Since We Should Know Better is intended to be about a person’s relationship with a location, I struggled to allocate a place for my dear friend Céline’s interview.
Because she is a Marseillaise par excellence, if felt wrong to put “Paris” next to her name, even though we’ve perused so many shops and museums together in the French capital. We’ve gone to those places – particularly department stores and Le Grand Musée du Parfum – in pursuit of one of Céline’s great passions: perfume. Ultimately, I decided to make this entry about Marseille. Because that, my friends, is where this perfume connoisseur’s olfactory education began.
I have always loved your style and taste when it comes to home decor, clothes, everything – OK, I’ll stop gushing! But I consider you an expert on two things: jewelry and perfume. Let’s talk about the latter. How did you become interested in perfume?
I may have been quite young… I have always been very conscious of the smells and fragrances that surround us. The sense of smell is very important to me in my everyday life. So, perfume early on became naturally fascinating.
What perfumes do you wear?
In summer and spring time, I wear La tulipe or Flowerhead by Byredo, and Carnal Flower by Frederic Malle. Those perfumes are very different from the type of fragrances I used to wear in my twenties or even the ones I would have chosen a few years ago. My tastes have changed a lot over the past few years, from heady-leathery-spicy to softer, flower-based perfumes now.
I also try to find fragrances that I won’t smell on anyone else because I find a perfume should be very personal. I am very careful of their evolution, some perfumes can make me feel sick or quite ill-at-ease.
What about scented soaps, lotions, etc.? How important are they?
That’s the thing with smells, everything is important. I find that people have their own “olfactory print.” Obviously, beauty routine can have a big impact on that very personal odor.
I like using body lotion rather than perfume sometimes… for example in winter, under a large pullover, a luxurious heady-base scented body cream, or a body oil for a subtle fragrance of vanilla or jasmine in a summer evening with a light dress. Actually, many modern fragrances are said to be “parfum de peau” (note: perfume of the skin) in contrast with perfumes whose scent leaves a trail behind the one who wears it.
If you had to chose The Top Five Greatest Perfumes Ever Made, what would they be?
Oulala… I wouldn’t be able to say… there are so many amazing perfumes! I reckon a perfume is great when it is surprising, complex and well-balanced.
I would add when it doesn’t contain any toxic ingredients… that should be the new criteria! We are getting more and more alarmed by the noxiousness of some components, but the beauty industry still carries on using them… once I was seriously advised to spray the perfume only on clothes.
Where do you like to shop for perfume? And what are your feelings on places like Le Grand Musée du Parfum?
I like taking my time when I chose a perfume, I like testing a lot of scents. One is supposed to try five perfumes max at a time to be able to carry on smelling things… but I don’t mind flitting around for ages! Once I have gathered all the fragrances I liked, I love listening to the story of the perfumes and their composition. I therefore like places where I can find a great variety of perfumes, ideally handled by passionate connoisseurs.
I am fascinated by the ability of creating a fragrance… it requires a huge theoretical and practical knowledge. Le Grand Musée du Parfum offers a great experience in a gorgeous setting. I enjoyed experimenting, playing, learning about the history and the evolution of perfume. I also recommend in Grasse Le Musée du Parfum, and the perfume workshops at Molinard, one of the most famous parfumiers of Grasse.
Do you have any particular memories you would like to share concerning perfume? Like, the first one you wore, something a family member wore, for example?
Many of my memories include odors. I grew up in a region where there are fragrant plants everywhere. I like touching herbs when I go for a walk in countryside, I like crushing the leaves in my hands to get the odor, and then keeping them in my pockets. Fennel and marjoram were some of my favorites when I was a child. I like mixing smells together.
I remember every single perfume my mum or my nan used to wear when I was a child. And the first ones I wore myself. They are touchstones in my memory. I feel a vivid emotion when I smell them.
Is there anything else you would like to say or add?
Don’t you think that a perfume says a lot about the one who wears it?