Through the exquisite perfumes that carry her name, Neela Vermeire has captured a life-long love of fragrances and aromas into a signature collection which has had the scent world a-buzz since she first launched.
Inviting acclaimed perfumer and inveterate traveller Bertrand Duchaufour to collaborate on her fragrances, Neela Vermeire found the perfect partner to turn her dream – for a collection which captures the magic of India and conjures up its history – into reality. When their fragrance Ashoka soon scooped a coveted Art & Olfaction ‘indie’ perfume award, Neela Vermeire Créations was truly on the map, for perfumistas.
As she has explained: ‘I’ve loved perfume since my childhood because in India, we don’t only have spices but also ceremonies in each household. They involved many things – like sandalwood paste, oudh… In India, everywhere smells. At all times…’ That was her first love of perfume, Neela notes – which later became a passion for niche perfumes (Serge Lutens was an early love), as well as Guerlain, for its celebrated opulence.
Now based in Paris, her adoptive city (and perfume capital of the world), Neela had actually trained and qualified as a lawyer, studying for her Masters in the States. Tired of the rat race, Neela quit her career, became an art promoter – and vowed to follow her passion for perfumery with a collection which paid homage to her birthplace: its spirituality, history, the amazing landscape, the peaceful Himalayas, trips to hill stations and sea ports, the arts, the architecture, the amazing food, music, cinema and the vivid colours of India.
She needed a perfumer practiced at working with the richest materials to create scents which are sumptuous, yet never overwhelming. Through a friend who owned a niche brand she was introduced to Bertrand Duchaufour whose insights into her project, and his shared loved of India, confounded her initial plan to use a trio of different perfumers for each of the first three scents.
Neela explained her concept: to evoke different eras of India’s history, and its many different facets – through fragrance. And importantly, she shared with Bertrand the smells and aromas which were important to her. Neela’s India included ‘wet earth, the smell of freshly-grilled roti (flatbread) from a roadside seller, henna, vetiver, sandalwood, rose attar and mango. I even made Bertrand smell a few things I had with me – a book from India from the 1950s, a shower gel made with Ayurvedic herbs, and sandalwood sticks.’ The materials chosen for these (shareable) fragrances, though, had to be of the very finest quality with a high percentage of naturals. (Meanwhile one of the most famous bottle designers of all time, meanwhile – Pierre Dinand – designed the stunning bottles for Neela Vermeire Creations.)
Complex and bewitching, Trayee was created to represent ‘the boundless spiritual landscape of the great Vedic period, which started many centuries ago: its intricate rituals and temple ceremonies, Ayurveda, the universe of yoga and the holistic quest for knowledge.’
Importantly, Trayee features a high percentage of the naturals used in many of the Vedic ceremonies (among the many materials which Neela has spent a great deal of time researching). It’s a sublime, transporting fusion of blue ginger, cinnamon, blackcurrant absolute, basil, absolutes of Egyptian and sambac jasmines as well as cardamom, sandalwood, saffron, clove, on a base of Javanese and Haitian vetivers, incense, patchouli, cedar, vanilla, myrhh…
The list goes on – Neela Vemeire fragrances are without exception rich and complex – but when you smell Trayee for yourself, close your eyes and see if you can get a hint, too, of the ‘ganja effect’! (But then nothing Bertrand Duchaufour has ever been involved with could be described as dull…)
Rose-based Mohur, meanwhile, is a combination of opulent Moghul rose and spicy leather, embodying (and dedicated to) ‘the mix of all the best of Moghul and the British Raj: a complex period in history for Indians which saw the flowering of unique gifts of the arts, music and education.’
To conjure up contemporary India, there is Bombay Bling: a joyful, uplifting floral which opens with juicy elements of mango, lychee and blackcurrant, spiced with cardamom and cumin. A vibrant bouquet of white florals, at the heart, parties on with elements of patchouli, tobacco, sandalwood, cedarwood and vanilla – and as Neela explains, it embodies ‘every aspect of the very modern, colourful, ecstatic, liberal, happy side of buzzing India…’ She adds: ‘It had to be explosive like fireworks. When you were a child and you saw fireworks – that feeling, remember?
Winner of the 2014 Art & Olfaction Award is Ashoka, inspired by one of India’s legendary rulers. ‘His own evolution from ruthless conqueror to benevolent emperor is reflected in Ashoka’s journey from the fierce opening to a softly floral heart and the gentle embrace of its richly complex dry-down…’
The stunning floral Pichola references the breathtaking lake which is the focus of the princely city of Udaipur, Pichola showcases the most opulent white flowers alongside spices, with precious woods adding hypnotic depth: timelessly luxurious, effortlessly beautiful – another classic-in-the-making.
And most recently comes Rahele, which conjures up the world of 17th Century French travellers to the East, who were so seduced by its mystique. Notes of green mandarin, cardamom, cinnamon and violet leaf absolute give way to opulent elements of osmanthus, rose and jasmine absolutes, iris, violet and magnolia – and in the base, discover elements of patchouli, leather, cedarwood, sandalwood and oakmoss.
In the true tradition of French perfumery, Neela Vermeire Créations constantly evolve and develop on the skin over many hours. Layers and layers of ingredients, weaving together layers of history, culture and beauty. Just don’t be surprised if these evocative masterpieces have you Googling ‘flights to India’…