is an olfactory landscape, a fragment
of nostalgia, breaking through the barriers between memories and reality. A glimpse
of nature, a path that leads from
the woods to the shore.
invigorating and salty sea spray mingles with
the vegetal bitterness of sea fennel. It then develops around soft and sensual apple blossom on the
wings of apricot-scented osmanthus mist.
In the background,
like an optical illusion,
swirling wafts of roasted coffee
with toasted sesame accents,
foreign yet familiar.
A writer whose work has been translated throughout the world, Philippe Claudel is also a film director and playwright, and a lecturer at the Institut Européen de Cinéma et d’Audiovisuel.
Since 1999, he has published some thirty books, novels such as Les Âmes grises (Grey Souls), La Petite Fille de Monsieur Linh (Monsieur Linh and his Child) and Le Rapport de Brodeck (Brodeck’s Report), as well as Parfums: an olfactory memoir, and several anthologies, which have been critical and commercial successes and have been awarded numerous prizes.
In 2008, his first film came out, Il y a longtemps que je t’aime (I’ve Loved You So Long), which would be awarded two Césars and receive international acclaim, as well as various other prizes, including two nominations for Golden Globes and a Bafta for the Best Foreign Film.
A member of the Académie Goncourt, Philippe Claudel lives in Lorraine where he was born in 1962.
It is a season beginning. There are pale blue, angled shafts of light in which the wind from the sea gathers up rolling clouds, salty bellies of foam snatched from the waves that we hear, sometimes, like murmurs of protest from beyond the horizon uttered by people who are mildly angry. It is a season that is beginning again, in a life that starts by picking up the thread of time and wrapping it in a delicate loop around a child’s finger. Everything mingles here in the beauty of a powdery light and of the rains that fall, fleeting and warm, over the blossoming apple trees whose slightly sloping trunks seem to want to drink the green milk of the fresh new grass.
I walk along the footpath with its ditches filled with violets, with temporary streams tousled with mauve algae, and that trickle and trickle and trickle. I walk through the days and the years, no longer really knowing who I am, nor what my age is so much does a walk among the places of childhood manage to bring the present and the yesterdays together, and thus releases us, for a second, into the illusory dizziness of the death of time.
We never return often enough to the places where we have lived. There are so many familiar things here that I could walk with my eyes closed - I do walk with my eyes closed - along the path that unfolds its exquisite indifference between the fields, amid the faint mooing of the cattle, the distant barking of the farm dogs, the silvery rustle of the poplar trees. The places we visit, the places where we live, tell us, without their intending to, about ourselves.
I go on walking, and I breathe my life in. How many footsteps and unimportant adventures have gone to make up this path? What does it retain among its pebbles and its earth of those who have trodden it? Weddings and funerals both interwoven with the malignant perfume of wreaths of lilies - conveyors of life and of death - sentimental children’s dances, processions of novice nuns whose daisies dapple their solemn headdresses in white, the reeling meandering of drunken poets who smell of must and utter loud and mystical cries, the timid little footsteps of rosy-cheeked fiancés, who hardly dare hold each other’s hand. All the aromas are present along the main part of the path and on my walk, which leads me upwards, towards the fringes of the meadows, those dreamt of and written about, while beyond, I know, lies the distant sea, which like another country, promises voyages of cloves, cedar and sandalwood.
It is here too, among the twists and turns of the path, among its shady hollows and its potholes, that the first trembling kisses, half-stolen from the lips of twelve-year-olds, linger, when the vault of the heavens is lit up with its first seaside stars, during summers of geraniums and petunias, while my mother, who thinks I am asleep in my bedroom, waters the flower-beds in the little garden that surrounds the house as she hums an old song that reminds her, I can tell, of her own mother and of her weary washerwoman’s body walking down to the river.
The sound of water being poured from the tin sprinkler that my mother scatters over the flowers is also a music that suddenly comes back to me, and with it the smell of the earth, warmed up during the day, cracked on the surface like a cake that has been overcooked, and moistened by the drops of water dispersing all around them the scents of a friendly sepulchre, discreet stirrings of winter rooted in the flesh of mid-summer.
There they are, I can hear them, my first loves, behind the hawthorn bush, laughing through their mysterious baby teeth and creamy white cheeks. I know they are still alive, those I loved and those who caused me pain. I could easily leave the path, climb over the fence, stoop slightly beneath the low branches of the pink and white apple trees, trample through the grassy fields, gazing at the long brown eyelashes of the recumbent cattle, draw closer to the singing, the laughter and the thicket, and, in a whirl, experience once more, like a liqueur, the images, the seasons, the ages and the moments, the peppery sweats, the red acid of apples on our tongues, the fold of the leathery new leaves of the nut tree that we shall tear off in the autumn, the dust from the black lines of stubble in the damp crease of our elbows, the beads of blood forming over scratches, the astonishing caress of the tall umbellifers after the storms that had us rushing into the haven of barns to embark on cruises on the pale hay, side by side, as though on the bridge of those great vessels whose sails we would see drawing geometrical dreams over the sea, the sea that was like life itself at that time, infinite, distant, inexorably present in its alternately shimmering and silvery mystery, its smell of cold and teaming bodies.
As the path rises and obliges me to slacken my pace, I breathe deeply, and am left with the soothing effect of my age, which magically brings together all ages, both those lived through and those imagined, as though there were to be blended together, in a perfume that would be that of our true selves, the scent of laughter and children’s voices, the worn patina of old ladies’ cheeks, shiny as the fruit stored in the autumn pantry and that makes us think of sleep when we kiss them, the large sheets drying in the wind, the dreams we pursue when we read old adventure novels redolent of tar, precious wood, musk, Malaysian riggings and oriental languages, and many other things, music, caresses, murmured remarks, promises, insubstantial trinkets that pile up in the sublime clutter of our curious existences, which are journeys, always.
Tomorrow, sleep will have blotted out the fragrances that are too intense. All that will remain of the path will be a meandering mist, and of the walk a faint trail, a bunch of flowers left behind, the wash from a ship, the w-shaped flight of a seagull, a burst of laughter, a grain of blackened peel, a shadow over the moss, a mauve and yellow pansy petal that flutters in the air before landing on a grasshopper’s back.
Not quite awake, I shall turn on my side, and, while your eyes are still closed, inhale the perfume of your neck as I clasp time against my heavy arm.
Based on both her experiences and personality, Safia Ouares has never limited herself to a traditional vision of art. She employs both the lost skills of engraving and silkscreen painting, and those of video. That is why the luxury houses, which have to blend the contradictions of tradition and innovation, call on her. It is her free spirit that
brings her inspiration from nature and mythology in order to interpret our universe. It is in her creation that she evokes her trips to the megacities of the world, and in the memories of her grand-mother’s garden, full of the Mediterranean scents of coriander, lemon and peppermint.
"I wanted a fragrance as powerful and intense as a memory can be. To transmit the feeling of wellness that we feel in Normandy when we close our eyes and we feel the breeze of the sea, the salty sea spread, and the singular smell of the apple trees. A fragrance of openness and pleasure… a great escape".
"Florabellio gets its singularity from three raw materials:
"The story began seven years ago when Christiane Gautrot entrusted me with her childhood memories of Barfleur, Normandy. In these memories were scents of coffee and sea sprays, melted with the delicate perfume of the blooming apple trees. Then I saw Terry Weifenbach’s pictures. They brought me the lights, the shades, and the depth of the fragrance".
The spirit of Grasse runs in Fabrice’s blood. His father was a perfumer; his grandmother a beloved jasmine picker and his grandfather a supplier of naturals for perfumery, Fabrice remains strongly connected to his land. For him, memories of Grasse are woven with imaged of olive and cypress trees, wide open spaces, the sun, chirping cicadas, smiling friends and steady pace of life, as well as time spent with the older generations: “the people of Grasse are secretive, they keep their knowledge preciously hidden, when they do divulge it, the hand it over entirely.” Fabrice Pellegrin was trained by working closely with experienced professionals. He paid close attention to the various stages raw materials must go through on the journey for harvest to perfume.
Alongside his role as a creative perfumer, Fabrice is also involved in the development of natural products at Firmenich. Over the course of 15 years, he has been dividing his time between Paris and the research laboratories in Grasse.
This generous and earnest perfumer takes great pleasure in extolling the virtues of his passion to students at local schools. He is adamant that the tricks of his savoir-faire are passed down through the generations and it is no surprise that his eldest
son is set to become a perfumer himself. For Fabrice, nothing is more flattering that being copied. He also believes very strongly in the power of education “it is important that we share our knowledge, by exchanging ideas and being open. No one holds the truth. Just like the world of fashion? Perfumery is constantly redesigning, rewriting and setting trends.
A discreet man, Fabrice is constantly attentive and careful not to speak for the sake of it. He relished his exchanges with clients, many of whom have been faithful to him for years, some may say he is their lucky star. He is very superstitious, saying “in our business, fate really does play a part. It dictates when we create something new and has a role in our timing, whether that be too early, too late or just right”. But fate seems to have smiled on Fabrice, his carrier peppered with fortuitous and highly enriching encounters.
His humility and perseverance are two indispensable qualities for someone in his profession. On the reverse of his watch he has engraved “carpe diem”. Am reminder to this impatient man of the passing of the time, these words telling us what matters most to this brilliant perfumer: make the most the time you have.
Terri Weifenbach was born in New York in 1957 and grew up in Maryland. She is a fine art photographer and teacher on the faculty of Georgetown University and American University – both in Washington DC.
Her work has been exhibited internationally for over fifteen years and is in numerous collections including the Sir Elton John Photography Collection, the Museum Ludwig in Köln, and the Museum of Photographic Arts in San Diego. She has had over a dozen books published, often in
limited editions. Two acclaimed books are “Lana” and “Politics of Flowers”.
“Lana” is the name of a town in the Sud Tyrol mountains, in Northern Italy, where she took pictures during three trips from 1998 to 2001. “Lana” gathers images of nature fragments – trees, flowers….presented in unexpected juxtapositions of spaces, with amazing color mixtures and contrasts.
For me, this adventure began in 2006 when Christiane Gautrot and Yves Coueslant decided to retire. At the time, they gave me two vials of “olfactory ideas” relating to their childhood memories. “This is yours now”, they said, “use them as you see fit...”. With very direct and intriguing accords, the stage was set. With help from Fabrice Pellegrin who had been part of the first discussions on their childhood memories, we picked up the thread of their story and tried to understand the workings of their mind in order to transform these smells into fragrances.
Yves’ memories resulted in the creation of Volutes. It was much easier to understand this narrative, translate it using fragrant raw materials reminiscent of honeyed tobacco, transatlantic liners, stylish women from the 40s ....
However, it was more complicated to give life to Christiane’s olfactive souvenirs. She had mentioned an open and welcoming perfume with a mixture of fragrances, a Normandy village bathed in sea spray, the smell of apples drying on racks at the end of the summer, the familiar and comforting smell of roasted coffee escaping from the local grocery store... How could we combine and balance these different fragrances to recreate her olfactory landscape? It took us more than five years to find the right prism, and this occurred through the lens of photographer Terri Weifenbach.
One of her books, “Lana”, had caught my attention because the way it captured nature was, in my opinion, very close to how our brand understands it, both picturesque and glorious. Her photographs associate different depths of field with clear and out-of-focus details, which is a strong parallel to the way perfume is created. By looking through her book, I stumbled across images which were a direct visual translation of the perfume we would create.
Lana is the name of a small village in Italy. Terri visited that place three times over a period of two years. The photographs she took during her last trip depict apple trees in bloom. I shared this with Fabrice who came up with the idea of “capturing” the apple blossom fragrance which gave new momentum to our quest.
The apple blossom essence represents almost half the fragrance in this perfume. Combined with osmanthus, fennel and angelica, it created a very singular accord. Christiane's memory also included coffee, the olfactory accident which is the base note for this fragrance.
And to associate words to this olfactory memory, I asked Philippe Claudel who has written a book “Perfume” which is a compilation of stories taking us deep into the intimacy of his olfactory memory, to write a text narrating FLORABELLIO... a journey between memories and reality, a walk along the path of life leading us from Normandy’s woodland to its beaches.