OLFACTIVE STUDIO has a futuristic process for fragrance development. For each new fragrance, a perfumer is given nothing more than a photograph and absolute carte blanche to create their own fragrance. Next, it is up to the intuition, passion and vision of the perfumer to capture the essence of the image in a cutting-edge, modern scent. Since its creation in Paris in September 2011, the brand has launched seven successful fragrances, and its eighth oeuvre, Selfie, recently hit the shelves in October 2015. Instead of the usual inspirational photograph on the box, the Selfie has a reflective square, so everyone who buys it can see their own reflection. The fragrance remains the same, but the mirror allows it to appear and feel one-of-a-kind. This strategy took OLFACTIVE STUDIO’s signature approach to new metaphysical heights of creativity in the beauty industry.
This strategy took OLFACTIVE STUDIO’s signature approach to new metaphysical heights, creating a new level of creativity in the beauty industry.
Mood of Living Q&A
Mood of Living: To begin, tell us about your family.
Celine Verleure: I was born in France in the Loire Valley near the famous castle of Chambord. My family is full of entrepreneurs who create bicycles, furniture, bridges. But nobody specializes in perfumes!
MoL: How would you describe what you do?
CL: I am an artistic director and a perfume creator of Olfactive Studio. Many people don’t know this, but there is a difference between a perfumer and a creator. As the former, I do not know how to mix raw perfume components, but I know what final result I want and how to balance ingredients. I have a global visual of a project from the name, the inspiring photo, the olfactive directions, to the final fragrance creation.
MoL: Where did you go to school?
CL: I went to school in Blois, France — where I was born. I graduated from a Business School in the north of France.
MoL: You grew up planning to become an architect but early on transitioned into perfumery. Why did you choose these directions, and what commonalities do you find in these two fields?
CL: I love architecture and decoration, especially Japanese and Brazilian architects. My favorites are Tadao and Oscar Niemeyer. A perfume project has its own architecture, its own coherence, and hints of surprise at the same time. The inspiring picture has to be mysterious as well as the fragrance. You need to look and smell for awhile to understand all facets.
MoL: What was the ‘aha’ moment when you realized that perfumery was what you wanted to do in life?
CL: I was just 26 years old when I started creating fragrances for Kenzo, the French-Japanese brand. Kenzo Jungle and L’Eau by Kenzo were among my first creations. I discovered that I love creating fragrances and received olfactive training at Cinquième Sens, a training company in Paris. I also learned from each perfumer when I worked on a new project. Smelling a lot of pure natural ingredients every morning helps you remember.
MoL: OLFACTIVE STUDIO is firmly rooted in photography, from the name to the packaging that is reminiscent of lenses and polaroids and comes in a padded “camera” box with “handwritten” bottles. Why did you start thinking about the connection between photography and scents, the eye and the nose?
CL: For three different reasons. First, I am a visual person more than a person of words. It is easier for me to get inspiration from a photo than a text, even if it’s poetry. I also loved the idea of having a dialogue about the photo between the photographer, the perfumer, and me. The 3rd main reason is that photography has always been linked to perfumes, but usually as an advertising image created afterward and separated from the fragrance creation process, which often results in boring images of a couple or a muse in ecstasy.
“Photography is for me the Art of the 21st Century. It is also my passion.”
MoL: Why do you use different Noses for each of your perfumes? How do you match photographers with perfumers?
CL: I like the idea of working with different perfumers and matching them to the project according to their personality and creative style. The perfumer Sidonie Lancesseur, for example, is a young perfumer who looks angelic. She was perfect for a milky fragrance like our Lumière Blanche that translates as White Light.
MoL: Each of the Olfactive Studio perfumes until now was based on one specific photograph, but for your newest creation—Selfie—you just chose a clean reflective slate. How so, and how did selfies start to play such an important role in our personal and cultural narratives?
CL: I could not choose any inspiration image for a fragrance called Selfie, it has to be personalized with the Selfie of each client. We will soon launch our Personalized Selfie labels at www.olfactivestudio.com/selfie. Selfie is a top trend following the rise of social media. It encompasses the staging of one’s life, an ego trip!
MoL: Who is your dream photographer to work with that you haven’t had a chance to engage yet?
CL: I would be love to work with many famous fashion photographers, such as Paolo Roversi and Peter Lindbergh, and some artistic photographers like Raymond Depardon and Sebatião Salgado.
MoL: How often do you come up with the ideas for the photographs you use that are completely different from what the perfumer creates?
CL: Sometimes, the perfumer does not interpret the picture in the same way as I do, and we talk about it. We share our emotions on the picture. I would not be able to launch a fragrance that I don’t like.
“I do love unisex fragrances full of woods, spices, resins and citrus notes. Unlike many creators, I am not very fond of flowers.”
MoL: Tell us about your impressive global experience. What were you looking for when you traveled all over the world? What did you gain? How have your travels affected the way you see perfumery?
CL: Yes, I am an intensive traveler, from South America to the Himalayas and Japan. Travel is an integral part of my life, and I enjoy it. It is true that it is a key to understanding people’s tastes in different countries and to being able to develop a truly global fragrance (or a fragrance that a certain part of the world will be fond of). For example, I never traveled to the Middle East and find it difficult to understand their perfume tastes.
MoL: How was the idea of «the blog of the fragrance that doesn’t exist (yet)!» born?
CL: I saw some examples of crowd-sourced projects in other fields and thought that people would love to participate in the creation of a perfume brand, get to know it and be a part of the behind-the-scenes process. I engage the community at every stage of development, including brainstorms for names, bottles selection, caps sketching, choosing inspiring photographs and more on the Facebook page which still exists in French.
More than 5,000 people contributed to the creation of the brand, and it was fun to disclose each step to the community. We launched with three perfumes back in 2011, and the first three names were pretty obvious: Autoportrait (Self-Portrait), Chambre Noire (Dark Room) and Still Life. Most of the members said only ‘I like’ or ‘I dislike’ and explained why, but a few of them gave really good ideas, especially for the perfumes’ names. For instance, Lumière Blanche (White Light) was crowd-sourced.
MoL: Where do you see yourself and OLFACTIVE STUDIO in 10 years?
CL: I think that OLFACTIVE STUDIO has a great future of being a real artistic brand. Sales are growing fast in all continents, and I don’t see how it could stop now. I have a lot of creative ideas, pictures I found, perfumes ideas to match the pictures. The next big step will be to open OLFACTIVE STUDIO dedicated boutiques in some key cities around the world.
MoL: Do you have a hobby?
CL: My hobby is traveling and foreign languages. I studied English, of course, as well as Japanese, Portuguese, Spanish and German, and I wish I could speak Italian and Russian. My job is linked to this hobby, which is the best!
MoL: What is your favorite quote?
CL: It is a quote from a French author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry: “Make your life a dream, and your dream a reality.”
MoL: Who is an influential figure in your life?
CL: Charlotte Perriand, one of the first woman designers and the true creator of the famous LC5 lounge chair.
MoL: What is the best advice you’ve ever received and who gave it to you?
CL: My father always pushed me to be independent and dismiss the fear of creating.
MoL: What is something you know now about the business that you wish you knew before?
CL: How cash flow is key for a business development and how banks are coy, especially in France!
MoL: Any words of wisdom you want to share?
CL: I’m too young for wisdom.
MoL: Where do you go for peace of mind and spirit?
CL: My dream place is Rio de Janeiro, which is a perfect combination of nature and city life with exquisite climate.
MoL: We find that people who make beautiful things are more likely to lead an artistic lifestyle. What inspires and recharges you?
CL: I like original architecture. I also love good food, but I am not so gifted or dedicated—I prefer to go to gourmet restaurants.
MoL: What advice can you give anyone interested in starting his or her own business?
CL: Guts and passion!
All photos courtesy of OLFACTIVE STUDIO and Celine Verleure.
Celine Verleure, artistic director of OLFACTIVE STUDIO