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Marie Salamagne

MARIE_SALAMAGNEMarie was born in 1977 in Paris, and claims to have had ‘an awareness and fascination for odours, ‘of attics, bread, earth, putty…’

As a child, Marie was passionate about dance – but after a degree in chemistry, she went on to study at the ISIPCA perfume school in Versailles, before joining Firmenich. When talking about her career, she makes parallels with art: when she was a teenager, she took painting lessons, and remembers preferring acrylics to watercolour. Today, she often associates smells with colours – and enjoys materials with a strong character. ‘I like working from a raw material that has a history… like patchouli, to “dress” it, to enhance it…’

Marie is particularly drawn to masculine notes like amber and wood, and her wide portfolio includes La Perla Just Precious, Nina Ricci Nina L’Eau (with Olivier Cresp), Jo Malone London Osmanthus Blossom and Saffron Cologne Intense, and Kylie Minogue Music Box. She’s one of the quartet of perfumers who worked on the new YSL Black Opium.

What is your first ‘scent memory’?
My mother wearing Guerlain Shalimar.

How many perfumes might you be working on, at one time?
Currently, I’m working on about 20 fragrances.

When did you decide you wanted to be a perfumer?
I started studying child psychiatry after passing my Baccalaureate but I quickly realized that my destiny was elsewhere. My lucky star revealed the existence of the ISIPCA school in Versailles, which I entered after obtaining a degree in chemistry.

What are your five favorite smells in the world?
Patchouli, putty, glycine (an amino acid), bread crust and the head of my children when they were born: a singular scent that lasted only the three first weeks of their lives!

If you had one fragrance note that you love above all others, what would that be?
It would have to be the patchouli.

What’s the worst thing you ever smelled?
The odor of tanners in Fez is really strong, animalic and a bit disturbing but it is not repulsive.

How long, roughly, does it take you to create a fragrance?
It is quite variable – but the average is about 14 months. Creating the initial accord is one thing, but then it takes a long time to find the perfect ‘expression’ – the one that a brand wants to share, without losing the original idea.

Is this one of the most exciting times in history to be a perfumer?
Yes; the fragrance industry is changing with niche brands multiplying and expressing their creativity. Brands want to create fragrance that everyone likes, but also that is memorable and unique, which is really exciting for us perfumers, but it is also a real challenge…

Do you have a favourite bottle design, from those that have been used for your fragrance creations?
I love the bottles of the Martin Margiela Replica Collection.

How many perfumes might you be working on, at one time?
At this time, I am working on about 20 fragrances.

What is the fragrance you wish you’d created?
Guerlain Jicky because it is audacious and ultra feminine. It is an ‘elegant overdose’.

Does your nose ever ‘switch off’?
No, never, even during the night, sometimes, I smell fragrances I have put on my skin or I think about new ideas when I wake up.

Is a mood-board helpful when you’re creating?
Very helpful, as I like to associate colours with raw materials. It is a real support for me to see mood-boards.

What is your best tip for improving a person’s sense of smell?
Curiosity is a good thing to explore and develop a person’s sense of smell. You have to not be afraid of smelling things you think you don’t like at first sight.