Pick a blotter... read the question... give a short, snappy answer!
Céline Verleure's perfumery experience is far too vast to be reduced to a brief, introductory paragraph. But here's a super-succinct summary. She was hired by Kenzo Perfumes in her 20s. She was part of the team which gave us Kenzo Jungle, Kenzo Jungle Pour Homme and L'Eau Par Kenzo. She launched Osmoz.com. And most recently, she set up the facetiously-named 'Blog For The Perfume Which Does Not (Yet) Exist!', a venture which resulted in the creation of her very own fragrance brand, Olfactive Studio, whose works are inspired by photographs. When she popped into London a few weeks ago to launch her new home scents, I was fortunate enough to have an opportunity to fling my twenty blotters in her direction...
In the beginning
What are some of your most memorable smell-related childhood experiences?
A storm on an island. I was under a fig tree. And a fig tree during a summer storm smells amazing. I was nine years old. I've never forgotten it. And I still like fig. I've never used it in my perfumes, but doing something original with fig is hard.
Who were your role models when you were growing up?
Charlotte Perriand; she's an architect and designer. She was one of the most modern women at the beginning of the 20th century. She worked with Corbusier.
Can you remember who introduced you to perfume?
Yes. I was twenty-five years old and leaving L'Oréal, which was not my cup of tea. And I joined Kenzo Perfumes. At that time, the Director was Pierre Broc. He had been in the industry for forty years; he had created Molyneux and many other brands. I was not trained in perfume at all, only in marketing. But in five years, I created five fragrances with him.
What was the first perfume you ever bought for yourself?
It was Coco. I was fifteen years old and I bought it because I wanted to say that I was grown up.
What would you do to improve the way young children are educated about smell?
Start very early.
Complete the following sentences
Modern perfumery is... trying to reinvent, using new ingredients, but without forgetting what was in the past.
One of my favourite smells in the world is... cardamom.
The worst thing about perfumery is... the way mainstream brands work, with market tests and too many market constraints.
When I walk into the perfume section of a department store, I feel... stressed.
One perfume which I particularly admire is... Fille En Aiguilles by Serge Lutens.
Which of these do you prefer?
London or Paris?
What a question! Paris!
Main course or dessert?
The past or the future?
The future. I'm always in the future.
Coca-Cola or Dom Perignon?
Of course, Dom Perignon.
An early start or a late night?
An early start.
What's the worst thing the Internet has done for the perfume industry?
What's the best thing the Internet has done for the perfume industry?
Giving information, teaching people, educating.
Are IFRA and regulations harming perfumery?
Yes, of course, and it's a pity. For example, there is a fear that tonka bean will be restricted, so I would have to remake Lumière Blanche. And it's only because of a few people in the world [who might have an allergy to the ingredient]. It's a too-protective society.
Does perfume have the power to change the world?
I wouldn't say so, because perfumery is an old story, and it never changed the world. But it can give happiness.
What's the next big perfume trend going to be?
I think niche perfumes will continue to come up with new ingredients that nobody has used. And in general, I think we'll go from fruity notes more into the gourmand, and more and more unisex.
The next perfume from Olfactive Studio will be revealed to the public in a few weeks at Milan's Esxence exhibition. Verleure describes it as a composition that's "all about shadows. What is a shadow in a fragrance? It's very bright and colourful. In a sunset, you still have shadows, even though a sunset is colourful. And that's an interesting idea in a fragrance. [The perfume] is inspired by the most colourful picture I've used."
A fuller interview with Verleure should appear on Persolaise.com within the next few weeks. In the meantime, please visit this page at Olfactoria's Travels for another Q&A-style exchange with her.