Pick a blotter... read the question... give a short, snappy answer!
I mean this as a compliment: Rodrigo Flores-Roux loves to talk. The Givaudan perfumer is a bundle of anecdotes, insights and witticisms, all of which he appears to be more than happy to share with anyone who shares his passion for perfumery. So when I had a chance to inflict my Twenty Blotters upon him in March at the London launch of the John Varvatos fragrances, I didn't have to work very hard to get him to open up. He read the first question, and he was off...
In The Beginning
At what age did you realise that you would enter the perfume industry?
I'm going to be very revealing: I just turned 45, seven days ago. I knew I wanted to make perfumes at the age of 13. I call it a vocation. Perfume-making per se doesn't run in the family. But olfaction does. My mother's father was Provençal, so maybe the lavender element works in there somewhere. Everybody in my family is very opinionated about what they're wearing, what they like, what they don't like. Everybody's a good cook, except for me. But I mix a mean martini! My mother was a biologist, so I studied biology. When I started university at the age of 19, I knew perfume was my destiny. I went to ISIPCA in '89.
If you could go back in time and meet your younger self, what advice would you give him?
This is a tough one. This might be advice for me for right now as well: to try to sometimes have a little bit of a colder head. I can have a very high temper. And I think that in perfumery, your biggest weapon, your biggest asset, is patience. I am a very patient person, but I don't have patience for a lot of things. I am a very passionate person, so I can get upset very easily. But at the same time, I can get joyous easily.
Who were your role models when you were growing up?
My mother in particular. My father too. My parents are educators; both of them are scientists. I have an uncle Carlos, who is a painter, and he was not only a role model, but also a mentor in working with the eye. And my cousin Laura, who is a PhD in Art, not in Art History, and this is very rare; she specialises in the history and development of photography techniques. And she was the person who taught me how to walk and how to draw. And I draw kind of ok, so I would say that Laura is also somebody important.
What would you do to improve the way young children are educated about smell?
This is interesting. I think it has to do with food. My brother, my sister and I were actually allowed not to like things. But we were encouraged to try to discover them. For example, when I was a kid in Mexico, I did not like avocado. I think that understanding the process of liking something opens your mind. And in order to have somebody who is olfactive, it is easier to start with food.
What was the first perfume you ever bought for yourself?
There were two. It was Christmas, so my grandfather gave us money, and I couldn't decide between the two of them, so I bought both. One of them is incredibly well known. The other one is so disappeared, that people think I've made it up. The well-known one is Eau Sauvage by Dior. The unknown one is Eau Libre by Yves Saint Laurent. Not even the people who work at Yves Saint Laurent remember it. This was in 1980. In the 70s, every single house had an Eau Fraiche, Eau De Something, so this was Yves Saint Laurent's. And I know who made it. I've tried to find the formula. It was made by Creations Aromatique, which is now part of Symrise.
Complete The Following Sentences
The perfume industry needs to... stop and smell the roses.
Modern perfumery is... too much caramel.
The hardest thing about perfumery... is to take your time.
One of my favourite smells in the world is... warm tortillas. I'm Mexican!
One perfume which I particularly admire is... Diorissimo, before its re-orchestration.
Which Of These Do You Prefer?
The past or the future?
The past. I am a historian at heart. But I love the future, of course.
London or Paris?
Mozart or Madonna?
Mozart, for goodness' sake! I hate Madonna.
An early start or a late night?
A late night, for sure.
A movie or a book?
I'm sorry: both.
Are IFRA and regulations harming perfumery?
Does perfume have the power to change the world?
Does the term 'niche perfumery' have any meaning?
Yes, I think so. It does mean something to people.
What's the best thing the Internet has done for the perfume industry?
It has created a tsunami of perfume lovers. They came out of the closet.
What's the next big perfume trend going to be?
Real perfumes, no desserts and stuff like that. Perfumes that are perfumes.
Coming in the next few weeks: Rodrigo Flores-Roux's thoughts on co-creating the Arquiste range and re-making Fougère Royale