Monday, 28 September 2015

Making Wasabi - An Interview With Céline Verleure Of Olfactive Studio

Regular readers will be aware that Olfactive Studio's Panorama is without question one of my favourite perfume releases of the year so far. With its juxtaposition of a laser-charged, green wasabi note and a contemplative myrrh drydown, it has enthralled me from the moment I first encountered it. Eager to find out more about its creation, I contacted the brand's founder, Céline Verleure, with a few questions, which, I'm pleased to say, she agreed to answer via email. I started by asking her what came first with Panorama: the idea for a 'wild urban' scent or the Miguel Sandinha photograph which accompanies the perfume (see below).

Céline Verleure: The idea of the photo with a jungle came first. Then I found a photo in the right place, but could not get the rights to it. We decided to fly to Los Angeles for 2 days with a French photographer to shoot this picture and decided to focus more on the view than on the house, and we named it Panorama. The wasabi wild scent idea came in parallel with the jungle picture.

Persolaise: Unless I'm mistaken, this is your first perfume made by IFF. What prompted your decision to move away from Robertet and Firmenich this time? Was it because you specifically wanted to work with Clément Gavarry or because there was something appealing about IFF's style or materials?

CV: You are right. I decided to work with IFF because I had had the idea of the wasabi accord together with a friend working at IFF in NYC and she introduced me to Clément Gavarry.

P: Do tell me more about the wasabi accord. How did that come into being? Had Gavarry already developed it for himself? What materials are used to create it?

CV: I had the idea while having sushi in a fancy restaurant in New York. Weirdly, they put a lot of wasabi below a caramelized eel sushi (surely a mistake) but I loved the mix between sweet and hot & spicy. It is the same trick in an After Eight (more glamourous than sushi!): dark chocolate enveloping hot mint. IFF had already worked on this accord but Clément Gavarry really worked on it again with galbanum, cardamom, fresh cut grass, fig leaf, bamboo leaf and violet leaf, bergamot and lemon.

P: How do you think Panorama fits into Olfactive Studio's current portfolio?

CV: It's another opus of the woods and spicy, unisex collection, with a new green facet. Almost no flower again.

P: In more general terms, in what position does Olfactive Studio find itself now? You've released 7 perfumes. Is it time to slow down or speed up? Are you getting a stronger sense of what your customers expect from you? If so, are we likely to see any of your perfumes being discontinued?

CV: I am lucky enough to have 7 successes in the brand so far, Still Life being the best seller in Germany and the USA, Autoportrait and Lumière Blanche in France & Italy, Chambre Noire in the Middle East and Ombre Indigo in Russia. I don’t plan to discontinue any of them of course. For 2015 and 2016, I am planning 2 launches a year instead of 1, as it has been until now: one for spring and one for autumn*. The brand is doing very well in 31 countries now, especially in the USA (we just launched in almost all Barneys!), in Germany, Russia and the Middle East.

P: Who is the typical Olfactive Studio customer?

CV: I don’t know and I don’t really want to know as I do not believe in marketing targets for fragrances! But I am happy to meet customers when I am doing in-store events. I was in Geneva and Thonon last week and met women and men of my age or younger, really interested in perfumes, who loved more than one fragrance in my collection.

P: Could you share your views on Estée Lauder buying Frederic Malle and Le Labo? Is this development positive or negative for the perfume industry?

CV: I really don’t know what to think about it. I hope that Estée Lauder invested in these companies having in mind to keep their personality, originality and quality in their fragrances. If they do, it will be interesting for these brands and the perfume industry in general to have better exposure and investments on qualitative brands.

P: Do you think the market can continue to sustain the current number of new releases?

CV: No, I don’t think so. At Esxence in Milan this year, the distributors from many countries said that they were overwhelmed with new brands harassing them, and that they could not work with them as the point of sales were now reluctant to welcome new brands. Only the best concepts and fragrances will survive.

P: Finally, apart from Olfactive Studio, which brands are doing exciting things in perfumery at the moment?

CV: I like the new fragrances from Aedes de Venustas and the new brand, Atelier Des Ors, among others.


* The next launch from Olfactive Studio brand will be Selfie, composed by Thomas Fontaine.

image: Miguel Sandinha

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