Growing up with family of perfumers, Aurélien Guichard was always destined to be a successful scent creator – he created Love in Paris for Nina Ricci and Acqua Allegoria Anisia Bella for Guerlain while he was still studying. Retail Beauty caught up with the Creative Perfumer and Co-Founder of Matiere Premiere to talk all things fragrance.
HOW AND WHEN DID YOUR PASSION FOR FRAGRANCES BEGIN?
I come from of a family of perfumers. We’ve been creating fragrances and growing flowers for perfumery for seven generations. I have amazing, scented childhood memories from rose, jasmine and verbena harvests at my grandparents’ farm. And I was lucky to grow up surrounded by artists, with a perfumer father and a sculptress mother. But my first lifechanging scented experience occurred when I was still a teenager, at the end of a dinner with family friends. As I helped one of the ladies put her coat back on, she exhaled a scent so endearing, I immediately saw her in a completely new way and began to understand what desire could be. It struck me that day that there was magic in certain perfumes.
WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST JOB?
My first job was at Givaudan, one of the major fragrance manufacturers. I wasn’t even a confirmed perfumer when I signed my first two creations, Love in Paris for Nina Ricci and Acqua Allegoria Anisia Bella for Guerlain. I learned that there were people and companies audacious enough to trust a young perfumery school graduate, rather than a wellknown, established perfumer. I learned that anything was possible in our profession, thanks to fruitful collaborations. It made me want to work exclusively with and for the most beautiful houses, who show great respect for the art of perfumery and its traditions.
WHAT ARE YOUR FAVOURITE FRAGRANCE CREATIONS?
I have a special attachment to the fragrances that embody the collaboration and relationship I have developed with such designers as Narciso Rodriguez and Issey Miyake, whose vision and ideas make these creations unique. There are also the fragrances that embody strong ideas and special moments in my life. For example, I created Eros for Versace at a time when I was travelling a lot to the region of Italy where they produce citron (which we call cédrat in French). I was imbued with the beauty of this Italian region, with the creative universe of an Italian designer, with the Italian art de vivre and culture.
WHAT ARE YOUR SOURCES OF INSPIRATION?
People are my major source of inspiration. I am also driven by my personal aesthetic preferences – I am not a big fan of sugary/fruity notes in fragrances for example. For Matiere Premiere, my unique source of inspiration is the beauty, as I perceive it, of the natural ingredients which perfumers have access to every day to create their compositions. I never stop marvelling at the beauty of these raw materials. I want to highlight it in our fragrances, to make it visible, readable, understandable, to make it accessible and to share it.
WHAT MAKES A ‘GOOD’ FRAGRANCE?
First and foremost, it’s the quality of the ingredients. It’s what allows a fragrance to project and perform. Then, a good fragrance is the one that will leave an emotional imprint, thanks to its unique character, its sillage and persistence.
HOW WAS MATIERE PREMIERE BORN?
Matiere Premiere is the result of an entrepreneurs’ adventure. It all began in Grasse in 2016, when I decided to grow my own ingredients and founded an organic Rose Centifolia farm. Then I had the privilege to meet my two co-founders, with whom I shared the same vision, and it became a collective adventure. Matiere Premiere is a French perfumer’s house that offers one of the most qualitative perfumery in the world in a humble way, by sharing what is truly beautiful in the art of perfumery and the daily life and craft of a Perfumer: a direct, emotional contact with the most beautiful natural raw materials from around the world. We build each fragrance around one central natural ingredient, used in high dosage. We want to highlight its most beautiful facets, thanks to contemporary formulations that will leave an unforgettable emotional imprint. Our creations are available in the very same 6ml bottles every perfumer uses to evaluate new compositions. It comes with a screw-on atomiser, because we want our clients to experience the same gesture a perfumer makes when he is convinced by the smell on a blotter, and wishes to wear the fragrance and evaluate further on skin.
WHAT DOES A TYPICAL DAY INVOLVE?
My weekdays are pretty untypical, as I am involved in three different activities. Through growing my own raw materials, I am in contact with nature in the South of France every week. In that same week I will have work sessions at Matiere Premiere in Paris, near Opéra Garnier, and I will create for couture houses in my lab at Takasago, near place de l’Etoile- or travel the world (virtually for the moment) to present these creations or meet with designers. The only constant activity in my schedule is formulating, wherever I am. I think about perfume creation, I’m in search of the right compositions 24/7, day and – sometimes – night!
WHERE DO YOU SEE THE FRAGRANCE INDUSTRY HEADED?
I see a pretty diverse industry, with not only one direction. There are several ways to create and offer fragrances. The one we chose for Matiere Premiere is to embody the most beautiful aspects of perfumery as we see it. We want to shine a light on a beautiful craft, on the most beautiful natural ingredients, on inherited processes that enhance quality – such as allowing fragrances to age before bottling, not putting synthetic colouring agents, using one particular ingredient in high dosage. We also believe in developing strong relationships between our perfume house and raw material producers. You can’t make a perfume without raw materials.
WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST ‘FAILURE’, AND WHAT DID YOU LEARN?
When you are a perfumer, many of your projects ‘fail’ so to speak – each time the perfume you worked on is not the one eventually selected by the house you created it for. What you learn is how to start again from a blank page each time, relentlessly. How to find the desire to get back at it, not for the sake of expressing your own ideas, but for the sake of putting your craft at the service of a house, a designer, of collaborating with them. What I love about Matiere Premiere is that it is a field for me to express my own ideas through our shared vision of a highly qualitative perfumery, shining a light on raw materials and perfumery know-how, in a contemporary way that will hopefully renew people’s desire to wear perfumes.
WHAT CAREER ADVICE CAN YOU SHARE?
I would pass on the same advice that was given to me when I started: cherish your freedom and your happiness. Life will take care of the rest.
WHO HAS BEEN THE MOST INFLUENTIAL TO YOU?
My artist parents, my farmer grandfather, my co-founders at Matiere Premiere, creative entrepreneurs that have given me the will to create a business of my own such as Issey Miyake, Narciso Rodriguez, Diane von Furstenberg etc. I also play field hockey in the National French Team. This sport has not only enabled me to meet with extraordinary people, including many Australians who are great field hockey players, but also influenced me with strong values of teamwork, trustworthiness, inclusiveness – and believing that anything is possible when you give yourself the means to achieve it.
WHAT COMMON MYTH ABOUT FRAGRANCE CAN YOU DEBUNK?
That the most beautiful fragrances can only be found in the confidential, niche collections. There are absolute masterpieces signed by big houses. And that perfumers create with their nose! Perfumes are works from the mind and heart.
WHAT DOES YOUR DAILY ‘FRAGRANCE ROUTINE’ LOOK LIKE?
I work on and smell about 50 different compositions and trials every day. And every day, I select between two and five of them that I will wear, to see how I feel about them and if I get any comments. I also ask people around me to wear them, to see how they evolve and develop on them. We try to offer that same freedom at Matiere Premiere, to wear your selection according to your mood, your taste, the time of the day, the occasion, the season.
This article is featured in the Winter issue of Retail Beauty.