London-based Anastasia Brozler works for many private and corporate clients and refers to herself as a Perfume Curator: she works on formulas, but then often in close collaboration with perfumers such as François Robert.
Perfume houses Anastasia has worked with include Union and Illuminum, while private clients include everyone from ballerinas to politicians.
She also runs a perfume school for individuals and for children, out of her St. James’s offices, next to Green Park. Visit www.scentlondon.co.uk for more info.
What is your first ‘scent memory’?
Egypt provided this starting from the age of eight followed by many years of life in Cairo with visits to the souk and to the desert, with exotic market places that brought a palette of new, enticing and exotic smells that became part of my experience. Some were terrifying! But I still needed reassurance from out old and familiar scents, from suitcases to toys from our previous home in England! Dettol accompanied me on many life journeys – its distinct antiseptic smell forming a safety bridge between my old and new worlds. That Dettol smell remains my friend, a queue for safety and security – I treasure it!
When did you decide you wanted to be a perfumer?
Never. Through friends and family, perfumers have surrounded me all my life. It never occurred to me to sit in a lab and formulate perfumes myself. It was through the encounter with the psychologist Jellinek who inspired me to write my PHD on ‘Tthe influence of smell on human behavior’, and my meeting with Roger Firmenich in Geneva (after leaving university) that made all the difference. That was the point of being inspired to enter the fragrance industry, which eventually led me to the bespoke fragrance world almost 20 years ago.
I work closely and directly with noses. So as a Fragrance Curator, to create bespoke fragrances for discerning clients on a daily basis was the next step. The critical role of translating the clients’ fragrance vision through collages and mood boards was another important stage.
Then I set about procuring an expanded fragrance oil library to include forgotten raw materials or precious crops in limited supply. And finally, assisting and completing formulations on behalf of clients brought a new understanding of the wonderful process that noses follow. Having this one to one training with such great masters was an extraordinary privilege that went on for almost two decades. Today I remain humbled by their expertise in formulating and wealth of knowledge of raw materials that have long been forgotten in the modern world of perfumery.
A few of the perfumers I have worked with have now retired; one has left me his library of beautifully crafted laboratory bottles that still carry the names of great oils such as ambergris, musk, Persian rose or oak moss from Yugoslavia.
In their spirit, I like to call myself a ‘Perfume Curator’, as this seems to be my best gift – to intuit the client’s aspirations and translate these in raw materials and accords, then design the initial formula. The technicians then ensure my formulae adhere to all the everchanging regulations within the industry.
What are your five favourite smells in the world?
• The scent of my children, the beautiful scent.
• The smell of my garden during a brisk, early spring walk is also top of the range among my personal catalogue of evocative smells.
• Dangerous smells, addictive ones, such as the smell of glue, of petrol, or the smell of a freshly-lit match are alluring too. Working with perfumers I have spent years trying to capture this, and of course, we have succeeded! For instance, I sent perfumer Norbert Bijaoui a miniature reconstruction of a car engine so he could smell this with me, over and over again to capture the scent of an old car!
Do you have ‘signature’ ingredients that you like to include in fragrances?
No, each brief takes me on a new journey of exploration. The nature of my work allows this, as we are not driven by commercial success and the accompanying statistics. It is often worrying how the industry has developed and perfumers have often more than 20 fragrances to work on simultaneously in order to win a large brief. I admire this, but fear I might fail miserably.
What’s the worst thing you ever smelt. (Honestly!)
What is the fragrance you wish you’d created?
Guerlain Mitsouko and Caron Tabac Blond!. Perhaps their creators were my inspiration, as they reflected the innovation and history of their times. For instance Jacques Guerlain was inspired by the arts and Art Nouveau, and created Mitsouko in 1919. Mitsu means ‘mystery’ and is an interpretation of a lasting, dramatic love set in Japan and a great chypre. Tabac Blond was daring, reflecting newly acquired women’s liberation as women began to smoke in public.
If you could have created a fragrance for a historical figure, who would it be?
If I lived in those days? Catherine the Great, Eleanore of Acquitaine, all powerful women. Then composers like Debussy and Ravel with their exotically influenced music. Debussy’s Iberia and Ravel’s Bolero offer wonderful opportunities for olfactory creations. If I should recreate one today using all the raw materials and technology available to me? It would be Shakespeare.
What’s the first fragrance you bought. And the first bought for you…?
Egyptian Jasmine contained in a small hand blown glass bottle from the souk was my first purchase at the age of seven. My first gift of scent is forgotten. Generally I sneaked bottles of scent out of my mother’s bathroom and collected them obsessively. At 18 I was treated to an enormous collection of Van Cleef & Arpels First, which made me feel really ready to take the world on board!
How long, roughly, does it take you to create a fragrance?
Impossible to estimate. A day, a few months, a year, I am still trying to capture one formulation ‘idea’ onto paper after 10 years! And after capturing glue, machines, mud and almost any floral, to manifest the ‘rose’ that I have in my memory is still a great frustration, despite the fact I have worked with over 150-200 rose formulations! For me, it is my mission, a nemesis, a perfection that still eludes me.
Is creating a fragrance ‘visual’ for you, as well as something that happens in the nose/brain?
Creating a scent employs ALL of the senses. The process is visual, acoustic , tactile and intuitive. Sometimes I think of a story board with a beginning and an end. Sometimes I think in colour only, red, blue, purple. Sometimes in words or music – Beethoven and Bach as opposed to Strauss or Tchaikovsky.
What can each of us do to enhance our appreciation of fragrance?
Bring scent to one’s awareness from the unconscious and subliminal to the conscious! We all respond to scent first from our emotions and quickly (too quickly sometimes) we move it to our rational thought. We should hold this fleeting, subliminal scent message and catalogue in our minds the role that scent has played in our attraction (or repulsion) to the scent in question. From there we can start understanding all fragrances/scents a little more, especially for their emotional value and enjoy them all over again!
SCENT/london offers marvelous educational courses with a team of exceptional professional perfumers to offer participants a detailed approach learn more about the Art of Perfume making. This introductory course (of a series) opens vast doors and participants leave inspired and with new views and appreciation of fragrance, and an understanding of their own relationship to that hidden world of scents that impacts on their unconscious minds and emotions. Thus their personal experience of the world is enhanced and enlarged.
Do we live in an ‘over-fragranced’ world – scented candles, room fresheners, fabric conditioners… What do you think this does to us, and our senses?
The world has always been scented, if not with room fresheners and fabric conditioners, then with the smell of human sweat, sewage and horse dung. I do not believe we are ‘over-fragranced’ – but believe that the type of fragrance has changed in the past 100 years. Before we were hit with true messages, for instance the smell of a ‘dying flower’ or the smell of clothes that require a “wash”, a house smelled of something because it was genuinely found in the house. Nowadays, we create an illusion of smells, which puts our minds into moods that are deceived. This is highly confusing – a shirt smells clean, whilst it is not, a city flat smells of freshly cut grass and a car with a synthetic interior smells of leather. You never know, one day, a dead flower may still smell of a live flower in a florist shop!