WHEN IT comes to creating a perfume, few brands have their own laboratory where everything is done internally.
For French luxury beauty brand Guerlain, every new perfume created is done in-house, according to Thierry Wasser, Guerlain’s master perfumer.
“Joining Guerlain 10 years ago and becoming the fifth generation perfumer of the house was a great step in my life. With a rich history, Guerlain has strong values and iconic creations, which I do have to take care of. I was definitely attracted by the fact that creation, sourcing and manufacturing are done in-house. And this inspires me every day,” said Wasser, 56, a Swiss who is based in Paris, in an email interview.
Mon Guerlain is the brand’s newest eau de parfum that is fronted by actress, filmmaker, director and Special Envoy of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Angelina Jolie.
According to Wasser, there wasn’t a specific brief on the creation of the perfume.
“To celebrate our 190th birthday, I contemplated honouring women. The house of Guerlain has dedicated its know-how and passion to beauty for almost two centuries. That’s why we wanted to pay tribute to the portrait of today’s femininity.”
He also said he wasn’t aware of Jolie being the face of the fragrance at that time.
“I started working on this fragrance almost four years ago and at that time, Angelina wasn’t in the picture. The idea of celebrating women wasn’t aimed at only one woman.
“Then, Laurent Boillot, our CEO, brought Angelina on board as our partner. We really felt that she was a natural choice. He met her in Cambodia where she was shooting her last movie First They Killed My Father and explained the project to her. She gave us the great gift of accepting what became our collaboration.
“Angelina helped us on the visual, film, and even the choice of the bottle. The name was decided after a discussion with her, about her mother and her love for Guerlain products.”
Wasser said Tahitensis Vanilla was the starting point of Mon Guerlain.
“In storytelling, you select your words very carefully. For fragrances, it’s the same, you choose raw materials to represent your point. I chose to express the portrait of this woman with four main raw materials, as a painter chooses his colours.
“I picked lavender as it is a very fresh and spontaneous ingredient. Then, jasmine sambac, which is widely used in South of India, in necklaces made of flower. They are given to family members, to celebrate weddings, in temples and worn by women on their hair. You see how social this flower is: presents for loved ones, for Gods or for beauty. I chose this flower to demonstrate the social skills of this portrait of woman.”
Sandalwood, Wasser said, represents the resilience and the memory to fight for your rights, which is an essential element when drawing a portrait of today’s femininity, for Mon Guerlain.
“Vanilla is a very ‘huggable’ scent and symbolises maternal love. That’s how you choose your ingredients.”
Mon Guerlain was created by Wasser and his co-creator, Delphine Jelk: “Creation is about ideas and ideas can come out of conversation, of remembering a trip, etc. It’s also about communicating and opening your mind. I do believe that it’s always better when you are not alone. In creation, loneliness can be a deadly trap.”
When asked about the toughest part of a perfumer’s job, Wasser said, “When you have an idea and you need to make it come alive in a bottle. It’s a long process because it’s not scientific, there is no rule, and it’s a matter of trial and error, and can be frustrating.”
So how would he describe the scent of Mon Guerlain? “In a few words, Mon Guerlain is a fresh oriental which is audacious, radiant and terribly sensual.” To help a perfume last longer, Wasser recommends moisturising your skin before applying perfume.