An in-depth, unique interview with Grasp Perfumer Olivier Cresp…

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One of many perfumery world’s most distinguished figures, Grasp Perfumer Olivier Cresp has composed a whole bunch 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 yr with the passing of Manfred Thierry Mugler on 23 January.

Named a grasp perfumer in 2006, Cresp joined the Firmenich workforce 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 just lately 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 may as well purchase a stunning print copy of) and discovering precisely how he works…


When does your day begin?

Olivier Cresp: I prefer to play tennis within the morning, then go to the seashore within the afternoon… [laughs] No, severely, 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 tasks 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 a few 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, in actual fact: working for them as Grasp Perfumer, based mostly in Paris, and dealing for my very own home, AKRO. I’ve assistants, FDMs (Perfume Improvement 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 this connection. After I’m engaged on my laptop computer, I attempt to focus myself on the tasks I’ve open at the moment.

What number of fragrances would possibly you be engaged on at anybody time?

Up to now, when the whole lot was executed by hand, I may solely work on eight or ten fragrances a day. Now, with pc know-how, I can ship fifty formulation a day, sending them everywhere in the world. There are maybe twenty tasks I’m engaged on directly, typically extra. I prioritise the fragrances by dates and even hours for deadlines. I might be quick. You need to be! Relying on how fast you might be, you possibly can win or lose a venture. To work quick you have to have the expertise and use your time nicely. As a substitute of doing a whole bunch of experiments, like I did originally of my profession, I now solely must do 4 or 5 – then I do know precisely what to maneuver in my perfume formulation and it simply works.

Do you compose fragrances largely in your head? Do you write by hand or use a pc?

It’s a great 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 the whole lot by hand and my calculator. I’d handwrite the components and work out the odds and the value for them, as a result of it’s a must to know that. These days are lengthy gone. Now we’ve got particular programmes that work these bits out for you. After I’ve written my system on my laptop computer I ship it straight to the robotic, the robotic compounds about 80% of the system. Then I’ve my assistants who weigh and compound the lacking 20%. As quickly as I get the concept for my fragrances, I do know precisely what components I wish to use.

The following step for me is to find the proper kind 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 ambiance I need, so I would take into consideration what may create some smokiness or an animalic notice, for instance. Typically the concept is simple, however then it’s not straightforward to search out the fitting molecules to match that odor in your head. I attempt to be figurative, to catch the profile of what I need. The opposite day I needed to create the odor 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 wished orange blossom, I used some violet and a few rose-y parts, then some praline and vanilla to make it odor edible. It have to be logical. It’s a chronological story, after which I’m by no means misplaced that means – it’s form of a crimson thread I’m following.



What sort of different inspirations do you search for, throughout your day? 

I might be impressed by something, however dialog is de facto vital to me. I purchase a great deal of magazines on all topics, I actually get pleasure from 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 throughout 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 satisfy colleagues for lunch round noon to 1pm. We all the time exit as a result of there’s no canteen or wherever you possibly can meals within the workplace. Maybe a couple of instances a yr 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 may 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 – in all probability 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 residence? Is that the top of the day, for you? Do you proceed to consider the fragrances once you get residence?

Up to now I used to remain till 9pm, after I was youthful I’d work not less than twelve hours a day, however I don’t do this any longer. So, let’s say after lunch, from round 2pm I normally keep within the workplace till 7:30pm minimal, then I’m 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 after I’m fed up, I take my laptop computer and do business from home as an alternative 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 provides me such inspiration. My nostril doesn’t swap ‘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 selected temper, to create?

Not particularly, however I do must really feel energised I suppose, I need to really feel keen about 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, generally?

I imply my preliminary idea might be executed in two or three hours, however how lengthy it then takes to come back out as a completed perfume is likely to be two or three years! Ideally, a yr and a half is sufficient to create an awesome perfume. You see it’s a must to wait till the yr after that to be in the marketplace. 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 occurring!

Do you take heed to music whilst you work, and in that case, what form – pop, jazz, classical…?

No, I can solely focus in a single factor at a time after I’m working. So I couldn’t even learn a e-book or journal with the radio on within the background, for instance, I don’t do this factor of watching TV whilst you’re in your cellphone and half studying one thing else… I do discover many of the perfumers prefer to have music on the radio or stream it from their good cellphone, however for me the secret is to focus.



Is a visible moodboard of inspirational photos / colors useful so that you can create?

Increasingly shoppers ship me photos to look by. Earlier than, I’d be despatched a couple of piles of images a yr, in hardcopy. Now it’s primarily digital they’ll simply create a moodboard, it’s a visible language. To see on the display what they need is helpful. However typically they’ll prove the identical. You understand: it needs to be robust however straightforward to put on, pleasing to the market, one thing totally different, lengthy lasting, one other distinctive perfume…

After I’m gathering inspiration for myself, I learn by all of the magazines that I purchase, I prefer to to start with flick by in about ten minutes to get an summary and see the colors, colors actually drive me. I prefer to hold my eye in, see what persons are desirous about. Typically I then see these pictures once more in moodboards shoppers then ship me, as a result of they typically use pictures they’ve present in magazines, so I prefer to know the context. Typically 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 are painful – the longer you’re engaged on one thing I really feel it’s the worst for creativity as a result of you will get misplaced. I’m misplaced, the shopper is misplaced. The complete idea can change, the identify, if it’s female or masculine in fashion, actually the whole lot.

What number of supplies do you’ve got at your fingertips, to work with? And what number of are usually in your common palette?

Out of 1500 essential components I’ve entry to – although it’s what we name a ‘dwelling palette’ and that may all the time be added to – I’m normally working with the identical 400. This implies I don’t need to odor 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 supplied to you by the components 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 need, is with AKRO. The factor is, I don’t get to truly odor supplies all day, I don’t want to try this anymore to put in writing a system, I’ll solely then odor them to create a giant step in that system or change it someway. Once we get new molecules or components and extractions to odor, 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 totally different. I beloved it however it didn’t go so nicely. [He laughs] I created for them, anyway, and it was a good time. For a masculine, I’d beloved to have created Dior’s Sauvage. One other all-time traditional. What extra are you able to ask for?