It began, of all places, at a job interview. The man on the other side of the desk asked Sylvie where she saw herself in five years’ time. ‘I started telling him about my dream in life, which was to create my own perfume brand. And I thought, “What am I doing, am I crazy?” If I tell him that, I’m never going to get the job.’ Instead, he said: “Wow! What a great idea.’ So… fast forward: we started working together, we enjoyed that very much – to the point of getting married! And actually, before getting married, we decided to have a baby together – and our first baby was Atelier Cologne. And after that, we had a real baby…’
Atelier Cologne is the first ‘maison de parfum’ dedicated entirely to that most classic of fragrance forms, the Cologne. Beyond that, Atelier Cologne heralds the beginning of an entire fragrance category: ‘Cologne absolue’: Colognes based around the signature notes of this much-loved fragrance family, but blended to have outstanding lasting power thanks to their very high concentration of essential oils (15%).
As Sylvie told the revered fragrance blogger Persolaise, ‘A Cologne absolue is basically looking at the roots of Cologne, which is a citrus-based formula. It’s taking the best of citruses, but it lasts on the skin, which is uncommon in an eau de Cologne. Unlike an eau de Cologne, it’s very high in concentration – between an eau de parfum or a pure perfume – hence the lasting power. And also, it doesn’t just have citruses. It also has base notes, which enable you to have different facets. So it’s either a Cologne with personality and lasting power – or an eau de parfum which has a really fresh quality.’
Christophe and Sylvie opted to work with different (leading) ‘noses’: Ralf Schweiger, Jérome Epinette, Cécile Krakower… And enchantingly, each fragrance weaves together emotions and powerful memories. Take Orange Sanguine (nominated for a Fragrance Foundation FiFi Award), zesty with notes of Italian and Seville blood oranges, Italian mandarin: ‘It was the kind of moment you would want to revisit. Everyone was here, gathered on the terrace for breakfast, and the scent of fresh oranges was diffusing in the yellow heat. A symphony of their laughter and waves hitting the cliffs played in the air.’
Or Oolong Infini, with elements of black tea, leather, Tunisian neroli, tobacco and woods purring in its base: ‘His breath fogged the window while he watched new snow fall upon the frozen lake. He came here to catch up on his writing and escape the city. At that moment, the fireplace crackled, ice settled into his glass and his thoughts made their way back to the ink.’ For each fragrance, Christophe and Sylvie assemble a montage of often sentimental objects, to evoke the fragrance in a photograph, as you can see here.
Atelier Cologne‘s creations can be explored in perfumeries around the world, but we recommend you also seek out their own intriguing boutiques (as of now, in Paris, Nolita and Brooklyn), which are a world away from marbled beauty halls. Furnished in an ‘industrial chic’ style with comfortable armchairs, worktables, stools, they’re a wonderfully relaxed place to explore and enjoy the Colognes Absolues and their stories. (Do check out the exquisite soaps and candles, too – and ultra-exclusive launches, such as Sous Le Toit de Paris, created for the anniversary of Paris’s Galeries Lafayette.
A unique feature of the Atelier Cologne boutiques is personalised engraving on leather: each of the boutiques showcases working engraving machines, reclaimed from vintage French and American factories, to personalise the leather travelling cases for flacons right there and then in front of your eyes – with a name, initials, or a special message. A great gift? Absolument…!
And just watch this space for more Atelier Cologne ‘babies’…
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