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, after all, the completely legendary Thierry Mugler Angel – a fragrance which turned 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 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 together 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 too purchase a beautiful 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, 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 now we have no limits, we will dare. On a traditional day, I get to the workplace round 9:30. I like that you just’re on this! The opposite day I had somebody filming me all day lengthy, for a brief video that might be edited down to 3 minutes. It’s fascinating that individuals wish to know the way perfumers spend their days, now. The very first thing I at all times do is speak 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 reality: 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 – just a few years in the past this simply didn’t occur, however since lockdowns, it may be three hours a day of speaking to colleagues via 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 may you be engaged on at anybody time?

Previously, when the whole lot was finished by hand, I may solely work on eight or ten fragrances a day. Now, with laptop expertise, I can ship fifty formulation a day, sending them all around the world. There are maybe twenty tasks I’m engaged on without delay, generally extra. I prioritise the fragrances by dates and even hours for deadlines. I might be quick. You must be! Relying on how fast you’re, you may win or lose a venture. To work quick you should have the expertise and use your time properly. As a substitute of doing a whole bunch 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 great query – perfumers are like writers, some favor 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 chances and the worth for them, as a result of you must know that. These days are lengthy gone. Now now we have particular programmes that work these bits out for you. After 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 components I wish to use.

The subsequent step for me is to find the proper sort or highest 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’d take into consideration what may create some smokiness or an animalic word, for instance. Typically the thought is simple, however then it’s not simple to seek 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 finished 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 components, 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 form of a purple 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 absolutely necessary to me. I purchase a great deal of magazines on all topics, I actually get pleasure from studying Figaro, however I get plenty of female magazines particularly. I additionally love strolling, being within the forest, foraging, fishing, smelling the seaweed. I at all times carry blotters with me, so in the course of the day I are likely to jot down concepts on these, simply in just a few 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 at all times exit as a result of there’s no canteen or wherever you may meals within the workplace. Maybe just a few occasions 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 at all times a chance. I’d 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 at all times 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 harder issues then.

What time do you go dwelling? Is that the top of the day, for you? Do you proceed to consider the fragrances if you get dwelling?

Previously I used to remain till 9pm, after I was youthful I’d work at the least twelve hours a day, however I don’t try this any longer. So, let’s say after lunch, from round 2pm I normally 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, generally after I’m fed up, I take my laptop computer and earn a living 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 now we have 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 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 once we work, I believe it might be inconceivable to have a life.

Do it’s essential to be in a selected temper, to create?

Not particularly, however I do have to really feel energised I suppose, I have to really feel captivated 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, usually?

I imply my preliminary idea might be finished in two or three hours, however how lengthy it then takes to return out as a completed perfume is perhaps two or three years! Ideally, a yr and a half is sufficient to create an important perfume. You see you must wait till the yr 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 occurring!

Do you hearken to music whilst you work, and if that’s the case, what sort – 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 ebook or journal with the radio on within the background, for instance, I don’t try this factor of watching TV whilst you’re in your telephone 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 sensible telephone, however for me the bottom line is to focus.



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

An increasing number of shoppers ship me footage to look via. Earlier than, I’d be despatched just a few 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 screen what they need is beneficial. However typically they’ll prove the identical. You realize: it needs to be robust however simple 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 via all of the magazines that I purchase, I wish to to start with flick via in about ten minutes to get an summary and see the colors, colors actually drive me. I wish to maintain my eye in, see what persons are all in favour of. 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 wish to know the context. Typically the inspiration they ship is absolutely good, it helps give me concepts extra shortly.

What’s the most variety of modifications you’ve ever needed to do, on a perfume? And the least?

Some simply occur actually shortly. 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 consumer is misplaced. Your complete idea can change, the identify, if it’s female or masculine in type, actually the whole lot.

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

Out of 1500 foremost components I’ve entry to – although it’s what we name a ‘dwelling palette’ and that may at all times be added to – I’m normally working with the identical 400. This implies I don’t must scent them on a regular basis, which could sound unusual to some folks, however I do know them so properly I do know all of the outcomes and prospects of them. It takes you ten years to get to know them that properly – 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 that 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 usually. The one trésor time I’ve, to do precisely what I would like, is with AKRO. The factor is, I don’t get to really scent supplies all day, I don’t want to try this anymore to put in writing a formulation, I’ll solely then scent them to create an enormous step in that formulation or change it by some means. Once we get new molecules or components and extractions to scent, that’s at all times 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 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, , very totally different. I cherished it nevertheless it didn’t go so properly. [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?