LuSlovakia 10/23/20 13:52
I Like to Keep it Simple: Interview with Anne Flipo
Anne Flipo, an IFF Master Perfumer, created some of the biggest, greatest fragrances of the last decade and, more recently, produced Libre and Libre Eau de Parfum Intense for YSL. We sat with her for a while on the day of YSL's Babycat Club, the launch of the brand’s seasonal collection, and talked about Libre and perfumes in general.
Ksenia Golovanova: Would you say you have a distinct style as a perfumer? If so, how would you describe it?
Anne Flipo: It’s a difficult question. But I think what I always try to do is make perfumes with a big signature. Also, I like to keep it simple and easy to understand. My style is abstract but always very… finished.
I heard perfume writers call you ‘the queen of flowers’. Is it a thing?
Yes, I agree (laughing). It’s quite easy for me to play with florals because I basically grew up in a flower garden; they feel very familiar to me. It’s probably the reason why I have a good sense for detail and nuance when it comes to florals. I think I can make them feel very lively.
Do you have a palette of your own? What are the most recognizable ‘paints’ in it?
Yes, I do. I enjoy working with green notes; а little touch of green suits flowers so well, all of them. Also, I love everything about the orange blossom tree, its natural derivatives — neroli, orange blossom, petitgrain. And what I enjoy the most is to use touches of green and fruity notes to make the floralcy even more addictive and juicy.
What do you personally think of orange blossom? Some perfumers would say it’s a tough ingredient to work with, having a distinct and powerful olfactory profile, almost being a perfume itself.
Yes, it’s incredibly complex indeed. But you know, when you put it in a composition it lights up the whole formula, gives it so much life. And you can put so many things around the orange blossom to make it even more beautiful. For instance, components of the orange blossom itself, like methyl anthranilate or methyl naphthyl ketone. Orange blossom is the epitome of femininity in fragrance. And it’s so powerful.
The orange blossom you chose for Libre comes from Morocco. What’s so special about it?
First, it’s really good, both fresh and opulent. Also, Morocco was Saint Laurent’s home, it was where he developed his brand and his couture collections. Everything makes sense.
Do you remember the briefs for Libre and Libre Intense?
Yes. It was a reflection on femininity and masculinity. We had to present a fragrance that was feminine but had some duality about it. So right from the very start I knew it had to be a fougère. It’s a fragrance family that appeared at the end of 19th century and, you know, it was first created for women but men sort of made it their own. My idea was to take a fougère and make it feminine, give it this beautiful ambiguity. So I was looking for something that would work well in a fougère and voilà, orange flower came along. It’s not exactly new; you can find it in Canoe, you can find it in Brut, Le Male etc. But this time I decided to make orange blossom so gorgeous and feminine that it could stand up to the strength of the fougère structure.
As you just mentioned, most often fougère is perceived as a masculine perfume mold. And yet, it’s becoming very popular with women. Why do you think it’s happening?
Maybe because the boundaries between feminine and masculine are becoming less pronounced too. Oh, and Libre, its orange blossom and all, is worn by men all the time.
Could it be that its increasing popularity among women has to do with fougère’s innate freshness? A welcome breather from the overwhelming sweetness of today’s women’s fragrances.
Very good point. My goal with both Libre and Libre Intense was to make them ‘addictive’ without being sweet gourmands. I wanted them to stay floral, not edible. And you’re right, the freshness is key; when you smell Libre, the first blast you have is really fresh.
Tell me a bit more about the orchid flower accord in Libre Intense. When I was in Singapore, I went to an orchid nursery and smelled everything they had there, and, while some orchids had no scent at all, the others were all very different. Did you use any specific orchid?
Yes, It was this orchid Oculata (Stanhopea Oculata — ed. note), the one with a very pretty pattern that looks like… an animal print? We used Living Flower technology to sample its fragrance and saw it contained some vanilla-smelling and components. So we decided to enhance the floralcy of the orange flower with this orchid accord, as well as some real vanilla and tonka bean notes.
Both Libre and Libre Intense were made in collaboration with Carlos Benaïm. How did this collaboration work? Did you often meet while working on this project?
We were constantly in touch and I think I travelled to New York four or five times. It was Carlos who made me smell this amazing orange blossom absolute from Morocco. It smelled so amazing I asked him to step in and work with me. I know that from the outside, this working ‘together’ on different continents might look complicated, but it’s not. My palette of perfume materials in Paris is exactly the same as the one Carlos uses in New York. It’s this global palette of IFF, the company we both work for. So it works like this: I write down a formula, I smell the result and, if I’m happy with it, I send it to Carlos in New York. He smells what his lab assistants made from my formula, then makes some alteration and sends it back to me. And so on, back and forth. I think the process is actually quite magical.
How many modifications did it take to put Libre together?
I think together we did around 1500 mods. I’m not complaining, because we’re so lucky, really. It’s such a big, big, big project. Our fragrance is worn by so many people. It has the most amazing name and it gets to live in a beautiful bottle. Dua Lipa is the face! Yes, we’re very lucky.
What, in your opinion, makes a good perfume? And what makes a great one?
Alors. A good fragrance is something that, well, smells good. And a great fragrance… in my opinion, it has to be bold and yet very finished. It has to have a big signature. It has to smell powerful. So, it’s both the esthetic and the technical qualities that matter. Also, there needs to be something… different about a perfume to be great.
Some people, perfumers included, think that technical qualities of a perfume don’t matter that much, if the fragrance is beautiful.
If you take a look at the fragrances that make it to the top-10 everywhere, they’re all very defined and powerful. The goal is to find the balance between identity and what it takes to be successful today, globally. And that means sillage, staying power, definition. It’s not easy at all. And it’s the reason why it takes so, so many trials to produce a good fragrance today.
Ksenia Golovanova Author
Ksenia was born in Mozambique, and spent her childhood in Italy. Later she traveled the European North, and fell in love with Scandinavian visual art. She wrote the first touristic Denmark guide in Russian. Ksenia is an observer, she likes to explore the olfactory mark of every place she visited. Ksenia is an author of the perfume telegram channel Nose Republic.
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