Ostens’ colourful creativity

Ostens have burst into the olfactory world by offering a unique concept in perfumery: granting perfume-lovers not only the right to at last smell exquisite ingredients in their own right (something only industry insiders had access to), but to buy them off the shelf (previously unheard of!) or try them in eaux de parfum, composed by some of the world’s top perfumers, to perfectly showcase that main ingredient’s charms…

‘I love that it’s you we’re speaking to about how all this started,’ smiles Christopher Yu – Managing Director of United Perfumes, one of the world’s most prestigious fragrance distribution and development companies, and now, co-founder of exciting niche fragrance house, Ostens. ‘You were there, at that LMR event we did with The Perfume Society…’ he continues, referring to an afternoon in which we’d invited VIP Club Members along with renowned journalists to experience the mind-blowing beauty of Laboratoire Monique Rémy – one of the world’s leading producers of natural ingredients for the high-end perfume industry, part of IFF, International Flavors and Fragrance.

Laurent Delafon is the other guiding force behind Ostens – CEO of United Perfumes, long-term colleague and like-minded friend of Chris, together they came to the realisation that something needed to change within the fragrance industry, because consumers deserved something more.

Offering a direct line from supplier and perfumers to people who crave exquisite quality perfume – a unique concept – was the propelling force for Ostens, making heroes of the ingredients and getting people excited about smelling them, in splendid isolation and then used within completely differing interpretations as part of an eau de parfum.

Tapping in to the current hunger for transparency in the beauty industry, Ostens explain, ‘In an age where we all want to understand better about craftmanship and provenance, Ostens gives you access to ingredients previously unavailable to consumers. Our aim: to celebrate and bring access to ingredients which lie at the heart of so many perfumes and to create sensory wonderment, open to all.’

And what wonders there are to explore! Smelling their Rose Oil Isparta / £65 for 9ml perfume oil – the highest concentration available – is like diving head-first into a mountain of freshly plucked petals, the vibrant, fruity scent declared by none other than Dominique Ropion as ‘the highest existing quality of rose oil.’ Used within the Impression Rose Oil Isparta eau de parfum / £145 for 50ml eau de parfum, Ropion has swathed those petals with labdanum, patchouli and Cashmeran, offering a velvety lick of alluring darkness. Fancy ramping up the rose to its fullest possible potential? Simply layer with that Rose Oil – or any of their other oils – to add your own unique signature or change up the character acording to how you feel that day.

What’s more, the oils aren’t meant to only be used with Ostens products. Chris and Laurent are realists, and they know people don’t live like that – how deadly dull it would be if we only ever wore one brand. They actively want to encourage people to experiment using them with perfumes they already own, and to tell them what combinations they’ve found really work. Thrillingly for us perfume lovers, Ostens want an ongoing conversation with the person who buys their wares, asking them what they’d like to see and smell next, what, exactly, is missing from their fragrance life, rather than dictating ‘trends’.

Ostens currently have a pop-up space in London at 62 Blandford Street, W1U 7JD, where they’ll be in residence until 28th February 2019, and we cannot urge you enough to visit while you’re able. There’s a reason fragrance experts and journalists have been buzzing since the launch, with several highly respected people we know, commenting to us that this was their ‘launch of the year’ and ‘the most exciting things we’ve smelled for ages…’

In their space, Ostens showcase one of the Préparation oils (currently Rose Isparta) on a plinth, with colourful synaesthetic backdrops of artwork created by their internal Creative Director, Mark Wilkie*. Stepping inside you are bathed in a coloured light that further represents the interpretation of the fragrance, and it feels like walking into the very heart of the scent itself. Walking through to the back room, you are then able to smell all of the ingredients and Impressions (eaux de parfum), trying them on your skin, layering as you please or simply smelling and delighting in them alone.

The whole experience is joyously like being a kid in a sweet shop once again, and if you’re looking to re-ignite your passion for perfume, or to explore and appreciate the world through your sense of smell, this is most certainly the place you need to be…

Having followed their fragrant journey from the very beginning, I was so delighted to interview Chris and Laurent at length for my Ostens feature in the just-published Stardust issue of The Scented Letter Magazine; so do go and indulge your senses fully by reading all about Ostens’ fragrant universe – most certainly sprinkled with something magical – and then smelling for yourself what all the fuss is about by visiting the boutique?

If you’re a VIP Club Member, you can download the entire issue for free by logging in to your account. Print copies can be purchased here, and we also offer International Subscriptions on electronic versions, for only £20 for a full year.

Written by Suzy Nightingale

*[In The Scented Letter, we mistakenly attributed the Ostens artworks to another artist, Philippa Stanton. In fact Philippa was the artist for a gin company also featured, elsewhere, in the magazine, and the two sections were accidentally mixed up. We do apologise for this editorial mistake – and we swear we hadn’t been at the gin!]

Dominique Ropion receives IFF’s ‘Master Perfumer’ status & shares his scent secrets…

Dominique Ropion has long been thought of as a Master Perfumer, but now can officially add the title to his name having been bestowed that honour by IFF (International Flavors and Fragrances) – incredibly, only the second perfumer to be recognised with this title since 2013! It shows how seriously they take this award, for it’s a title that’s bandied around by many but truly earned by few.

‘At the heart of IFF are the people who consistently go above and beyond to passionately pursue their art and by doing so, revolutionise the industry,’ IFF chairman and CEO, Andreas Fibig enthused. ‘In his 17 years with us, Dominique has consistently achieved this outstanding level of creativity and passion for his art and our customers. We congratulate him on his many achievements – as we look forward to his future successes.’

‘Many achievements’ in fact seems something of an understatement when you see the panoply of perfumes he’s been responsible for – composing or co-creating fragrances for so many brands across the board it begins to look like something of a directory: from Frédéric Malle, Yves Saint Laurent, Christian Dior, Thierry Mugler, Lancôme, Givenchy, Issey Miyake, Paco Rabanne and through to the Body Shop, to name but a few.

Many of these creations have gone on to be global best-sellers, and we’ve certainly had the majority on our dressing tables over the years, so which of these (now official) five masterpieces have you tried so far…?

Absolutely deserving of the moniker ‘modern classic’, a scent that makes you smell instantly put-together and somehow even stand taller. The decadent Turkish rose is rippled through with blackcurrant, raspberry and clove, nestling on a bed of patchouli that sighs into silky sandalwood punctuated by wisps of frankincense. Sublime, a must-sniff!

Frédéric Malle Portrait of a Lady £158 for 50ml eau de parfum
Buy it from fredericmalle.co.uk

Exotically seductive, this huge-hitting ambrée helped define an era with spicy clove dappling the heady jasmine, ylang ylang, Egyptian rose and iris bouquet, and an amber-speckled, Tahitian vanilla base that leaves a trail ensuring you’ll never be forgotten.

Givenchy Ysatis from £26.99 for 30ml eau de toilette
Buy it at theperfumeshop.com

In this recently released third opus for the house, pear, rose (something of a signature for Ropion is his exquisitely refined handling of roses) and an aquatic accord melt seamlessly to a fluffy base of cashmeran, amber and sandalwood. Utterly wearable and quietly perfect for every day.

L’Eau d’Issey Pure Nectar de Parfum £62 for 50ml eau de parfum
Buy it at boots.com

A stunner of a scent, it’s buxomly bold enough for the original Alien (also a Ropion creation with Laurent Bruyere) fans, but with oodles of creamy wooziness amidst the jasmine, heliotrope, myrrh and cashmeran wood. Even refuseniks of the fabulously rambunctious Mugler creations have been converted.

Thierry Mugler Alien Essence Absolue £56 for 30ml eau de parfum
Buy it at mugler.co.uk


Ropion collaborated with fellow IFF perfumers Anne Flipo and Loc Dong for this sheer and salty swoon of ‘your skin but better’ type scent, with juicy, green citrus sashaying its way from a zip of ginger to the unctuously addictive salted vanilla base.

Paco Rabanne Olympéa £44 for 30ml eau de parfum
Buy it at superdrug.com

If you want to explore more of Dominique Ropion’s creations, have a browse through some of our previous interviews with him, and search our huge database of scents to learn more…

But how did a childhood convalescence in the mountains lead to Ropion becoming one of the greatest ever perfumers? Read on to find out if not all his scented secrets, then at least to gain a very good idea as to what makes this Master Perfumer tick.

What is your first memory of fragrance?

Dominique Ropion: ‘When sniffing chalk, my childhood school opens its door again. I smell ink, or paper glue, typical scent memories of French lower class schools, and my school playground appears, the games… My memories are scents. It is with the scents of guimauve (a typical French marshmallow) infused with lemon or orange flower that I took my first steps. They bring me back to the mountains, a landscape where I was reborn when I became conscious of my need to smell. I was 7 years old, was a young city boy exiled in the mountains as I had gotten very sick. I would stare at my bedroom ceiling looking for comfort, and spent the rest of my time inhaling mountain air and fresh field scents. I had been advised to breathe in as much as my lungs could take it, I did so, breathing in scents of heights. That’s how I became accustomed to smelling the world as if my life depended on it.’

 What was your first job in the fragrance industry and how old were you?

‘I owe my education in fragrance to luck, which found me an internship at Roure as I was studying physics at university. I started with a 3 year academic training followed by 3 years of on the job training to become a perfumer. I will always remember my perfume “first time”. As I was a very young perfumer at Roure, one of the ideas I had been working on was selected to be presented amongst other works to the then President of Givenchy, Jean Courtiere. My fragrance was selected, and in 2 weeks, it was finalised. This became Ysatis. I call it beginner’s luck.’

Aside from becoming Master Perfumer at IFF, tell us about another career highlight…

‘Each new creation is a career highlight. I’ve been very lucky that I’ve worked for many prestigious brands, as well as for small and unknown brands or projects. Each time, I find an angle to spike my interest.’

What fragrance did you enjoy creating the most at IFF and why?

‘All of my fragrances are journeys, encounters, adventures. I can’t say there’s one that I enjoyed more than others. Each new creation teaches me something: about myself, about the ingredients I use, about the people I meet when creating. Of course I’m proud about the market successes I contributed to creating, but it’s definitely not my only criteria of “enjoyment”. Some of my creations I did alone, some with colleagues, some lasted years to finalise, some just a few months…’

When you begin designing a fragrance, where do you start? What process do you normally follow?

‘Since I left perfumery school, I’ve been obsessed with finding the perfect balance, like a tightrope walker. For each creation, I look for the perfect balance between each ingredient I carefully select to combine. This tightrope walker number may seem absurd, but I genuinely believe this is how I create, risking a fall with each new ingredient I add to the formula. To combine them, the perfumer has no alternative: he needs to start walking on the rope. It’s a very hands on job: a perfume requires hundreds and hundreds of trials… It’s a precision job.’

Where would you recommend a person begins if they want to become a perfumer?

‘At IFF, we have an internal perfumery school. Training the perfumers of the future is one of the aspects of my job I’m particularly passionate about. Some of the perfumers I have trained have become recognised and highly demanded ones, some are just starting their career. They all have very different personalities, but what characterised them all is of course their passion for scent, their curiosity for all ingredients, and some necessary qualities: resilience (bordering obstinacy), patience and a sense of details (borderline obsessive). It also requires very good listening skills, necessary to understand what brands desire, as we perfumers don’t create for our own sake, like artists would: we create in the world of brands, and all our creations are an encounter with the brands developers.’

What are the next big trends in fragrance in your opinion? 

‘The next big trend really depends on the next big success… I can never explain the success of a perfume, I can only witness it. Each step of the way, I always feel like I’ve achieved a perfect balance, but I can never guess the public’s reaction. The success of a fragrance is always unpredictable. My next fragrance may set a big trend… or may not! Of course I’m always happy when it does, but I can only humbly say that there’s a perfumery magic I cannot explain.’

 Original interview supplied by IFF, written by Suzy Nightingale

Words with the master: Dominique Ropion talks perfume creation

Many of us who love fragrance and are trying to ‘join up the dots’, making connections between scents we’ve fallen for and are intrigued by have encountered the work of Dominique Ropion. His career spans 36 years, highlights of which include Givenchy Amarige, Cacharel Amor Amor, Lancôme La Vie Est Belle. His name has featured on the label of several Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle including Portrait of a Lady (and he’s the genius behind Frederic Malle’s latest launch, Superstitious, which you can read about here.)
We’re always fascinated to find out more about the extraordinary creative process behind what goes into the bottle. (And on the subject of bottles, Carolina Herrera Privée is one of the season’s glamorous stand-outs: clad in sassy red leather, bedecked with a bow and gold charms a-dangle.)
Here, then, we feature an interview with Dominique Ropion – and some additional Q+As with Carolina Herrera de Baez, who’s the driving force behind the Carolina Herrera fragrance line and who worked closely with Ropion on a juice inspired by her mother’s flowing couture designs. Here, he opens up about flowers and leather, conceptualisation – and his collaboration with Carolina Herrera.
Can you talk a little bit about how Carolina Herrera inspired you to make this scent?
The fact that at the time the brand was making some incredibly luxurious and sensuous dresses brought the initial inspiration for the perfume. The ingredients that you chose, where do they come from? Why did you choose them? D.R. The osmanthus came from China. This flower has a sophisticated scent displayed in different facets. First, there’s a smell of leather, and then it shows fruity and floral notes. The vanilla from Madagascar is interesting too, there’s a relevant leatherface in the raw material.
What sensations were you looking to transmit when you came up with this fragrance?
I believe in combining opposites to unveil new equilibriums and surprising formulas. Starting from the duality between luxury and sensuality, I wanted to build a powerfully feminine fragrance able to showcase the extraordinary quality of all the ingredients in its composition.
In what ways do you think these ingredients symbolise the CH Privée moments?
The way the fragrance is composed encompasses the spirit of CH Privée. Although the perfume remains abstract, you can feel the luxurious ingredients and the qualitative raw materials that leave a rather sensual signature.
Do you have a close relationship with the creative team at Carolina Herrera?
We work closely with the team at Carolina Herrera, and we’ve managed to build a relationship full of synergies. They embrace and communicate the spirit of House of Herrera like nobody else, which greatly facilitates my work. Besides, Carolina Herrera de Baez is the personification of the brand; it’s been an honor to collaborate with her as Creative Director of Carolina Herrera Fragrances.
And the process of creation from the beginning, how does that work?
Collaborations in perfumery are similar to partnerships in architecture. We all work on the same blueprint, but respectively with our own vision. First, we agree on what we’re looking for. From there, we develop a series of directions and share them with Carolina Herrera de Baez asking for feedback on her preferences, notes, and intensities. Then, we focus on refining the fragrance, exploring different directions, various facets for the perfume.
How do you think the scent works with femininity, containing a leather note that’s slightly stronger than other elements usually used in women’s fragrances?
This perfume is sensual and delicate. Sensuality is not the first thing you perceive, but the floral trail announces something unique.
Can you talk to us a little bit about the red leather concept? What does red leather mean to you?
The meaning of red leather to me is abstract. When I start building something, I don’t know what the final result will be. Starting off with raw materials that go in the same direction, even if they come from different olfactive families, in the end, we arrive at a new perfume that surprises and enchants us.
Have you always been able to experiment in the same way to create a perfume?
With CH Privée, I discovered this way of working for the first time. Blending, mixing, putting together all these different elements. From the initial idea, we could have gone in an entirely different direction; perfumery is a world of infinite possibilities.
Can you describe the fragrance using three adjectives?
Elegance, sensuality, and femininity. Elegance comes from the sophisticated structure of the fragrance, leather and musk bring the sensuality, and the final result, CH Privée, is the epitome of femininity.
CH Privée is constructed around the moments when a woman is in private. What do you think makes those moments special?
Carolina Herrera de Baez: There’s nothing more sensual and feminine than a little privacy, the moments a woman spends with herself, with her thoughts, before going out into the world, capture the intimacy that represents the whole idea behind CH Privée. Mystery and sensuality are profoundly linked.
Dominique Ropion: Mystery and sensuality are intrinsically united, and femininity adheres perfectly. All of these attributes are consistently revealed in perfumery.

CHdB: What do you associate with CH Privée and the concept of femininity?
Some mystery and intimacy.
CHdB. Oh! Intimacy! I like that. There’s something particularly appealing about CH Privée and the way it conveys femininity. This perfume is based on a leather scent, which is often used in men’s fragrances.
CHdB. When you think of femininity and sensuality, leather is not the first thing that comes to mind. Leather is an ingredient intrinsically associated with men’s fragrances, and we’ve decided to use it at the core of this extremely feminine, sensual perfume. (To Dominique) How did you work the leathery notes to make CH Privée so feminine?
D.R. I started with the selection of the most refined ingredients for its formula and then pushed forward their leather accords, which in some cases are quite hidden. Osmanthus is a main character with a flower that has a fruity note of apricot, and a floral accord close to a violet. Fruit and flower opposite a strong leathery facet at the heart of its scent; the core note we wanted to build around.
CHdB. It’s such a feminine ingredient. It reflects and reveals a woman’s sensuality and graceful kindness, the attributes that make her feminine and mysterious. You can tell there’s more to her than meets the eye.
D.R. You’re right in saying that leather is connected to a masculine identity but in any feminine universe, there is a masculine component too. It’s fascinating to combine both of them.
CHdB. Powerful women are stronger when they’re most feminine. Some people think a powerful woman has to wear a suit and dress like a man, but I think the opposite is true.
D.R. I absolutely agree. The color red is key in the Carolina Herrera universe. What does it mean in this particular fragrance?

CHdB. Red is a color that we often use and genuinely love at House of Herrera. It’s associated with passion and power, and also with femininity and sensuality. (To Dominique) How did you interpret that?
D.R. Red is mainly gathered on the spicy notes which are part of the formula. At the head of the perfume, there’s pink pepper oil: spicy, fresh, and topping. This adamant note is deeply rooted into the red leather effect and brings life to the fragrance. Red is life itself.
CHdB. Life and fire. It’s quite difficult to translate something so evo- cative, and so mysterious into a smell; a concept like sensuality, the color red, a fragrance like CH Privée. In this case, everything fits flawlessly, and it’s because of the ingredients.
D.R. CH Privée has been constructed classically, but the association of raw materials we have selected makes it different and completely unexpected, mainly because the perfume is envisioned around this leathery concept. The osmanthus flower’s role is vital, and there, we’re onto something new.
CHdB. The interestingly challenging and fun part is right there; working with a classic construction to create something thoroughly innovative.
D.R. Exactly. CH Privée is a fragrance with an identity. A good per- fume is a perfume that can be recognized immediately; a scent that has a strong personality. That’s what we’ve done with CH Privée.
CHdB. An unexpected classic fragrance that perfectly represents the Carolina Herrera woman. She’s classic and at the same time, utterly surprising.
How do you explain the fact that even though we live in world deeply reliant on online interactions, perfume remains relevant?
CHdB. Perfume will never be irrelevant because of its very nature. It’s based on sensorial memory, and once we lose that, once we lose the ability to dream and make memories, we’re done as human beings. The beauty of perfume and its mystery will go on forever.
D.R. I couldn’t agree more, and I would add that the reminiscences of a fragrance remain deep inside us.
Is there a correct way to wear CH Privée? Should one wear more or less?
CHdB. The right way to wear perfume is the way a woman wants to wear it…
By Jo Fairley (but mostly by Dominique Ropion and Carolina Herrera de Baez)
Caroline Herrera Privée £78 for 80ml eau de parfum
Exclusively at Harrods


Are you 'Messy Sexy Just Rolled Out of Bed'? Read the Marilyn-inspired poem & revel in the scent…

A mysterious perfume house run by a reclusive man, a fragrance inspired by Marilyn Monroe‘s minx-ishly tousled photo shoot alluringly wrapped in sheets and immortalized by Douglas Kirkland in 1961, composed by one of this century’s greatest perfumers – Dominique Ropion. The elements of intrigue are all there, and this latest launch by A Lab On Fire doesn’t disappoint. With a cheekily suggestive name like Messy Sexy Just Rolled Out of Bed, well, how could we resist a sniff…?
A Lab On Fire is a niche brand that delights in being shrouded in mystery, asking some of the most brilliant noses in the world to create the fragrances they have always dreamed of making, letting their imaginations and talents run wild. Founded by a chap called Carlos Kusubayashi, we are told he was born in São Paulo, Brazil, grew up in Japan, and now lives in Texas; that he’s variously worked in a car factory, as an apprentice to a ‘Master Kyoji’ in calligraphy, and contributed toward bringing Asian art to the Parisian art scene. But quite why he turned to perfume remains quite the mystery.
Clearly exploring his own creativity, though, he released an accompanying poem to evoke the spirit of Sexy Messy Just Rolled Out of Bed. How fitting to read it on National Poetry Day

Simple, clean sunlight. Warmth from the sheets wrapped between my legs. Warmth from you lingers on my skin. I just rolled out of bed. The rest of the day, the night—what we can do together—depends on how the sun warms my body, how close I allow you to get, how we touch.


Kusubayashi adds ‘The pictures of Marilyn are the quintessence of being sexy, a way of entering into the intimacy of the great diva full of hopeful innocence. There is something magically vulnerable in these photos, the light, the atmosphere… And this is the initial inspiration which I asked the nose Dominique Ropion to capture in a bottle’.
And so how does this ‘morning after the night before’ scent unfold on the skin? The opening is a slowly unfurling blossom, an indulgently joyous yawn into the warm skin-like softness of rose petals and peach fuzz underpinned by smooth woods, milky musks and something suggesting the reason those sheets are rumpled…
It’s the olfactory embodiment of ‘I woke up like this’ déshabillé diva that looks effortless in a photo shoot, but in our experience is somewhat harder to attain! At least now we can keep this by the bed to spritz on some instant glamour…
Messy Sexy Just Rolled Out of Bed £90 for 60ml eau de parfum
Buy it at Avery Perfume Gallery
Written by Suzy Nightingale