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Perfume: The Story of Christophe Laudamiel

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You have studied chemistry and mathematics and you even started a PhD program. When did you realize that you want to give up university and that your true passion is in formulas for perfumes and scents?

CHRISTOPHE LAUDAMIEL: I dropped out of the PhD program when I realized that for what I wanted to do (product development and concrete applications as opposed to fundamental research) a PhD wasn’t necessary. What is rather key for me personally is to be good at experimental design and to find solid pragmatic solutions. I am an experimenter first, before an encyclopedist and a theorist. Was world chemistry vice-champion at one point. Moreover, after my Master, I did sweat through 3 years of perfumery school, so it’s almost like a PhD in perfumery, if that would ever exist.

 

We were really impressed by the recreation of the 15 scents inspired by the movie “Perfume, the story of a murderer”. Is it fair to assume that your upper goal is the same one seen in the movie, to find the supreme scent? And what does it take for a perfume to be the utmost fragrance?

CHRISTOPHE LAUDAMIEL: No I am not looking for the “supreme” scent. It would mean too much isolation, too much forgetting about the everyday world for the ethereal world. I like to seclude, but do like to see other people turned happy by what one does, creates or invents. However, looking for new olfactory perfections (plural is cool, as opposed to singular “perfection” which can easily turn into a life obsession. I’m never obsessed. Just passionate), looking for new compelling or mysterious combinations, special effects, emotions, affections, that is what I love to do.

Cristophe Laudamiel

How about a perfume wearing your personality, the Christophe Laudamiel personality? What would that bouquet be like?

CHRISTOPHE LAUDAMIEL: One day Michelle Krell Kydd, a scent specialist at the University of Michigan, at Ann Arbor, asked me to answer that question in a LOVE exercise she teaches. I said: “We’ll do L-O-V-E for Laudamiel (as a person) by Laudamiel (as the Perfumer):

  L-eather          O-xadiene®       V-anilla-tahitiensis   E-nvy.

There is logic to it and would smell great, unique and comfortable, rather affectionate. Although, at first sight, for the amateur, it would seem unreachable and inconceivable, like an intellectual and physical mind flayed alive (ecorche’e), seemingly easily subject to critique too. However unafraid, curious and open people will try it and realize that they are onto something unique and special, quirky or fabulous.

Leather for softness, friendliness to animals (vegetal-based leather) or sex, depends.
Oxadiene®, a uniquely sappy (seve, sugo della pianta) and contemporary molecule by fab chemist Firmenich, for green vegetal bamboo, snowdrop discrete flowers, apple blossoms and strawberry blossom, big landscapes, purity and natural.
Vanilla : the natural gorgeous smell of natural black vanilla pods: woody, sweet, balsamic and exotic. I always come back to vanilla, although I love a good chocolate or a good red wine at times too. The Tahitiensis variety is of the nicer, richer, sweeter fruity kind, and as a matter of fact I lived next door to Papua New Guinea where it grows: in New Caledonia. I am a little bit like Papua New Guinea: very mysterious, at times strange or interesting, unique in colors like its birds but often scares people.
Envy: as a mixture of passion for everything, with shyness and fairness or unfairness. Don’t know yet what ingredient, something red and hot that I love could represent that: maybe Cinnamon and Cardamom. Envy is not an ingredient per se. The word, the character “Envy” still follows the rule, reasonably but on the fringe, not anarchist, but flexible and independent, not perfect, just surprising, a little unpredictable. It still remains human, sensitive, actually very predictable, always there, very loyal and consistent, but will just get red if unduly or artificially deprived of freedom.

Cristophe Laudamiel

What inspires you and what drives you in a day with a blue mood?

CHRISTOPHE LAUDAMIEL: Endless list: plants, animals, other smells, also pictures, landscapes, history, the future, as well as the Freedom of not having to have an explainable inspiration all the time.
In the days with a blue mood, Churchill himself said: “If you’re going through hell, keep going”. On those days I tell myself: “Tuck your mind in your pocket, don’t think, just be a robot but don’t stop, and tomorrow will be another day”.

 

If your perfumes had a superpower, what would that be?

CHRISTOPHE LAUDAMIEL: To provide me with insight into the mind and motivations of people. I just don’t understand a lot of people.

 

How did you decide to “spray” into the retail world this passion and talent of yours in the shape of DreamAir?

CHRISTOPHE LAUDAMIEL: I am convinced that designing for the air is an activity as emotional and artistic as designing for skin or creating music for the piano. I’ve been doing ambient sculptures for 15 years now. 20 years of Perfumery overall next year.

Cristophe Laudamiel

How does it work? Should we feel manipulated by the fragrances used inside shops and pay more attention to our shopping decisions from now on?

CHRISTOPHE LAUDAMIEL: a. You should pay attention to your nose as much as to your eyes and ears. The nose is as important to your brain as your eyes: emotionally, informatively, educationally. Scientists say, smelling is everyday aerobics for the brain.
b. A nicely scented space is no more manipulative than a nice picture on the wall or pleasant music playing in the background. Scents are not drugs. The brain still decides what it wants to do, fully. Listen to your nose, eyes shut.

 

Do you also play with the scents of the individual products, not only shop environment?

CHRISTOPHE LAUDAMIEL: I also design for products, of course, but much more could be done as an industry, in the types of smells used, and in concepts or overall design solutions. I am among those few perfumers that have trained and can design for just about any category, like a conductor or music composer familiar with a lot of instruments: fine fragrances, ambient scent sculptures, candles, shampoos, detergents, etc, even food.

 

How can we make more use of the fragrances in order to enhance the future of retail?

CHRISTOPHE LAUDAMIEL: The day scent reaches the same level of use as decor and music will be already something. Then I can die happy, the next generation can then take over further. I’ll be tired.

Cristophe Laudamiel

Your creations interact with accounts like Ralph Lauren or Estee Lauder, among all your projects which would you chose as the most challenging and why?

CHRISTOPHE LAUDAMIEL: Polo Blue for men for Ralph Lauren was the most challenging project-wise and strategy-wise (like a good sport game). Perfume, Story of a murderer was the most challenging scent-wise but luckily, because I started so early, time was not a pressure. Amber-Nude for Tom Ford was the most challenging reputation-wise, not only because of Tom’s personal respect and affability, but also because I was working, deconstructing and re:mixing (ala musical meaning) an emblematic scent from an emblematic perfumer Josephine Catapano who had done a master piece 40+ years earlier. Abercrombie & Fitch and Armani were the most challenging responsability-wise. The Langham Place Fifth Avenue (ex Setai hotel, rated #1 in NYC by USA Today last year) was the most challenging future-of-DreamAir-wise. Humiecki & Graef the most challenging concept-wise. Nest Fragrances the most challenging modern-simplicity wise. The Fragrance Kitchen the most challenging cultural-wise. Scent-Opera Green Aria the most challenging technical-wise and unknown-wise. Davos the most challenging logistic-wise and security-wise.

 

How was the challenge to create the fragrance for Abercrombie&Fitch?

CHRISTOPHE LAUDAMIEL: In fact this is one of those projects that started very small, that I did not for a business focus but because I find some projects cool, because I found the team cool and where you give a good shot at it and as we say in French “ça passe ou ça casse” (pass or break). I do a lot of those by interest, passion or friendship, and out of 20 or 30, one becomes known by more than a few. I did not creat Aqua di Gio for men (colleagues Alberto Morillas and Annie Buzantian did), but I heard it came also out of one of those quick, on-the-side, projects. The original Dolce&Gabbana dark blue as well. That’s often how you get the best creativity and guts feelings.

 

What are you working on now and what plans do you have for the future?

CHRISTOPHE LAUDAMIEL: I’m working on DreamAir, on the Academy of Perfumery and on a map and language of olfaction. I want to bring Perfumery into the realm of art, with whomever wants to do it -as a team -wink wink, volunteers?- to where it should be: with the rest –Painting, Poetry, Architecture, Music – and then I want a rest.