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Post in Perfume Posse

Perfume people profiles and interviews

I thought it might be interesting to learn more about people in the perfume industry! This is a place to share quotes, interviews, biographical tid bits and so on from industry noses, creative directors, critics and anyone involved in supporting fragrance. Let's learn more about perfume together <3


o.36652A Frederic Malle boutique featuring portraits of the noses behind the house's fragrances


Re: Perfume people profiles and interviews

Today's perfume person is Olivia Giacobetti, whose groundbreaking scent for L'Artisan Parfumeur, Premier Figuier, became the first fig perfume.


Born in Paris, 1966, Giacobetti dreamed of being a master perfumer since childhood. She describes her calling as an "obsession" that was sparked after seeing the movie Le Sauvage, in which Yves Montand plays a perfumer.


Giacobetti's career began when she was only 16 years old when she met Annick Goutal. A year later, she began studying perfumery at Robertet in Grasse where she would become a perfume assistant and stay for seven years. In 1990, she went on to found her own firm, Iskia and it was from this base she went on to create memorable fragrances for clients such as L'Artisan Parfumeur, Diptyque, Hermes, Penhaligons and others. In 2003, she launched IUNX, a Shiseido-backed line of personal and home fragrances. The boutique closed in 2006 but has since opened again and operates two locations in Paris. In 2008, she and another nose, Jerome Epinette, helped Ben Gorham develop fragrances for his house, Byredo.




On her gentle, beguiling style, Wallpaper, 2012

"I look for simplicity, clarity and precision."


On her training at Robertet, Le Figaro, 2009

"J'ai découvert un véritable langage, riche, troublant et obsédant. Un solfège d'émotions, composé de deux mille notes, deux mille odeurs à apprivoiser avant de rêver de mélodie et d'harmonie."


Rough translation

"I discovered a veritable language, rich, troubling and haunting. A solmization of emotion, comprised of 2,000 notes, 2,000 scents to tame before dreaming of melody and harmony."


On nature, Elle France

"Vous aimez les odeurs de la nature?

Beaucoup, mais je ne cherche pas à l’imiter... Pourquoi l’odeur d’une fleur est-elle si merveilleuse dans la nature ? Parce qu’elle côtoie l’eau, le soleil…"


Rough translation

Do you like scents from nature?

I do very much, but I don't try to imitate them. I'm not afraid of illusion... Why is the scent of a flower so marvelous in nature? It's because it's mingled with water, the sun..."


On gender and perfume, Osmoz

"Actually, giving a gender to what I do isn't a big deal for me. I like unintended and unexpected things like the soft and milky smell of fig leaf on a man or dry wood on a woman, which to me is more modern and seductive."


On Premier Figuier, Vogue, 2016

"For Le Premier Figuier, I received only a few words of direction to ensure I was given the utmost creative freedom. I had the idea to create the first eau de toilette around a fig because the fig tree is the tree of my childhood. Natural fig essence doesn’t exist, so I had to capture that smell of the tree as a whole—the bark warm from the sun, the green of the leaves, the milk that trickles from the fruit. A child was sitting next to me in a garden once, and she turned to me and said, ‘You smell like sunshine.’ I was wearing Premier Figuier. Beyond its commercial success, the emotional association people have to that fragrance is the greatest compliment of all."

Re: Perfume people profiles and interviews

We all knew this was coming, for I am such a fan of the house... today's person in perfume is Frédéric Malle.


Malle's perfume pedigree can be traced back to his grandfather Serge Heftler-Louiche, who was friends with Christian Dior and was François Coty's "right hand man." Heftler-Louiche eventually helped found Parfums Christian Dior. Malle's mother, Marie-Christine Sayn-Wittgenstein, who worked at Dior for 47 years and helped create Eau Sauvage. Malle himself worked in photography/film, art dealing and advertising before he ventured into the fragrance trade at the perfume house Roure Bertrand Dupont. He was an assistant to Jean-Louis Sieuzac, the nose behind perfume greats like Dune, Fahrenheit, and Opium. After this, Malle worked as a consultant to LVMH, Christian Lacroix and Hermes.


In 2000, Malle founded his own groundbreaking house, Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle, with nine unique scents, some of which have gone on to become benchmark scents in the industry. His brand is based on a unique model which functions like a publishing house in which Malle works as an editor and the perfumers are the authors. In 2015, he sold the house to Estee Lauder.


In 2018, Malle was recognized by the Fragrance Foundation for his contribution to the industry with the Gamechanger award. [Malle] reintroduced true luxury to perfumery in a very specific and elevated way that is still making waves today. By placing the spotlight on the perfumers, whose individual talents had been too long unsung, he shifted the focus away from the distracting marketing and one-scent-fits-all ethos of the 1990s, and back to the artistry and quality of the juice itself. For this Malle is sometimes called the "father of niche perfumery."




On starting his own brand, Fashionista, 2018

"All these years, I was working with perfumers... I realized that they were bored, that they started hating their job. They wanted to be artists and they were exploited to do a trickle-down of some sh*tty bestseller because now the people that used to be the heads of fragrance houses, who used to be perfume professionals, had been replaced by marketing people that were selling deodorants or cat food the year before, and now they were kings of luxury. They had no idea about how to make a perfume. They didn't care, and so they chose everything with focus groups. It was people with no conviction, no sense of artistry that were making decisions on whether or not your perfume would come out. So [perfumers] were disgusted. And then on the other side of my life, I had people who were in the arts and the movies and all that in my private life that were not wearing perfumes anymore, so I simply decided to put them together to become a link between the two parts of my life."


On creating a new perfume, NYTimes 2017

"I used to make mood boards. They were very specific, and I often used my art history background, and they were meant to trigger a perfumer’s imagination. But today I don’t do them. I start with a conversation."


On collaboration, Vogue Italia 2014

"I adapt to each designer according to his or her personality and means. With some people I am really hands on, smelling each trial and discussing future options, but I am totally silent with others. Anything in between also happens. One thing is for sure, though: whatever my level of involvement perfumers always have the last word."


On how his role has changed after the sale to EL, Fashionista 2018

"In terms of product, it has not changed anything apart from the fact that I have access to all these new bases that are very good. So look at the new shaving cream that we have done; look at the very nice oils that we have. These are Lauder bases... It's also the end of procrastination. More people are depending on us, so we can't say, 'Oh sorry, we missed Christmas.' So we have to organize ourselves, so I work now on several perfumes at the same time... In terms of staff, it's only keeping the best. I'm much shrewder with other people's money than I was with mine."


On perfume trends, W Magazine 2016

"I don’t believe in trends. In a world that at the same time created Bulgari Green Tea and [Thierry Mugler’s] Angel, you tell me the trend. They’re polar opposites. So the trend in perfumery is usually following the best seller. But the general trend is that we’re in a digital age, things are much sharper. It’s like seeing the world through photoshop."


On changes in the perfume industry, Persolaise, 2014

"... there were two revolutions in our industry, one in the 70s and one in the 90s. The first one was Charlie. It showed that one could launch a fragrance using marketing. In the past, we used to have companies that looked for a juice in Grasse, and on the side, they built an idea from that juice. But they didn't think of a target. They didn't strategise. They were nice brands making a perfume. And then they realised that they had to be a bit more organised... And so the best people, like Chantal Roos, made Opium and Obsession, which were very coherent fragrances made to be launched worldwide. It was a signature juice working hand in hand with a very strong image. I believe that the best marketing people, then, did wonderful things because they also knew how to smell. Maurice Roger, who was Chairman of Dior and a very good marketing person, could smell very well. And he knew how to work with a perfumer...


Then the 90s arrived. Ouch! That's when two things happened. Companies like Douglas were invented: they brought self-service, with brands organised in alphabetical order. Sephora came after them and followed their concept; they just changed the colour of the carpet. That changed the business... you had to have a world crowd-pleaser that would sell in a self-service environment. Therefore fragrances were made like consumer products, like dog food. So the people that were most capable of launching consumer products on a worldwide basis were the heads of marketing teams...


The last interesting product to be launched is probably Angel... But it was done by a marketing team from the old regime. Today, unfortunately, those brands are run by people who don't have the culture... And the truth is that most people running fragrance companies today don't know anything about perfumery, anything about perfumers and, despite what they pretend, anything about the raw materials or the classics..."


On his favourite scents growing up, Interview Magazine 2009

"Many women’s scents—old Guerlains, Fracas, Miss Dior, Oscar de la Renta, Chanel 19. For my personal use, I used to like Hermès Eau d’Orange Verte, Grey Flannel, and Halston Z14."

Re: Perfume people profiles and interviews

Christine Nagel is currently the Head Perfumer at Hermes. She began her career as a research chemist but her interests switched to perfumery. She was working at a research lab in Firmenich, a major fragrance/flavour conglomerate, but when she asked for a position in the company's parfumerie school, they gave her a "hard no." She moved to Italy and eventually picked up major clients like Fendi and Versace. She eventually caught the attention of staff at Hermes, including the legendary nose, Jean-Claude Ellena, who began mentoring her. They worked as a team until he retired and appointed Nagel as his successor in 2014, the first woman to hold the position. Since then, she's released fantastic fragrances for the house like Gallop, HERMÈS - Twilly d'Hermès and three lovely additions to Ellena's Hermessences line. Now she is a legendary nose too. I bet Firmenich is sorry now!




On working in the industry, The Cut, 2017

"... it was very difficult because the path is impossible for a woman. It’s a man’s job, and I don’t come from the south of France, from Grasse; I had children, I’m not the daughter of a perfumer."


On describing fragrance, Architectural Digest, 2018

"I don’t know how to really explain this, but I touch the texture with my eye, whether its silk or leather of cashmere... when I talk about my perfume I often use words related to the clothing, like round, straight, soft, tough." (I LOVE this quote because I feel one of her Hermessences, the oud one I think? really feels like draping a very soft shawl around you.)


On working for Hermes, Robb Report, 2018

"I must be one of the only perfumers in the world that can practice the craft completely free. It is very personal because Hermès puts all of its trust in its creators—each perfume is really only approved by four people, and I am never told what to do. In that way, it is very fun."


On working for Hermes/industry trends, Vancouver Sun, 2018

"[Pierre-Alexis Dumas, Artistic Director] said, 'Christine, I want you to stay creative. Continue to have audacity.'...He would prefer that I make a mistake... In the past, when I worked for other brands, I was obligated to work with a lot of product and market tests... For me, it was a pity for the perfumery...


On gendered perfumes, Vogue Man, 2018

"Gender is an interesting subject in perfumery, and I also want to talk about the creative process of the fragrance, and of the name of its creator – the perfumer. I strongly believe that perfume is an art like all other arts – it has nothing to do with gender. Gender appeared in perfumery for financial reasons and because of the genius of marketing."


On her approach to fragrance, Vogue Man, 2018

"When I discover an ingredient, I want to know everything, to knead it, crush it, work it, and experiment with it. I want to take it where I like, coax it. I want to push its boundaries. I want to force it, tame it. In my perfumes, there’s often something tactile, textured, a particular sensitivity to the raw material, the feel of it, the sensuality of touching it. People often describe my work as physical perfumery. I’ll quote Rodin: “To give my figures more breadth, I give them more life; I exaggerate them and get more life”. That is absolutely true of my perfumes, I recognize myself in that quote. I accentuate features, bring out raw materials. My perfumes are never linear."

Re: Perfume people profiles and interviews

Really interesting read, @pocketvenus. Her verbiage is like poetry, love how it is so creatively engaging. Thank you for starting this, looking forward to learning more about those behind the scents (I meant to type ‘scenes’ but I think ‘scents’ applies just as well)!

Re: Perfume people profiles and interviews

@eshoe So glad you enjoyed reading it Smiley Happy Scents definitely works!

Re: Perfume people profiles and interviews

Nagel also was the nose behind some of the Jo Malone fragrances!

Re: Perfume people profiles and interviews

@RNGesusPls Thanks for pointing this out Smiley Happy I've listed some (but not all) of her JMs below! The interesting thing is how similar the JMs are to Ellena’s series, the Hermessences, in that both are minimalist and focus on two ingredients.


JO MALONE LONDON - English Pear & Freesia Cologne

JO MALONE LONDON - Peony & Blush Suede Cologne

JO MALONE LONDON - Oud & Bergamot Cologne Intense

JO MALONE LONDON - Wild Bluebell Cologne

JO MALONE LONDON - Wood Sage & Sea Salt Cologne

Re: Perfume people profiles and interviews

@pocketvenus I'm a fan of her minimalist perfumes. A lot of people say that JM's scent staying power is poor, but my nose is sensitive and I can still smell it on myself at the end of the day, so it's the perfect type of fragrance for me Smiley Tongue

Re: Perfume people profiles and interviews

I thought I'd start off the thread with the founder of house carried by Sephora, Kilian Hennessy! He founded his own house in 2007 which was later acquired by Estee Lauder in 2016. He is the grandson of the founder of LVMH but did not work for the family business, choosing fragrance over Cognac. He worked for various brands like Dior, McQueen, Armani and Paco Rabanne before launching By Kilian.




On starting his own house from Forbes, 2017

"I had worked over the last 10 years in different groups for different brands, always as a creative director designing new scents. None were making me very happy because it was too far from what I felt a great perfumer should be. Before making the decision to start my own company, I was actually about to go work in fashion. I was really ready to leave the perfume industry. One night I stopped by the Baccarat Museum in Paris. At that time they were exhibiting one century of perfume in Baccarat bottles, and that’s when I realized the level of perfume craftsmanship: the attention to detail, the little metal plaque and enamel—it was gorgeous. It just felt so right in terms of a luxury feel. This is what the customer should deserve. The next day I canceled my appointment with the fashion designers to start my own company."

On his training from GQ UK, 2019
"Jacques [Cavallier] and I got along really well and he became my mentor. The nose school I did probably gave me [knowledge of] roughly 700 raw materials, but with Jacques I went from 700 to 3,000. He really gave me all my technical background. After college, I went to live in New York and I met another perfumer at Firmenich named Thierry Wasser. Today, Thierry is the in house perfumer of Guerlain. With Thierry I used to work twice a week at night on understanding all of the families of perfume that were already launched. For example, we would do the tuberose family and we would say the origin of the tuberose is Fracas and then after Fracas comes Poison by Dior, so what did Poison bring to the Fracas structure? We did that for every family, one by one."

On perfume history from Grazia

"’75 to ’95, who wouldn’t want to work then? You had amazing stories, names that were meaningful and decadent, and provocative, and perfumes and scents that were a statement. Dior would launch a new scent every five years. Chanel, one every ten. Every new scent was a statement... I got into the ’95 – ‘05 decade which, frankly, was only copies of the same perfume. It’s mass-marketed, mass-tested scents. Now every perfume is called ‘For Woman’, ‘For Man’, ‘Gold’, ‘Black’, ‘Blue’, ‘White’. So, after a decade of doing that for big groups, I was actually ready to leave the perfume industry... I felt ashamed of what I was doing in those last ten years for perfume designers, and ashamed of what the industry had become frankly. But you know, when you work for designers, you’re not entirely happy about the product you create."

On the perfume industry from The Independent, 2012

"Today, the big brands are in exactly the same position as the film industry... They have to do blockbusters and they have a month of sales to prove themselves. After one month, the perfume will be judged a success or a failure. If it's a failure, all investments will be cut immediately... It took three years for [Angel and Fahrenheit] to be accepted by the consumer because they were so new. Things like that cannot exist any more."

On the role of perfume from Grazia

"... I always believe that perfume was as much about seduction as it was about protection... Seduction, we all understand that, and we believe … you go on a date, you put perfume on, you hope that the scent will magically capture someone’s attention. But when you think about when you put perfume in the morning, you’re not into seduction mode... For me, [perfume] really acts as a shield, as a bubble."

Grazia also reports that Mr. Hennessy's thesis was titled ‘Semantics of odors, in the search for a common language between gods and mortals’ which sounds very characteristic of him.

Re: Perfume people profiles and interviews

Came across an article from Business of Fashion, 2018, in which Hennessy talks about the relationship of the house with Estee Lauder. It's very illuminating.


“We put a lot of money into raw materials,” said Hennessy. “Even at the $300 price point, I’m not making the margins that Estée Lauder wants — not even close.”


“[Distribution] is a critical element,” said Hennessy, recalling a visit to a Bloomingdale’s before it opened in the Middle East and realising that, despite his brand’s popularity in the region, he was stuck in the back after the conglomerates claimed their retail floor spaces. “That’s when I knew it was time to join forces [with a strategic partner],” he said. “It’s hard for the independent ones because [Estée] Lauder in the luxury department stores has 40 or to 50 percent market share.”

Yes. Distribution is a big thing in cosmetic. That's why...

Yes. Distribution is a big thing in cosmetic. That's why even La Mer, Tom Ford and Frederic Malle are under Estee Lauder now.

Re: Perfume people profiles and interviews



I had a chance to meet Kilian when he went to Saks Eaton Centre Toronto in 2016, such a gentleman. I bought 2 bottles that day, he took pictures with me, gave me some words on his favourites and when he signed it, the wooden box with the lock just got scratch a bit but he went all the way to the back room opened whatever left in stock to find a perfect box for me. I didn't understand why he seemed "nervous" lol, then he told me if he sold something, it had to be perfect to his opinion", that box was a damage box, and to be honest, I didn't see the scratch that he saw lol! 

Re: Perfume people profiles and interviews

@cangirl84That's a great story, thank you for sharing Smiley Happy

Re: Perfume people profiles and interviews

Such a good read @pocketvenus . Thx for sharing your experience with us @cangirl84 . I love a story liked this. It’s so great to hear about brand founder who cares 😀

Re: Perfume people profiles and interviews

@pocketvenus ahh such a great post and profile! i've been really into some killian fragrances lately, so it's really great to understand the headspace the creator is in when going through the entire process. it's nice to see that there are still so many passionate and innovative creators out there! i am only new to fragrance but now im upset i wasted so long on one-note scents and body sprays hahahah. i now realize there is indeed such thing as a complex vanilla based scent haha

Re: Perfume people profiles and interviews

@cianniyes, it's very informative to hear noses talk about their work and their intentions. It definitely helped me to understand fragrance better Smiley Happy Nothing wrong with simple, one-note fragrances either as long as they make you happy <3 Sometimes I just like to smell a single essential oil and put a little in my hair!

Re: Perfume people profiles and interviews

@pocketvenus ah very true! i do like a little bit of lavender behind my ears to help me sleep, or peppermint to wake me up and get me energized in the morning

Re: Perfume people profiles and interviews

@pocketvenus Very interesting!  Great thread, and great post!

Re: Perfume people profiles and interviews

Thanks! Glad you liked it Smiley Happy

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