One of many perfumery world’s most distinguished figures, Grasp Perfumer Olivier Cresp has composed tons of of your favorite creations, together with Christian Dior’s Midnight Poison, Penhaligon’s Juniper Sling, Dolce & Gabbana Gentle Blue, Givenchy Gentleman and, in fact, the totally legendary Thierry Mugler Angel – a fragrance which grew to become all of the extra poignant this 12 months with the passing of Manfred Thierry Mugler on 23 January.
Named a grasp perfumer in 2006, Cresp joined the Firmenich staff in 1992 and was honoured with the title Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres from the French Ministry of Tradition in 2012. In 2018 he was introduced because the Perfume Basis’s 2018 Lifetime Achievement Perfumer Award recipient, and much from slowing down, he’s now launched his personal perfume home of AKRO along with his daughter, Anais.
Suzy Nightingale not too long ago had the privilege of sitting down with this paragon of perfumery and in an unique interview initially for our journal, The Scented Letter (which you can even purchase a stunning print copy of) and discovering precisely how he works…
When does your day begin?
Olivier Cresp: I wish to play tennis within the morning, then go to the seaside within the afternoon… [laughs] No, critically, I by no means actually really feel like I’m working as a result of it’s my ardour, that’s why I’m nonetheless working inside Firmenich, after which my very own initiatives with AKRO – that’s pure pleasure as a result of we’ve got no limits, we will dare. On a traditional day, I get to the workplace round 9:30. I really like that you simply’re on this! The opposite day I had somebody filming me all day lengthy, for a brief video that will probably be edited down to 3 minutes. It’s fascinating that folks wish to know the way perfumers spend their days, now. The very first thing I all the time do is discuss to the opposite perfumers – ask how their night was, have a espresso. Round 9:45 or 10am I open my laptop computer after which begin working.
The place do you’re employed?
I’ve a double job, the truth is: working for them as Grasp Perfumer, primarily based in Paris, and dealing for my very own home, AKRO. I’ve assistants, FDMs (Perfume Growth Managers), gross sales groups, managers, any variety of colleagues relying on the venture.
How does your day break down?
My workplace is open, so I’ve the FDMs come to see me, adopted by the evaluators and the salespeople. After that some clients name me. A brand new factor is the variety of Zoom and Groups on-line conferences we do all through the day – a couple of years in the past this simply didn’t occur, however since lockdowns, it may be three hours a day of speaking to colleagues by way of this connection. Once I’m engaged on my laptop computer, I attempt to focus myself on the initiatives I’ve open at the moment.
What number of fragrances may you be engaged on at anybody time?
Prior to now, when every thing was executed by hand, I might solely work on eight or ten fragrances a day. Now, with pc expertise, I can ship fifty formulation a day, sending them all around the world. There are maybe twenty initiatives I’m engaged on directly, typically extra. I prioritise the fragrances by dates and even hours for deadlines. I may be quick. You need to be! Relying on how fast you’re, you’ll be able to win or lose a venture. To work quick it’s essential to have the expertise and use your time nicely. As an alternative of doing tons of of experiments, like I did initially of my profession, I now solely have to do 4 or 5 – then I do know precisely what to maneuver in my perfume formulation and it simply works.
Do you compose fragrances principally in your head? Do you write by hand or use a pc?
It’s a superb query – perfumers are like writers, some choose handwriting or dictating, others like writing straight on a pc. Twenty-five, what, even thirty years in the past now, I used to do every thing by hand and my calculator. I’d handwrite the elements and work out the odds and the worth for them, as a result of you need to know that. These days are lengthy gone. Now we’ve got particular programmes that work these bits out for you. Once I’ve written my formulation on my laptop computer I ship it straight to the robotic, the robotic compounds about 80% of the formulation. Then I’ve my assistants who weigh and compound the lacking 20%. As quickly as I get the thought for my fragrances, I do know precisely what elements I wish to use.
The subsequent step for me is to find the right sort or very best quality for that perfume. In two or three hours it’s mounted in my head. From that time I take into consideration what else it must create the environment I would like, so I would take into consideration what might create some smokiness or an animalic be aware, for instance. Generally the thought is simple, however then it’s not straightforward to search out the suitable molecules to match that scent in your head. I attempt to be figurative, to catch the profile of what I would like. The opposite day I needed to create the scent of a marshmallow. I’d by no means executed that earlier than actually, however in two or three experiments I had it. I knew I needed orange blossom, I used some violet and a few rose-y parts, then some praline and vanilla to make it scent edible. It have to be logical. It’s a chronological story, after which I’m by no means misplaced that means – it’s sort of a pink thread I’m following.
What sort of different inspirations do you search for, throughout your day?
I may be impressed by something, however dialog is de facto necessary to me. I purchase a great deal of magazines on all topics, I actually take pleasure in studying Figaro, however I get numerous female magazines particularly. I additionally love strolling, being within the forest, foraging, fishing, smelling the seaweed. I all the time carry blotters with me, so in the course of the day I are likely to jot down concepts on these, simply in a couple of phrases.
Do you break for lunch – or eat at your desk?
After conferences and dealing on these, I like to fulfill colleagues for lunch round noon to 1pm. We all the time exit as a result of there’s no canteen or anyplace you’ll be able to meals within the workplace. Maybe a couple of instances a 12 months if I’m in a rush I seize a snack and eat that at my desk, however that’s not humorous to me, I hate it. I might additionally go to my home for lunch, as a result of my home isn’t far-off, in order that’s all the time a chance. I would stroll there and keep an hour, make myself some good meals, have a change of surroundings, then I come again and really feel revived by that.
After lunch, how lengthy do you’re employed for – and what’s going to the afternoon be spent on?
I all the time really feel extra energetic within the afternoons than I do within the mornings – most likely helped by the lunch, inspirational conversations with colleagues and easily the change of surroundings – so I really feel I can sort out tougher issues then.
What time do you go house? Is that the tip of the day, for you? Do you proceed to consider the fragrances once you get house?
Prior to now I used to remain till 9pm, once I was youthful I’d work at the least twelve hours a day, however I don’t do this any longer. So, let’s say after lunch, from round 2pm I often keep within the workplace till 7:30pm minimal, then I am going again to my home and do some sport. I by no means work from home, not ever, in any other case my head would explode. Nicely, okay, typically once I’m fed up, I take my laptop computer and make money working from home as a substitute of the workplace, however on these events I’m with my spouse and we keep perhaps every week in Paris and every week within the South of France, the place we’ve got a pleasant flat.
Seeing the ocean, the luminosity of the realm – being in Cannes, visiting the islands, the harbour, watching the boats coming out and in – it offers me such inspiration. My nostril doesn’t change ‘off’ as such, however we’re not going round smelling issues on a regular basis as a perfumer, not in the identical means as after we work, I believe it could be unattainable to have a life.
Do it’s essential be in a specific temper, to create?
Not particularly, however I do have to really feel energised I suppose, I have to really feel obsessed with what I’m doing as a result of in any other case what’s the purpose?
How lengthy does it take from idea to completed perfume, basically?
I imply my preliminary idea may be executed in two or three hours, however how lengthy it then takes to return out as a completed perfume may be two or three years! Ideally, a 12 months and a half is sufficient to create an amazing perfume. You see you need to wait till the 12 months after that to be available on the market. There’s one venture, I don’t wish to say for whom [he chuckles], however I’ve been engaged on it for eleven years. And it’s nonetheless happening!
Do you take heed to music when you work, and if that’s the case, what type – pop, jazz, classical…?
No, I can solely focus in a single factor at a time once I’m working. So I couldn’t even learn a guide or journal with the radio on within the background, for instance, I don’t do this factor of watching TV when you’re in your cellphone and half studying one thing else… I do discover a lot of the perfumers wish to have music on the radio or stream it from their good cellphone, however for me the secret’s to focus.
Is a visible moodboard of inspirational footage / colors useful so that you can create?
Increasingly purchasers ship me footage to look by way of. Earlier than, I’d be despatched a couple of piles of images a 12 months, in hardcopy. Now it’s primarily digital they will simply create a moodboard, it’s a visible language. To see on the display screen what they need is helpful. However usually they will end up the identical. You already know: it must be sturdy however straightforward to put on, pleasing to the market, one thing completely different, lengthy lasting, one other distinctive perfume…
Once I’m gathering inspiration for myself, I learn by way of all of the magazines that I purchase, I wish to to start with flick by way of in about ten minutes to get an outline and see the colors, colors actually drive me. I wish to preserve my eye in, see what individuals are curious about. Generally I then see these photos once more in moodboards purchasers then ship me, as a result of they usually use photos they’ve present in magazines, so I wish to know the context. Generally the inspiration they ship is de facto good, it helps give me concepts extra rapidly.
What’s the most variety of modifications you’ve ever needed to do, on a perfume? And the least?
Some simply occur actually rapidly. Dolce & Gabbana Gentle Blue, for instance, I did in forty experiments, however I’ve some which might be painful – the longer you’re engaged on one thing I really feel it’s the worst for creativity as a result of you may get misplaced. I’m misplaced, the shopper is misplaced. Your entire idea can change, the identify, if it’s female or masculine in fashion, actually every thing.
What number of supplies do you have got at your fingertips, to work with? And what number of are typically in your common palette?
Out of 1500 most important elements I’ve entry to – although it’s what we name a ‘residing palette’ and that may all the time be added to – I’m often working with the identical 400. This implies I don’t need to scent them on a regular basis, which could sound unusual to some folks, however I do know them so nicely I do know all of the outcomes and potentialities of them. It takes you ten years to get to know them that nicely – to see, to really feel, to the touch, then simply to know.
How a lot of your day (or maybe week) is spent by yourself work – creating new accords, working with supplies which will have been provided to you by the elements homes, to ‘retailer up’ and use for future completed creations?
I don’t have that point typically. The one trésor time I’ve, to do precisely what I would like, is with AKRO. The factor is, I don’t get to truly scent supplies all day, I don’t want to do this anymore to jot down a formulation, I’ll solely then scent them to create an enormous step in that formulation or change it someway. Once we get new molecules or elements and extractions to scent, that’s all the time thrilling, as a result of I don’t know them!
Is there one perfume you WISH you’d created, and why is it so particular?
[Without hesitation] Shalimar. It’s what I’ve smelled in my household for years, I really like the richness of the bergamot with the leather-based and vanilla, the benzoin. It’s magic! I created Champs-Elysés for Guerlain – with musk, mimosa, you realize, very completely different. I cherished it nevertheless it didn’t go so nicely. [He laughs] I created for them, anyway, and it was a good time. For a masculine, I’d cherished to have created Dior’s Sauvage. One other all-time traditional. What extra are you able to ask for?