There’s a creative intelligence and “space” around your perfumes. Can you explain how you build the architecture of a perfume?
The architecture of perfume starts from the moment it’s sprayed and begins to evaporate. I imagine filling a space determined by the weight of the ingredients, their force or lightness. All this to form a balance between heavy and light, complex and simple, light and shadow. And it’s this equilibrium, this harmony, that will create the worst or the best! Certain perfumes unfurl image by image, each accord disappears to leave room for the next until you reach its heart. Others are round, compact. Their notes evaporate almost at the same rate. They’re linear from one end to the other.
What scents or places or experiences provide your own triggers?
I’m inspired by odors that touch me, that shock me, that make me nostalgic, that remind me of other people, other places. Inspiration is everywhere—the smells of childhood, of life. A blinding white shirt in full sun, an Indian dance, steaming rice, bewitching incense drifting through a Malaysian temple. Ten years later, that incense inspired L’Ether de IUNX. To me, incense evokes uplifting prayer; it’s pure, profound, intoxicating. I like everything that burns: wood, resins, dried leaves, hot ashes, barbeques, the smell of earth and sun-warmed herbs.
Like a vocabulary of emotions, perfume becomes a living language for me. Educating one’s sense of smell means becoming more aware, looking at things differently, pausing where others hurry past. I write down my impressions and keep everything I come across in my travels. In Mali, I broke the bark of a yellow wood that tasted of quince, collected cooked seeds, burned rope; in Japan, I found soft rubber that smelled of Christmas and a neon pink ribbon that smelled like dolls; in Mexico, driftwood, fresh cactus and black corn. Large cities are kaleidoscopes of odors. Istanbul smells of roses and dust, New York of laundry fumes and cinnamon. Paris is electric heaters, fresh bread and wet sidewalks. Katmandu is dry woods and cucumber. Tokyo is grilled food, metal and plastic.
Olivia Giacobetti, the nose behind Diptyque’s Philosykos and many of L’Artisan Parfumeur’s greatest - on scents, memories and process.