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Scents Inspired by Images
   
Celine Verleure, owner and creator of the French niche perfumery brand Olfactive Studio came to Warsaw’s Quality Missala Perfumery to launch her newest scent. She spoke to Voice’s Marzena Robinson.

How long have you been in the perfume business?
I have always dreamt of creating perfumes but before I launched my own perfume brand I worked in skincare cosmetics for Helena Rubinstein. As I learned Japanese language at school I decided to use it to my advantage and sent my resume to Kenzo. I was hired, though at that time I didn’t know much about perfumes. I believed, however, you can really educate your nose and become a specialist in perfumes even if, at the beginning, you don’t know much about the business. So I started intensive studying, doing blind tests, smelling ten different ingredients every morning. Six years ago, I decided to create Olfactive Studio. The main idea behind the brand was to choose artistic photography as inspiration to create perfume.

You had a very interesting idea to start your own brand with a blog on a non-existent perfume.
I was inspired by a food company, Michel & Augustin, whose fans decided to create a Facebook group to have this brand installed in a nearby supermarket. I thought: if fans of biscuits and yoghurts can do something like that, what can they do for perfumes?

Not many people know how perfume is created so I decided to reveal the secret to the public. I created a group on Facebook called ”The blog for a perfume which does not exist (yet)”. When I presented the concept, proposed names, posted drawings of bottle shapes and caps, I received a lot of feedback and inspirations. Most importantly, it was 18 months before the launch and I already had 5000 fans, including journalists, distributors, and points of sales. They were like my ambassadors, waiting for my brand’s launch, in which, later, they all took part.

You once said your brand was born your from love for perfume combined with love for the art of photography. Are you a photographer yourself?
I am not a photographer and I prefer to have a crush on an existing picture. So what I do, in Paris usually, I go to all photo exhibitions and look for a picture that has an aura and a smell for me. When I find it, I start thinking how it would be best translated into a fragrance. Thus a photograph becomes a starting point for an olfactive interpretation. Then I meet a perfumer, and sometimes the photographer, and we talk about the impressions, the emotions the picture evokes.

What is your actual part in the very process of creating a scent?
When I get the first idea from the perfumer we start balancing all the ingredients together. We meet every week for a month and we create some 20 versions of the same fragrance. Sometimes I say this must be more spicy, or fresher, sometimes I suggest completetly new ingredients, like to have prune in Chambre Noire or Japanese wasabi in Panorama were my ideas. When it comes to the style of my fragrances, I try to be more avant-garde than vintage.

But developing perfumes is also a very technical process and I am not the one who mixes ingredients, This is a job for a perfumer, who really understands all sorts of combinations and knows how to make a perfume light or powerful.

Each of your perfumes is accompanied by a picture that inspired it. Are there any interesting stories behind these photographs?
The picture for my latest fragrance, Woody mood, was taken in 1973 by an American photographer Roger Steffens. It depicts giant sequoias of the Redwood forest in North California, bathed in radiant light, I totally fell in love with this mysterious and impressive photograph when I saw it at Paris Photo exhibition last November. It was a wonderful inspiration to create a warm, powerful fragrance that reflects an atmospheric and luminous emotion, the mood of humus, earth and wood.

Another of my fragrances, Close up, is accompanied by a picture of the iris of the human eye in blue and brown shades, taken by an Armenian photographer Suren Manvelya. The eye, which reminds me of the Earth, is really captivating and perfectly transcending the perfume.

When I saw a photograph of a man walking in the river at the sunset, by a Brazilian photographer Gustavo Pellizzon, I thought of a scent of a shadow. For me, the smell of a shadow is very smoky but as the picture captured some lively colours – the orange top worn by the man, the indigo water – we decided to translate them all into the ingredients. So we mixed smoked resins with saffron and tuberose.

Have you always been successful with getting copyrights to the pictures?
Not always, but when I have an idea it’s very hard to change it. So I have to find another way. This was the case with a picture for Panorama, the scent of an urban jungle. We could not get the rights to the original photograph of an amazing view from the famous Sheats Goldstein House, one of the most beautiful villas of Los Angeles. So we rented the house and brought a photographer from Paris, who took another picture.

Apart from the accompanying pictures, the thing you notice right away is the unique bottle design with some details linked to photography.
Yes, overall shape of the bottle, with black metal shoulders has been inspired by the camera while a circular wave sculpted behind the glass reminds of the lens. The bottle cap looks exactly like a zoom of a camera. The packaging opens like a photo paper box and inside you have a photo signed by the photographer.