The niche perfumery scene in Singapore just got a lot more exciting in recent months — particularly as Guerlain’s L’Art & La Matière Collection has just launched here.
The collection of olfactory masterpieces is a showcase of the house’s flair for haute perfumery. First created in 2005, the range was recently expanded, yet continues to spotlight the exceptional raw materials in the fragrances.
Three new iterations have joined this exquisite lineup – Cherry Oud, Oud Khol and Oud Nude – which celebrates the Oud Assam in all of its woody and ambery glory.
Guerlain has also recently introduced new innovations such as customisable bottle designs and refillable fragrances. To tell us more about these exciting changes, we speak to the maison’s in-house perfumer Delphine Jelk, and Ann-Caroline Prazan, Director of Art, Culture and Heritage.
Delphine Jelk, Guerlain Perfumer
We’d love to get to know you first. How did you become a Guerlain perfumer?
I first wanted to become a pharmacist, but I wanted to live in Paris so deeply that I decided to go to a fashion design school. I could have studied pharmacy in Switzerland but not fashion! Perfumery is the pharmacy of beauty, “la boucle est bouclée!”
I started working for Guerlain several years before becoming an In-House Perfumer. La petite Robe noire is my first baby!
Share with us your first scent memory, and if applicable, how it translates into your work today.
It’s probably the apricot oil in a jar that my mother and grandmother used, which is still part of my life today and now that of my four children. It is the miracle cure for all wounds!
What are your personal favourite artworks?
I love painting, dancing, and photography. I am very sensitive to delicacy and poetic artwork like Claudine Drai’s world.
How do you think scent relates to art?
Art is deeply linked to the five senses. A sound can inspire a taste or a touch, such as a vision may inspire a scent. It happens to me all the time!
What is the essence of Guerlain’s L’Art et la Matière?
Fragrance at Guerlain is an art form to which the house has continuously contributed since 1828. Regarding Haute Parfumerie, for Guerlain, it is the very definition of the art of fragrance. Guerlain has always been a visionary in Fine Perfumery by producing rare and exceptional compositions for fragrance lovers and informed connoisseurs. In 2005, the house blazed trails as it became one of the first to offer a collection of exclusive fragrances known now as L’Art & La Matière. It is about expressing the uncovered emotion through an original, precious raw material while being free of all limitations.
L’Art et la Matière collection has been developed based on a very powerful olfactive commitment including overdoses of contrasts and raw materials. In the end, the latter makes something strong vibrate in each, thanks to the creation of new harmonies and a lot of audacity. This is what makes L’Art et la Matière collection special to me.
Why was Oud Assam chosen as the primary material for the three new Oud scents?
Agarwood is very precious, intense, mystical and very inspiring. It was like evidence for me to give my creative vision to this very special raw material by giving it a bold signature of Haute Parfumerie.
Could you describe your fragrance signature or philosophy?
L’Art et la Matière collection is really special to me, because it is part of this magic throughout fragrances that have been created based on a very strong olfactive commitment, with overdoses of raw materials and contrasts – that in the end, create new harmonies and a lot of audacity to make something strong vibrate in each.
How have you imprinted that into the two scents (Oud Nude and Cherry Oud) you’ve created?
Oud Nude makes the agarwood luminous and bright! I wanted a very sensuous fragrance, soft and round like the curves of the body and soothing like the skin.
Who are the people who would wear Oud Nude and Chery Oud?
Anybody! The most important is to be moved, you have to be touched by the fragrance before wearing it.
Tell us more about how the sculptures that have inspired the concoctions and the notes chosen. How have they personally inspired you?
The scent of Oud Nude could evoke the pure, sensual lines of a sculpture by Constantin Brâncuși, with its light nude tones. Streamlined curves that magnify forms… Just as Brâncuși’s work exalts the undulations of wood, the fragrance unveils an abstract, minimalist, yet deeply sensuous oud wood
If we think about Cherry Oud, the provocative cherry at its heart recalls the vibrant, glossy red used by Jeff Koons in some of his sculptures. Made of mirror-polished stainless steel, some of his most iconic pieces are lacquered in this vivid red. A cherry red, of course.
Talk us through the creation of the two scents, from ideation to conception.
I love to create; my mind is always full of new ideas! I love a blank page. Writing and waiting for the first trial is so exciting! It’s my favourite moment in the creating process. Developing a fragrance is about establishing a desire to give birth to pleasure.
I composed this Oud Nude fragrance like a fairy tale whose fragrances express the sensuality of bodies, their curves, and their skin. Concerning Cherry Oud, it is between the sacred and the mischievous. I wanted to play on the contrast between the rarity, mystery, and darkness of oud wood, and the smiling irreverence of cherry.
What are some of your favourite Guerlain scents you’ve created?
I can’t choose! I loved creating all of them, it’s always an incredible journey. Once the fragrance is launched, it becomes yours, not mine anymore! There is something sad about it but at the same time, I’m so happy to smell it on you! Best gift ever!
Ann-Caroline Prazan, Director of Art, Culture & Heritage
Between the three new scents, what is your favourite and why?
I love the 3 new scents but my favourite one is Oud Nude. It is an enveloping vanilla sandalwood with so much sensuality. It’s a rich and round fragrance, a cameo of pink beige. A second skin for myself.
What are Guerlain’s sustainable measures when it comes to perfumery?
This is a very important issue for me – nowadays consumers are increasingly looking for naturalness and eco-responsibility. Since its creation in 1828, the house of Guerlain uses natural raw materials. Today, we’re more than ever in favour of the use of natural materials but also produced in a more sustainable way! It’s not a trend, it’s a commitment. So being sustainable is an everyday concern when creating a perfume, from sourcing raw materials to the final product.
What is the history of the iconic Square Bottle design of the collection?
We have been inspired by a bottle from our heritage; the 1870’s square bottle. It is an emblematic Guerlain bottle that contained, among others, many great perfumes such as Paris Caprice or Royal Extract of Flowers – the past reinvented.
Tell us more about the collaboration with Moroccan artist Ghizlane Agzenaï
The collaboration with Ghizlane Agzenai was fantastic. A wonderful encounter with this visual artist who offers paintings that are colourful and joyful compositions in search of a universal language. We immediately understood each other, and it was a real pleasure to work together. I love more than anything its geometrical abstraction! Only pleasure and perpetual dialogue materialise into the realisation of its incredible staging for our Guerlain boutiques worldwide.
What can we expect next from Guerlain Haute Parfumerie?
Creativity is at the heart of Guerlain since its founding in 1828. Guerlain’s Haute Parfumerie has championed new forms of avant-garde expressions and artistic innovation in line with the house’s rich heritage! Guerlain has established an intimate relationship with contemporary artists, and l expect to continue in the future, new series of artistic collaborations.
Guerlain’s activity in the art world demonstrates the brand’s commitment to elevating the art of our time and it nourishes the development as well of our Haute Parfumerie. The Haute Parfumerie for the love of art!
This story first appeared in Prestige Online – Singapore