Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Twenty Blotters For... Olivier Cresp + A Story About Angel

Although the man himself may need an introduction, his work almost certainly doesn't. Elle (YSL), Dune Pour Homme (Dior), Midnight Poison (Dior), Light Blue (Dolce & Gabbana) and of course Angel (Mugler) owe either a part or the whole of their existence to Olivier Cresp, the Grasse-born perfumer whose work has consistently achieved success for decades. I met him at Penhaligon's recent launch of Peoneve* and decided he was an excellent candidate for the Twenty Blotters treatment. Here are his responses to the questions which he randomly picked from my stash:

In the beginning

If you could go back in time and meet your younger self, what advice would you give him?

A good question. I would say... I don't have any regrets. I would not have changed anything.

At what age did you realise that you would enter the perfume industry?

I grew up in the south of France. I knew at seven, precisely. In my room, I was already making some perfumes. I knew when I was seven years old that I wanted to become a perfumer. And people around me were saying, "Are you mad, or what?"

Can you remember who introduced you to perfumery?

My father.

Who were your role models when you were growing up?

In perfumery, it was Pierre Bourdon. He learnt perfumery with Edmond Roudnitska and he was a kind of mentor for me.

What are some of your most memorable smell-related childhood experiences?

This is easy. In our garden in the south of France, we had two bushes of jasmine. The best smell was a jasmine grandiflorum from Grasse. I liked it a lot. In my childhood, it was the best smell.

Complete the following sentences

One perfume which I particularly admire is... Aromatics Elixir.

Without perfume my life... would not have been the same.

The perfume industry needs to... dare more.

Modern perfumery is... minimalist.

The hardest thing about perfumery... is sometimes clients. Difficult clients.

Which of these do you prefer

A movie or a book?

I would say both.

The past or the future?

The future. No doubt.

London or Paris?


Coca Cola or Dom Perignon?

Dom Perignon.

An early start or a late night?

A late night. No doubt. I never sleep. Only a few hours.

And finally...

Does the term 'niche perfumery' have any meaning?


What's the worst thing the Internet has done for the perfume industry?

I would say, the Internet makes it more complicated. We get too many comments on fragrances, and we are lost.

What would you say to someone who doesn't consider perfumery to be an art?

I would say, "You are living in the past."

What is the best thing the Internet has done for the perfume industry?

Everybody gets all the information, everybody knows about all the launches.

Does perfume have the power to change the world?

Of course, of course. When you wear a perfume, you are dreaming. You feel happier. And then the world is changed.

Blotter Bonus

Do you get fed up with being asked questions about Angel?

I cannot be fed up about Angel. Actually, in two weeks' time, it'll be the twentieth anniversary of the perfume. We're having a big party and a lot of journalists from around the world are invited. I'm proud of Angel and I love to talk about it.

Why do you think it became so successful?

Because it was weird, it was completely different.

But did you know that whilst you were creating it?

That's a good question. Yes, I knew deeply, in my blood, that it would be a success. I knew it could be number 1. At the beginning, it was called Patchou, for patchouli. The first sixty experiments were just a blend of patchouli and vanilla. And then Vera Strubi came to me and she really fell in love with that formula. And together we made maybe 50 experiments, and she wanted something extremely floral. But that didn't work at all. She was very smart and sensitive, and she said to me, "We've got a block. We're in a cul de sac, we can't go on. Are you ready to talk to Thierry Mugler?" And I said, "Why not?"

So he came to me, he stayed for three hours on the sofa, and I was talking to him like a psychiatrist, and he spoke about his childhood when he was living in Alsace, and he explained that he used to dip bread in chocolate, and he talked about a fairground. I didn't know Alsace at all, I'd never been there. I grew up in the south of France, but of course I knew some fairgrounds from Grasse and Cannes. So in fact I tried to mix his childhood with mine. And that worked very well. I used some chocolate, some praline, some cocoa. When I was living in the States, I worked in flavours, so I tried to use that experience, and it worked. It was a very strange combination. On some days, it was overdosed with cocoa, or with chocolate, or with honey and so on. But then after two years, I found the right balance.

*Come back on Friday for my review of Peoneve and keep checking Basenotes for the rest of my interview with Cresp, in which he talks about creating the scent. [The Basenotes interview has now been published; here's a link.]



  1. Awesome! Oliver is a cool cat. I think we're entering the age of superstar perfumers, where in a few years, perfumers will be recognized on sight even in the US, where we barely pay attention to anything.

    Mr. P, did you happen to see my exclusive with Ramon Monegal on my blog? I've gone all geekedy geek over his line.

    1. Carrie, yes, I agree that the public profile of perfumers is continuing to grow, although I'm not sure that's necessarily a good thing.

      No, I hadn't yet seen your exclusive. I'll have to check it out soon :-)

  2. Great interview. Angel and Light Blue couldn't be more different and yet they are both commercial giants while getting respect from (some) perfumistas as well. The man clearly knows his stuff!

    1. BlackNarcissus, thanks for writing. Yes, Cresp certainly seems to have the Midas touch.


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