Roberta Ion

Roberta’s interest for scent was born in the olfactory tableau of an old Romanian city by the Danube, shadowed by blossoming linden and black locust trees. The passion was cultivated however in London, where she studied Cosmetic Science and created scents for futuristic fashion accessories and live musical performances. Inspired by the connection between scent and art, she focused her master research on the cross-modality between fragrance and music. She started work in the technical side of the industry, focusing on IFRA compliance and global regulations. Nowadays, Roberta found her calling in being a bespoke perfumer in Floris London, as well as returning to London College of Fashion to teach perfumery to the same course she graduated from.

 

 

PERFUME SOCIETY:  PERFUMER Q & A

 

What is your first ‘scent memory’?

My great-grandmother’s room, as a child. She used to have mint candies in a wooden cupboard, as well as this geranium plant by the windowsill. The highlight of my visit was always the geranium leaf that I would play with and the sweet rosy scent on my hands.

 

When did you decide you wanted to be a perfumer/create your own perfume?

In my teenage years, I was always oscillating between arts and science, writing poems in-between the Maths classes. One evening, I had a very vivid olfactory dream where I could smell the scent of one of those poems I wrote. This is when I first thought of scent being as ephemeral and ethereal as the fleeting emotion of words written on a paper. Chemistry was my favourite subject in school, so a career based on it seemed promising, however that was the moment I knew that perfumery is what I needed to do.

 

What are your five favourite smells in the world? 

Iris germanica blooming in the warm summer in my hometown, green linden blossom on rainy days, hyacinths on Mother’s Day, dusty piles of autumn leaves, and wooden churches in a crisp, cold, snowy day.

 

What’s the worst thing you ever smelled.  (Honestly!)

I cannot think of one. When a smell is quite bad, I tend to go in analytical mode and find the shinning spots of beauty within.

 

What is the fragrance you wish you’d created?

Edwardian Bouquet by Floris. I rediscover this fragrance every day. The beautiful balance between green hyacinth, the floral heart and mossy base notes is what impresses me on paper. Once I spray it on, it is pure comfort to me.

 

 Do you feel (like us) that this is one of the most exciting times in fragrance history, because of the creativity being expressed by perfumers?  Why do you think that is?

Creativity is definitely blooming right now! It feels like the fragrance industry has opened its boarders to talent from across the world, people with diverse backgrounds, experiences, heritage, and olfactory journey, each with their unique input creating the beautiful mosaic that is perfume today. The consumers are also becoming more educated and interested in fragrance, pushing perfumers to perform to their absolute bests.

 

If you could have created a fragrance for a historical figure, who would it be?

Edvard Munch, for sure. Not only is expressionism my favourite artistic current, but his quote “I do not paint what I see, but what I saw” resonates with my creative process. I would love to have created a scent to go along with The Vampire, or why not, The Scream.

 

What’s the first fragrance you bought.  And the first bought for you…?

As a teenager, I was obsessed with Lady Gaga’s Fame fragrance, ever since the launch, so my parents had to travel for a few hours to a nearby city to surprise me with it on Christmas morning. Then, fresh out of school, I was saving to buy the classic Opium by YSL, but I was again surprised by my partner gifting it to me.

 

Do you have a favourite bottle design, from those that have been used for your fragrance creations?

The classic Floris bottle is my favourite bottle design. There is something elegant and understated about the shape, which makes sense for classic British perfumery.

 

How many perfumes might you be working on, at one time?

It is always different for me, due to the nature of my daily work. Bespoke perfumery is so intimate, that when I create for the person in front of me, they alone are my only focus. Of course, after the fragrance is complete and the curtains close, I would still have a couple of other projects on the roll. Sometimes, if I had a particularly inspiring day, I would arrive home in the evening and blend scents with no scope or brief, just to let the creativity out.

 

Does your nose ever ‘switch off’?

It does, sometimes when I am being overstimulated. This is how I know that I need a walk outside. Just ten minutes surrounded by nature is enough for me to start with a fresh nose.

 

How long, roughly, does it take you to create a fragrance?

Every fragrance is unique. Sometimes, the second or third trial might be the winning one. Other times, I would go through tens of iterations over several months before even getting close to the brief.

 

Is creating a fragrance ‘visual’ for you, as well as something that happens in the nose/brain?  If so, in what way…?  Is a mood-board helpful?

Sometimes it is visual, and I would start with creating a mood-board to better coagulate an idea. Other times it feels just like composing a song, where I need to harmonise the components of the scent spatially and in time. Most of the times, however, all my senses are involved, creating an image, a soundscape, a texture in my brain for me to translate using scents.

 

What can each of us do to enhance our appreciation of fragrance?

I think attentive and purposeful smelling works best. So does opening your mind and heart to fragrance. It is such an instinctive sense that sometimes the best you can do is emotionally feel the fragrance first.

 

What is your best tip for improving a person’s sense of smell?

Like in so many other fields, practice is what helps improve. Stop and smell that beautiful flower on your way home. Do it every day, every year when it blooms again. To me, it is not the nose that we train, but the mind. We constantly teach our rational brain to recognise the stimuli around us, and practicing helps the information imprint.

 

If you had one fragrance note that you love above all others, what would that be?

Green notes are my favourite! Right now, I am obsessed with galbanum and harmonising it with other resins such as frankincense or myrrh.

                                                                       

 

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