‘Persolaise‘ is a name well-known to the perfume community: a three-times-Jasmine Award-winning writer and blogger whose thoughtful (sometimes thought-provoking, occasionally controversial) reviews and articles, on his own Persolaise blog and on Basenotes, are always a great read. He’s also a book author: Le Snob: Perfume came out a couple of years ago, focusing on niche and high-end perfumery (the clue is in the name…)
As you know, each month we’re delighted to showcase a ‘Blogger of the Month’ on the site, encouraging you to check out their work elsewhere.
So now, we’re delighted to showcase Persolaise (real name Dariush Alavi). His passion for perfume goes back to his Middle Eastern childhood, growing up with an Iranian father and a Polish mother, who worked at one time in fragrance retailing, in the UAE. (His ‘nom de parfum’ is French play on words: Perse + Polonaise = Persolaise).
Persolaise regularly runs short and revealing ‘Twenty Blotters For…’ interviews on his blog. We’ve chosen to feature his interview with the wonderful and inspiring Neela Vermeire, who has collaborated with Bertrand Duchaufour on a series of fragrances, including Ashoka – which won a coveted Art & Olfaction Award. (NB This interview pre-dates the launch of the latest from Neela Vermeire Créations, the exuberant white floral Pichola.)
Although her eponymous brand has been around for a relatively brief time, Neela Vermeire has already managed to convince scent lovers worldwide of her commitment to high-quality perfumery. Her four compositions, Trayee, Mohur, Bombay Bling and Ashoka (all put together by Bertrand Duchaufour) speak volumes about her passion for fragrance and her love of rich, textured raw materials. I was fortunate enough to have a brief meeting with her in Paris a little while ago, during which I asked if she’d mind being accosted by my Twenty Blotters. I’m pleased to report that she said ‘Yes’…
In the beginning…
At what age did you realise that you would enter the perfume industry?
You want age! I’ll be very honest with you. As you know, I started pretty late, so I would say mid 30s.
Can you remember who introduced you to perfume?
What are some of your most memorable smell-related childhood experiences?
Temples. Home. A lot sandalwood and jasmine and other fresh flowers. And spices of course.
Who were your role models when you were growing up?
Tough. There were many. Mother Theresa, because I worked with her when I was young. She was a nun at my former school, but then she left to create her own order. And then of course, Indira Gandhi. I admire women who have achieved something great.
What would you do to improve the way young children are educated about smell?
Very interesting question. I guess, make them appreciate from a young age and get them to understand different types of fragrance notes. It’s like art, music, food. By being exposed to different things, a child can learn to appreciate different types of smell and trust their nose.
Complete the following sentences…
One of my favourite smells in the world is… the smell of freshly prepared sandalwood paste.
Modern perfumery is… fascinating.
One perfume which I particularly admire is… Chanel’s Bois Des Îles extrait.
When I walk into the perfume section of a department store I feel… overwhelmed and underwhelmed.
The perfume industry needs to… stop creating so many perfumes every year, year upon year.
Which of these do you prefer…?
The past or the future?
I don’t like dwelling on the past, nor planning too far ahead, so I must say that I like the present.
Main course or dessert?
Main course as I don’t have a sweet tooth.
London or Paris?
Paris. Paris is always a good idea.
Mozart or Madonna?
Mozart. However, I also admire Madonna very much. Look at what she has achieved in the music industry. All through very hard work.
An early start or a late night?
I think an early start.
What’s the best thing the Internet has done for the perfume industry?
Social media. Spreading the word. Fantastic blogs.
What’s the worst thing the Internet has done for the perfume industry?
Cannot say, but perhaps the discounting and counterfeiting.
Are IFRA and regulations harming perfumery?
I think they’re just giving guidelines. Okay, they have certain materials which you can’t use for toxicology reasons. But I think it’s a guideline. No-one wants to harm the customer. If applied strictly, though, they may harm the industry long-term by pushing out smaller innovative brands who cannot afford to pay for a whole compliance department.
Does the term ‘niche perfumery’ have any meaning?
Tough these days, because ‘niche’ is a little overcrowded and over-used. There are some brands that are using it to promote themselves. The word ‘niche’ doesn’t really mean anything to me these days.
What would you say to someone who doesn’t consider perfumery to be an art?
They haven’t smelt very good perfumes and or don’t realise the amount of creative genius that goes into the bottle.