Pierre Guillaume’s creations are unconventional. He is considered the „young rebel“ amongst the perfumers. Eight years ago he founded the brand Parfumerie Générale. Next to the Numbered Line and a Private Collection he launches limited editions regularly. I met Pierre Guillaume at the fragrance fair Global Art of Perfumes and I must say that I have rarely met a person who pursues his profession with so much passion and devotion.
You are a chemist and a perfumer. How did you enter the world of fine fragrances?
Life has decided for me. As a child I used to accompany my father, a wine collector, to the grand wineries in the Bordelaise, Bourgogne and Languedoc regions. I listened to these men talking passionately about red fruit, leather, the undergrowth, tobacco, spices, the many varietals… and that was the start of my interest in aromas and scents. Later, my maternal grandmother brought me back a few drops of Ylang-Ylang extract after a trip to Madagascar, and gave me …a revelation. I spent the rest of my adolescence and all my pocket money collecting essential oils and perfumed substances of any type and from every destination. At 15, I used my father’s professional network to find chemical ingredients… During a party in Switzerland, I met a man called “Mr. B.”, a Swiss businessman and major collector of art and perfumes, and he was the deciding factor. We were introduced at a party and he fell in love with “Cozé”, which I had created only for my father and me. I gave him a bottle and weeks later he called me and dictated his first order – he had introduced the perfume to his circle of friends, businessmen and celebrities from many different fields, and they too had been instantly captivated. He’s still wearing “Cozé” today, and also “Querelle” another scent from the private collection. This encounter was essential for the launch of the company Parfumerie Générale…
You are not only creating perfumes but also emotions. Each perfume has a number, a name and a story behind it. What comes first and how do you proceed?
Sometimes the name comes to mind first, and with it the story or “scenario” behind the fragrance structure. A movie, a scenic place, or a picture could be an inspiration for a fragrance, like for my new scent “Bois Naufragé”: the photography by Lucien Clergue, “Nu au bois flotté” is a perfect illustration of this. I try to tell a story or to translate pictures into olfactive feelings by using memories… everybody has experimented a walk on a beach… so it’s not so complicated to appeal this memories and the corresponding feelings.
Perfume has a strong relationship to seduction. Each woman is looking for a perfume that radiates sensuality. Which scent from your collection would you recommend?
Seduction is not a formula: the key is “the right perfume on the right woman/man”: it’s discriminating, without rules, you have to try. It is important to find a connection between yourself and your perfume, then comes the magic.
Are you wearing perfume yourself and if so which one?
Not more than a prototype of a perfume “under construction” to see reaction, stability, lasting power… etc.
Which ingredients fascinate you the most?
Is there a smell you cannot stand?
Which atmosphere do you prefer for working?
Alone in my lab with my iPod.
Which is your song of the hour?
“My Vision” – Seal/Jakatta
You are using visionary technology. What is “Photo-Refining ®”?
Photo-Refining ® is mainly interesting for the saturated notes of spices, wood and balm. By smoothing the olfactory peaks, the result is a sensation of controlled power, the vibrant personality of “Cozé” is a perfect example. With its hesperidia and white flower notes, it does however have an old–fashioned “l’Eau de Circé” aspect, balanced out by the modern Osmanthus-Sandalwood-Rose accord.
Could you explain the intention of the Private Collection?
No intention, it’s just a logistical problem. When we produce 100 bottles of “Cozé” (numbered line”) we produce 3 bottles of “Querelle” (Private Collection). So we have to make a choice when we decide to give this line to a new point of sale (Today about 20 stores worldwide).
What was the last book you read?
“Quai des Enfers” – Ingrid Astier
Do you have a favorite wine?
Italy – Villa Poggio Salvi 1995
What is typical “Pierre Guillaume”?
Can you tell us something about your next perfume?
Thank you very much for the interview.