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The Warsaw Voice » Society » July 18, 2017
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Bringing back magnificence of perfumery art
July 18, 2017   
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Jean Phillipe Clermont, Artistic Director of Atelier des Ors, French niche perfume house has come to Poland to launch the brand’s newest creation - Iris Fauve. He spoke to Voice’s Marzena Robinson.

Atelier des Ors is quite a new brand, what’s the story behind it, how did you come up with the idea to create it?
By accident. I am not originally from the perfume world. I spent years working in handmade cigars. But I find this very smiliar to wine-making, gastronomy and perfumery in the way it appeals to your senses and in the way different ingredients are combined to obtain a certain aroma, certain blend, certain dish or certain fragrance. Obviously, the techniques are different but the idea to construct the final proposition using elements from various sources and areas is part of the same spirit.

As a child I grew up in the French countryside and spent a lot of time with my grandparents who were in the fine table glass and china retail business. My grandmother told me a lot of stories about the creations, the manufacturing process, techniques, design and the history of these pieces of art. My attention was captured by the fact how dedicated the craftsmen were to reach that level of perfection. This is when an idea was born that one day I was going to have a brand to be able to create something and express what I wanted to express.

And later, in 2010, when I worked with some craftsmen on bespoke cigar cases, I met Jean-Christophe, a gold gilder. At that time we came up with this idea of ”gold perfume”, but then we just left it there. Then, a few days later my friends brought a perfumer to dinner, and the following week I met a Swedish artist who designed the iconic bottle of Marc Jacob’s Daisy perfume. A gold gilder, a perfumer, a perfume bottle designer – this brought back my childhood idea to create a brand. And although it was then not part of my plans I thought to myself - it feels like destiny, it’s there, my childhood dream is materializing, stop thinking and jump. So I stopped thinking and jumped. In the end I didn’t work with that perfumer, and I didn’t work with that bottle designer but those situations made me feel that there was a place for my dream and I moved forward.

There is high competition in the perfumery world. What was your idea to make the brand unique?
The idea was truly to reinterpret the lost magnificence of those small French perfume houses from the 1930s, when perfume was not commercial at all, when it was a refined craftmanship and was not mass produced, when there was no wide distribution. It was just artistic, extravagant and decadent. I wanted to capture the best of the French heritage, and culture, put the French know-how and elegance into a bottle and bring back elements of mystery into fragrances. I wanted to make people dream again about perfume.

You said you had this idea of ”gold perfume”. How is this gold manifested apart from the 24 carat gold flakes you put in the bottle?
Perfume, like gold, has a strong link to divinity. In many ancient religions priests burnt incense to communicate with God through scented smoke. That is in fact the etymology of perfume, in Latin „per fumum” – through smoke. And gold, which shines forever and thus is eternal, was important as a symbol of divinity to many cultures - Egyptians, Buddhists, Incas or Aztecs. We had an idea that these two should be combined together. So gold that we incorporate in our bottles symbolizes the search for the absolute in ancient times and the quest of perfection which you find in craftmanship. This might be Bohemian crystal, Swiss watchmaking or perfumery art.

Our brand name is Atelier des Ors, not Atelier des Or. “Or” means “gold”, but “Ors” is used mostly in poetry and means the rarest, the finest and most exquisite things. So our brand name means that we work only on rare and most noble essences when creating our compositions and an atelier is a place where a craftsman or an artist works and where the creative process is happening. So we play a little bit on words and the gold stands for perfection not only in aroma but also in craftsmanship.

Your brand is famous for the beautiful, unique bottle, which is rich in symbols. What do they signify?
The bottle was designed by a famous design agency centdegres based in Paris. We worked together on several designs and since we wanted to reinterpret the lost magnificence of artisan perfume houses from 1930s I looked for my inspiration in the book called „Collectible fragrance bottles” with lots of bottles designs. Most of them were round or oval and had either embossing patterns or drawings on them. So we kept that idea and only modernized it a bit and put the trademark of our brand, which is the radiance, on the bottle.

The rays on the bottle, and also the pattern of the box are reminescent of Art Deco, one of the most creative periods in history, when Lalique and Baccarat used cut crystal. And by those embossed rays, which are like what you find on crystal glasses, we pay a tribute to this golden era. The rays on the bottle also stand for a few other things. They symbolize the shineness of gold but they also are a way to show the stillage of perfume.

I can also sea a little seahorse on the bottle cap…
Yes, it’s the symbol, the logo of the brand. It’s like a stamp of a craftsman. The seahorse is a hallmark for 24 carat gold in France. Seahorse in ancient Greek is hippocampus, which in anatomy stands for the part of the brain responsible for bringing back memories, of especially colours and flavours. Yes, obviously it’s a coincidence, but it’s a lucky coincidence and in this tiny seahorse we also bring together the perfume and gold.

What is exactly your role in the creative proces? How do you work with the perfumer?
First you create the brand, the DNA, the values you want to stand for. Once you have this you work on the design, the whole imaginery round the brand. Then you come to the perfumer and show who you are and what you want to express, so he/she gets the idea of philosophy behind the brand. I have worked with one perfumer – Marie Salamange on all the seven fragrances we have. I usually come with the idea, emotions I want to share or create and then Marie translates them into ingredients and makes the composition, then we exchange. All our perfumes incorprate the idea of gold, and gold is about eternity, quest for perfection with craftmanship and refined techniques, gold is about life cycle. So the idea behind one of our first perfume Aube Rubis was the life cycle. Every morning is a rebirth, you have the orange light in the sky before the sunrise and the freshness of the early morning and then the sun comes up and you feel the heat of the sun. So to express that early morning freshness and coolness we started with fresh grapefruit, and then it had to turn into something stronger and warmer, so we had pachouli, That’s the way we work.

And what was the idea behind your newest fragrance Iris Fauve?
With Iris it was slightly different because we wanted to have something more personal. Marie loves to work with Iris and Musk so I looked at the symbolism of iris and found out that, in mythology Iris was a Messenger of God. As she was crossing the sky, she left a footprint in the sky which was meant to be the rainbow. Poets were calling the rainbow the Iris’ scarf and that became the idea for the perfume. She worked on that iris and dressed it with some musky, warm notes. It’s a comforting fragrance, like a scarf wrapping around your shoulders.

Your brand is present in more than 30 countries. Where have you had the biggest response to your fragrances? Are you happy with the Polish market?
The idea of the brand at first was to propose our vision, but not to a specific customer, so we didn’t think at all in terms of demographics. From day one I told myself I wanted to have a broad audience and not to be exclusively speaking to historically big markets for niche brands like Russia or the Middle East. So we are doing great in the Middle East, we are doing well in Russia, but we are doing very well in France, considering the market there. The French retail business has been dominated by chains and independent perfumers until recently were not too much into niche perfumes. It’s changing but there is still only very limited space for niche products. Today we have 20 shops in France selling our products, including Paris, Cannes, Bordeaux, Lyon, Toulouse, Saint-Tropez, Courchevel and Lille and we start getting more inquiries from the retailers.

This is my second time in Poland. My first time was in July 2015 when I started working with Quality Missala Perfumery. Since then we have managed to position the brand and we start to have some brand recognition. One of our prodcuts is doing well - Cuir Sacré got the award of the Twoj Styl women’s magazine - Doskonalosc Roku 2016 (the Perfection of 2016 year).
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