A veritable legend in the perfume world, Chantal Roos has launched more power perfumes than we care to list. Working for YSL in the 1970s, Roos launched many scents (Opium, Kouros and Paris to name just a few), before moving to Shiseido, where she helped launch the Issey Miyake fragrances. In 2014, she launched her own fragrance house called Roos & Roos (previously named Dear Rose), with her daughter Alexandra. Roos & Roos currently have 12 beautiful scents in their collection, that are tributes to strong women. We spoke to fragrance maven, Chantal Roos about her long career in perfume and her scent memories…
My first smell memory is a food memory – the smell of caramel. My grandmother would make caramel sweets and still, today, I don’t eat sweets, no cakes, no nothing, except caramels.
I didn’t realise for a while how important scent was to me, in fact, I never studied scents. Like everyone I liked to wear fragrance, but it wasn’t important to me until I started working at Yves Saint Laurent. Before that I was at Coty. And I remember my souvenir, it was a famous fragrance from Courrèges – a fashion brand whose dresses I dreamt of – a perfume called Empriente and it was fantastic. My marketing director purchased it and I would sneak into the office to spray myself. I realized it was going down so I topped it up with water. He once called me into the office to show me, exclaiming, ‘you see the bad quality of this fragrance, it’s turned white!’ But it was me filling it up with water. So that was my first smell shock – I just couldn’t stop putting fragrance on my body!
My favourite scented flowers are those heavenly white flowers. Tuberose, orange blossom flowers, they are so hypnotic. But I love many flowers. It all depends on what you combine it with. Sometimes when you combine them with other ingredients they become a whole new story.
I don’t remember the first fragrance I was given. The only thing I remember is that my mother always wore Jicky by Guerlain. Guerlain was like the chicest thing on earth, it was very expensive and only for bourgeois ladies. I wouldn’t wear Guerlain because I was too young. But frankly I just can’t remember the first scent that was bought for me. (It will probably come to me in the middle of the night!)
The first fragrance I bought for myself was Empriente by Courrèges. After making the mistake of filling my boss’ bottle up with water, (I used to sneak in and spray it on myself) I had to buy it. I was not very rich, but I had to have it. In my generation men wouldn’t buy you fragrance in your twenties, it wasn’t so common, so I had to buy it myself.
Of course, I have had different fragrances for different phases of my life. In 1976 I started to work closely and consult on fragrances and since then have
been exposed to many. At different moments in your life you care for different things, just like with clothing, lifestyle, furniture. As with furniture came the trend with fragrances, in the 90s you wanted pared back, clean, clear, bright. An then other times you might want to feel sexy. Of course, I wore Opium, when that came out. The eau de toilette kind. I go back to some old favourites, the basics, but generally I like ambrée and woody fragrances and flowers.
The smell that always makes me feel happy is the smell of my children when they were babies. There’s nothing more beautiful than that. My children are my most important creation, of course. Then, I love the smell of my lover when he arrives to take me out. The fragrance I spray in the morning. I am easily made happy with smell.
Smell never makes me feel sad. Even if I think of my grandmother, who I dearly loved, and the fragrance she wore, it doesn’t make me feel sad, I only remember the happy memories, it’s nostalgia.
The scent I love on a man is skin. Skin is important – if they have a skin I love, with a little bit of fragrance on it. That’s perfect. In the past I used to offer them Monsieur Chanel. I thought it was so lovely. And then I used to offer the fragrance I was working on at the time. But out of all the men’s scents I’ve worked on, the one I will always offer is L’Eau d’Issey for men, this one is, for me, the most perfect scent I launched. It’s still relevant now.
The scent I love to smell on a woman is Aromatics Elixir by Clinique. I’ve always loved this fragrance, I hid it in my drawer, because it wasn’t by the company I worked for, and used to sneak in sniffs of it.
The fragrance from the past that I’ve always wanted to smell is, again, Aromatics Elixir by Clinique. It’s a heavy overdose of patchouli, perhaps where my love of patchouli comes from. The smell itself will stop people.
In my opinion there is only one book about perfume: Le Parfum by Patrick Suskind. It is the book, if you read one it should be that.
My five favourite smells are…
1 The smell of my children as babies.
2 The skin of the man I’m in love with (at that moment).
3 The Atlantic Coast – my grandmother had a house there, and now we have one. I love when I arrive there I smell the ocean, the oysters, the freshness of the sea air. Since I was a child this was incredibly important to me. Whenever I go there I feel at ease, on holiday, even if only for a couple of days. And I never reproduced that in a fragrance because I don’t think anyone can.
4 In the woods, I love to be in the woods – which is why we created our last scent, In the Wood for Love. The smell of the earth, roots, the moss. It’s dense and strong. I hate the smell of the city.
5 The smell of my little coffee in the morning. Our culture is very much about cafés and I love to go to my café and get espresso.
In the Wood for Love by Roos & Roos £170 for 100ml eau de parfum
By Carson Parkin-Fairley