Thursday, 7 May 2015

Thierry Wasser On Habit Rouge

For my final interview to mark the 50th anniversary of Jean-Paul Guerlain's Habit Rouge, we turn to the scent's current guardian: Thierry Wasser. In his role as the venerable fragrance house's perfumer, he not only has to produce a steady stream of new releases but also maintain the quality of the brand's classics. So with his intimate knowledge of what is widely considered to be one of the most important masculine creations of all time, why does he think it has been so successful?

Thierry Wasser: Because of its originality and quality. In 1965, when it came out, it didn't do well at all. But the family was really stubborn about it. There was no marketing at that time. They started small. And it grew and grew. And at least in France, it's still in the top 10.

Persolaise: How long did it take for the scent to achieve success?

TW: A good 6 years. In the early 70s it started to be successful. It was the first fragrance I wore; I was 13 at the time. In 1973/74 it was popular among French men. And that's how I picked it up.

P: So it was popular with younger men?

TW: No. I was 13, but I looked like I was 8, which is a bad thing, because, you know, your hormones are working, but you look like a baby. There was a guy who was a friend of my Mom, an adult. So to copy the man's attitude, I bought Habit Rouge. But it was not popular among young people.

P: Why do you think the scent is still popular now?

TW: I think it is very original. It is the dad's or the uncle's fragrance, and younger people - well, people my age now - wear it because their dads wore it. It's like Pour Un Homme De Caron, it's a staple.

P: Would you happen to be aware of Jean-Paul Guerlain's views on the perfume?

TW: Jean-Paul doesn't wear it. He always wore Vetiver. But he had a lot of fun making it, because it's totally linked to his own experience of horse riding and his career in show jumping. The perfume was right down his alley.

P: Would you say there's anything horse-like in the scent?

TW: Well, it is kind of animalic to a certain extent. But it's more leather-like than horse-like. The saddles, the boots, the reins. It has the same duo as Shalimar: bergamot, vanilla and iris. There is a Firmenich base which is a leathery iris note, and that's the key of Habit Rouge. But in Shalimar, you also have the smoke of birch tar and iris.

P: Finally, are Guerlain planning to mark the 50th anniversary in any way?

TW: I've made a fragrance for the anniversary. I haven't checked with the marketing people whether it's going to come out. I don't know*. But I've made something very cute.

Tomorrow, Habit Rouge Week concludes with my review of the scent and all its current incarnations.

UPDATE 8th May 2015: Thierry Wasser has been in touch to say that his special, anniversary tribute to Habit Rouge will be released. He's not sure when, but it will be at some point in 2015.


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