HOW DO YOU WORK WITH ALESSANDRO MICHELE?
It’s a really unique relationship. He gives me his indications of his ideas for a scent. He has a very rich olfactory knowledge culture, he collects perfumes, and wears many. He also has a very precise knowledge of the market. For example, when I created Gucci Guilty Absolute, he wanted it to capture the smell of Gucci’s leather goods workshops. He was not researching perfumes that had already made, but emotions. I offered him four ways, and he said, “that’s exactly how I felt when I was in the workshop”. Then we worked on Gucci Bloom, for which he asked me to create an imaginary garden, so I worked with French, English and Italian garden fragrances in mind. I had strange flowers in my head, with a slightly poisonous, mysterious side. Gucci Bloom gives the feeling of entering a magical, imaginary world.
PLEASE TELL US ABOUT THE PROCESS BEHIND GUCCI MÉMOIRE D’UNE ODEUR?
It was much more complicated than with other scents we have made because Alessandro asked me to build a smell around chamomile, an ingredient that has always been used in perfumery, but with light traces or small inflections. It took a year and a half, because he always wanted more chamomile, and it’s difficult, because in perfumery, it’s complicated to impose a smell, force an emotion, or a memory. So I asked all the teams to do some research. It was necessary to make sure that there was enough complexity to compose the perfume. Gucci Mémoire d’une Odeur has a marked olfactory presence, but it doesn’t bother Alessandro. In the microcosm of perfumery, everyone talks about it: finally a product that goes off the beaten track! Everyone copies themselves by adding a little bergamot here and there. We were driven here by the desire to be different.
The first five minutes, after trying it, people sometimes find it strange, but once the chamomile has evaporated a little, people really like what’s left on the skin and clothes, because there’s a mineral, very sensual dimension to it. And on the skin, there is a mix of floral, jasmine and musk. The perfume is there to create an impression of mystery. Each skin develops it differently, because there is a lot of musk, with a very floral dimension.
HOW DO YOU EXPLAIN ITS UNIQUENESS?
It expresses a great freedom, it is not exclusively for men or women. It’s a very Gucci fragrance, which really represents Alessandro. He makes decisions like when he creates a collection, and you can’t please everyone. This perfume breaks many codes, it is already up for several perfumery awards.
WERE YOU AWARE THAT HARRY STYLES WOULD BE THE FACE OF THE CAMPAIGN?
When I create a perfume, I know nothing about the campaign that would accompany it. I more or less knew who the muse would be, but it was not for certain. When you see the whole campaign, you understand the perfume better. You find the mineral side embodied by the castle, the primitive aspect expressed by the earth, the fire... The communication is as intriguing as the perfume. There is a feeling of there being no specific rules.
DO YOU FOLLOW ALESSANDRO’S COLLECTIONS CLOSELY?
I attend all his shows. But Alessandro’s world is not only his collections, it is his style too, and it is above all his studio in Rome. Each time I see him, he gives me almost an hour of his time, which is a lot for him, and I am in his world, surrounded by very strange, unusual objects. Perfume is not like a collection, it is not circumscribed at a specific time. When you create a perfume, it is different aspects of Alessandro that you capture in an essence.
HOW DO YOU WORK? ALONE OR AS A TEAM?
I live in Geneva and I have set up my laboratory there. I have employees in Paris, New York. But I work alone for Gucci. The perfumes are really the result of my work with Alessandro, the materials chosen are signed off by him, because you can’t work with a whole marketing team around them. The bond must be very intense, that’s what makes the strength of our creations. If we take the opinion of 50 people, we have 50 different scents. When he created Gucci Bloom, everyone thought that the floral essence was “very extreme”. But that’s exactly what he wanted.
DOES HE PROVIDE YOU WITH SAMPLES? ESSENCES?
Never. He offers me, flower scents, or perfumes that he wore when he was younger, or by his mother or aunt. He doesn’t say “I’d like to work with something like that”, he wants to be surprised. It’s like looking for a gem for a piece of particular jewellery. You’re trying to find an emerald that’s different from all the others. It’s a whole construction that requires a lot of work from me, and I work almost exclusively for him.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE TIME IN THE CREATION PROCESS?
When he calls me, with new ideas. It’s very exciting to see what he wants to do, what research he wants me to do. He never shows me a sample -, he rather evokes memories, emotions. He doesn’t give a subject, - but he will have -ideas for colors for the bottle, small thoughtful details.
WHAT WAS THE FIRST SMELL THAT STRUCK YOU?
I am Spanish, so maybe the first olfactory emotion is the smell of water. In Seville in the 1960s, the smell of the patio in the morning, the aquatic smell of cleanliness, renewal, life associated with the scents of orange blossom, jasmine. The smell of the well. Water on a lawn, on a foliage, water from a fountain, everyone feels it differently. What I’ve been looking for in my perfumes for 50 years is this kind of fluidity. Even in fragrances that are very dense or dark, there must always be a breath inside. And unconsciously I associate it with heaven, because when you are on a patio, you don’t see anything else.
WHAT SMELLS DO YOU DISLIKE?
The one from your neighbour’s barbecue! After that there is not really any smell that bothers me, well the smell of dirt yes, or the smell of food on a ski slope. But human beings can also control their reactions, and choose to react to something or not.