25 ottobre 2011

Bertrand Duchaufour: on Mon Numéro and other stories

The program of this year's edition of Pitti Immagine Fragranze included a lecture by Bertrand Duchaufour, composer and artist working regularly for Eau d'Italie, Penhaligon's and L'Artisan Parfumeur, and occasionally for other brands such as Frapin, Comme des Garcons, Acqua di Parma and others.

The occasion was the launch of the new line “Mon Numéro” by L'Artisan Parfumeur: a series of fragrances identified by numbers, of which I'll tell you more in a following post.
The presentation was a perfect occasion for asking Bertrand a lot of questions: for example, how he met scent for the first time: "When I was 17 my girlfriend used to wear Chanel n.19. I was fascinated by her, by her perfume, but especially by the way she wore it, and the way she used to speak about it". Then he saw a TV documentary and discovered the job of “nose” or parfumeur. Up to that time he'd believed that Monsieur Yves Saint Laurent or Christian Dior were the actual creators of the perfumes for their Maison!
What perfumes does he wear? Well, he doesn't wear many perfumes, and this is a common feature among composers, who use to wear the concoctions they're working on, in order to evaluate their evolution and changes. He makes an exception for Dior Homme, an “extremely well” crafted orris note, while in the past he's worn Yatagan (Caron), Macassar (Rochas), Antaeus (Chanel), Tuscany (Aramis). In short, this guy seems to appreciate the finest woody notes, characterized by a certain strength but with a velvety, comfortable side... just adorable.
Someone asks him what he thinks of the perfume industry and the direction it has taken in recent years, and, with his usual aplomb, he voices opinions many of us do share completely. "Most industrial brands are creating more and more commercial scents with no ideas. But it's not all their fault: the restrictions imposed by the controlling Organizations -he doesn't mention it but the name IFRA hovers in the room- deprive fragrances of many beautiful raw materials. But on the other side, these restrictions are leading to hyper investment in new techniques of extraction and processing which, in fact, are bringing good results".
A new trend particularly clear is the introduction -in perfumes- of molecules originally designed for detergents. "The concept of freshness and cleanliness is invading the perfume industry, creating confusion among functions, and I don't appreciate it. Detergents serve the purpose of cleaning our body, while scent is something we wear like a second skin to characterize ourselves, differentiate from others, it's something that blends in with us".
As far as the niche sector, what trends do you foresee in the next future? "Selective, or niche perfumery is allowing many creators to express themselves with beautiful and original compositions. But the niche sector has become trendy itself and the number of selective brands could soon be comparable to the number of "traditional", industrial ones. I think we'll soon discover the "uberniche": exceptional compositions creatively very original, with rarer raw materials and higher costs. They'll require a greater awareness by consumers, who will have to select a lot, reflecting long before buying. Only those who study and evaluate consciously what they're actually smelling will find satisfaction, and will gain access to more original and exclusive perfumes, making them feel different from others".

Then we meet again at the Olfattorio of Florence: our friend Michele, working there, called us inviting us to a more relaxed chat with Bertrand, outstage.
The notes that I love most? The richest, with exuberant personality: tuberose, iris, osmanthus, and oud. They aren't so simple to use as they may look! That's why I find them so fascinating”.
While he speaks I take the opportunity to remove Timbuktu from my wishlist. I ask Bertrand to sign my box, and this he does with both fun and a shyness that makes me appreciate him -as a person- even more. He doesn't feel a star at all, even if his creations do move people from the deep.
The world may have fans of Ronaldo, of Stanley Kubrick or of Paulo Coelho... I am a fan of Bertrand Duchaufour. And I'm proud of it.

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