I am French, my family is from Grasse, but I was born in Tokyo and I lived there for many years as a child. My earliest memory is the scent of Japan. It’s the aroma of tatami mats and wooden and papyrus screens. It’s a blend of woodsy, papery grasses and tea… a very natural, slightly dry woody smell.
When did you decide you wanted to be a perfumer/create your own perfume?
My father worked in the world of perfume, in Tokyo and in Grasse. I was surrounded by fragrance and its language; it was very natural and instinctive for me to end up working in the world of scent.
What are your five favourite smells in the world?
• The comforting scents of home and of my loved ones! But in terms of olfactory notes, I would say woods, for their mystery and subtlety.
• The orange tree in all its forms, blossom, fruit, rind, leaf… neroli. So varied, versatile.
• The frangipani flower, for the powerful memories it recalls of travelling to Sri Lanka, a country I adored.
• Orcanox, a form of white amber, because it smells like warm skin.
• Cardamom for its oriental associations…
What’s the worst thing you ever smelled. (Honestly!)
The worst thing I’ve ever smelled brings me back to one of my travels. During a vacation in Indonesia, I found a market in Bali where all the different smells made up an unbearable whole. Rotten meat, dust and dirt mixed in the ambient mugginess. A rather unpleasant olfactory memory!
What is the fragrance you wish you’d created?
I am thinking of Christian Dior Eau Sauvage, because of its incredible citrus chypre structure, fresh and so elegant at the same time. This fragrance is one of these fragrances that has marked perfume history. I have always found that a man wearing Eau Sauvage has intense, almost magnetic charisma!
Do you feel this is one of the most exciting times in fragrance history, because of the creativity being expressed by perfumers? Why do you think that is?
Absolutely! It’s a fantastic time to be creating fragrance. For one thing there’s much innovation in the field of new molecules and methods, like MANE’s captives (NB MANE is a leading fragrance ingredient house), and Jungle EssencesTM, an exclusive extraction technique of capturing naturals. And also, not least of all, there’s creative freedom we get now with the smaller, niche brands like Shay & Blue where the founder-art-director tends to push perfumers to open up and imagine all sorts of creative possibilities.
If you could have created a fragrance for a historical figure, who would it be?
I would love to create a fragrance for a legendary rock star. Mick Jagger for example, for his attitude and his charisma, something between rebellious style and British elegance!
What’s the first fragrance you bought. And the first bought for you…?
My first fragrance was Azzaro Eau Belle. I wore it for many years. The sparkling freshness made me feel good.
Do you have a favourite bottle design, from those that have been used for your fragrance creations?
There are many. But I love the way that Dom De Vetta has taken the classical perfume note flacon that we perfumers use and reinvented it in the bottle for Shay & Blue. It looks simultaneously old and new, something I love.
How many perfumes might you be working on, at one time?
I might work on up to fifteen fragrances at a time. But you have to find a way to juggle them, to punctuate one project with another, to shuffle them around so that your creative imagination remains fresh and stimulated.
How long, roughly, does it take you to create a fragrance?
Most typically a fragrance will take a year of work back and forth. At its extremes, you can create a scented sketch in an afternoon, or a grand project could take three or four years. I like to work swiftly though, there’s an energy and dynamism in working quickly and instinctively.
Is creating a fragrance ‘visual’ for you, as well as something that happens in the nose/brain? If so, in what way…? Is a mood-board helpful?
Of course! I like working with the Art Directors who have a crystal clear vision of their fragrance house, and visual references can be a great help. Dom De Vetta at Shay & Blue expresses himself through painting, visuals, tear sheets and mood boards. It’s a fantastic way of opening up the rich dialogue that we then have around our creations.
Does your nose ever ‘switch off’?
Never! It’s always there, in the background, working. Even when I’m off duty, wandering around Paris or London, it’s unconsciously registering all manner of scent in the air. It’s a great creative reserve, so I don’t mind.
What can each of us do to enhance our appreciation of fragrance?
Be curious and have confidence in what your nose is telling you. If you think a wine you are smelling is spicy, go with it, sniff more deeply, think about what other aromas and associations it’s provoking for you. You can do this with everyday smells, and in this way you can ‘train’ your nose and actively improve your sense of smell.
If you had one fragrance note that you love above all others, what would that be?
Probably a blend of orange or orange blossom and woody ambers. A contrast of both the fresh and the deeply sensual…