22, Jean-Claude Ellena's brilliant First, Arpege by Lanvin - all tip their hat to the pioneering perfumer, Ernest Beaux.

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

None other than Greta Garbo. Queen Christina (1933) is my favorite Garbo movie and creating a bespoke perfume with Ernest Beaux for the ever mysterious and demure Garbo, would be an unfathomable pleasure and honor. (Also, Garbo and I share the same birthday, September 18.)

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

1921 bottle of Chanel No. 5 Parfum!

 

 

Join Marian next time for more time travelling scent treks...

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About the author: Marian Bendeth

Marian Bendeth is a Global Fragrance Expert based out of Toronto, Canada. Marian has won six fragrance industry editorial awards for her writing. You can find out more on her website marianbendeth.com

Website: http://www.marianbendeth.com/

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