Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Dora Arnaud On Working With Amouage's Christopher Chong

When I met Dora Arnaud at the London launch of L'Artisan Parfumeur's Caligna, I took the opportunity to ask about two other creations which brought her to the attention of the scented blogosphere last year. The first of these was Still Life, her contribution to the Olfactive Studio project, in which photography and social media came together in the creative process. Did she enjoy the experience?

"It was a very interesting idea to work with photographs and Facebook. We were quite free, but we had to be inspired by the photography. Mine was expressing parties, the fiesta. So I had this idea of a cocktail of three different peppers, with yuzu. Celine [Verleure] really loved the idea of working on a cocktail that is not only refreshing but had something behind it, with the woody, black tea notes."

Together with Pierre Negrin, Arnaud was also behind Opus VI, Amouage's much-loved 2012 addition to the Library Collection. How did she approach its construction?

"The brief was based around a movie, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, and around memories. I watched it. I'd never seen it before. It was very strange, but quite inspiring. And so the idea was for Opus VI to work on a new amber, through the periploca, the Chinese flower which has the smell of amber. For a flower, that's quite amazing. And the idea was: "Amber is the eternal, universal smell. If you switch off your memory, as a perfumer, of what amber means, how do you reinvent it?" So I reinvented it using this flower. And after that, we built it with a lot of smoky agar wood, and it was a balance between smoky, woody notes and ambery notes."

What was it like to work with Creative Director Christopher Chong?

"It was great fun! He's a character, and I love that. It was an amazing meeting. And it was human, a direct exchange. We were quite free, but he has a very clear idea of what he doesn't like. You know when he likes something or not!"



  1. Dear Persolaise

    Must say I do like the notion of a perfume brief based around a film... though I can't find much of that movie in the final fragrance!

    Apart from my own potential lack of perception, this raises all sorts of questions...

    Was this the whole brief?
    Is it a typical example of a brief?
    Do all houses accord the perfumeur such apparent freedom?

    I have my own thoughts, but maybe they are just preconceptions...

    Yours ever
    The Perfumed Dandy

    1. Dandy, thanks very much for writing.

      Your comment raised a question which often pops into my head: should we (ie critics and potential customers) be made aware of a perfume's brief? Sometimes, I think revealing the brief is counter-productive to an appreciation of the scent. Yes, I totally agree with you that when you smell Opus VI, you don't suddenly think, 'Gosh, this reminds me of Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind'. But then, I'm pretty certain Chong didn't want Amouage's customers to be reminded of the movie, per se. He simply offered the perfumers the movie as an inspirational spring board.

      As it happens, I think Dora Arnaud's interpretation of the brief is genius. The movie is about memories being erased... so she decided to 'erase' her own memory of how to make a basic amber. Utter brilliance, if you ask me.

      To answer your specific questions, I don't think there's any such thing as a typical brief. Some are short and vague; others are lengthy and ridiculously detailed, going right down to the level of socio-economic markers (ie "the woman who buys this perfume shops at Monsoon, drives a Vauxhall Corsa and spends her summer holidays in Portugal").

      Levels of freedom vary too. Some creative directors are extremely prescriptive. Others basically say, 'Do what you want to do, and I'll tell you when I don't like it.'

      I hope this helps :-)


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