On November 18th, Senator Anna Aratari sat down for a conversation with this month’s perfumer Julie Massé.
Anna Aratari: Good afternoon Julie. Thank you for having us to your home along with your new-born baby, Arthur! Congratulations!
Julie Massé: Thank you, I’m very happy to have you here!
AA: We want to explore with you the background of your creation for FR!. But first, what was the experience that made you decide to become a perfumer?
JM: I think perfumery is in my blood. I don’t remember having ever imagine doing anything else but creating perfumes. My dad was into the industry, so at home there was always some raw materials or fragrances to smell. My sister and brother didn’t pay attention at all, but me, I was always really interested in it. I was always smelling everything. In fact, it was more the passion for raw materials that made me become a perfumer. For the story, when I was a child, I was having all my friends at home for my birthday, I was asking my dad for making a presentation and games about raw materials and perfumery, instead having something usual. When I meet people I knew twenty years ago, and they ask me “What are you doing now ? What is your job ?”, I answer “I’m a perfumer”, and they say “No! You are the only person who knew at 7 years old what she wanted to do”. It was my dream, and I tried everything to achieve this goal. It’s still a dream. I really wanted to do this but I didn’t know if I would be able to do it. I studied chemistry and I went to ISIPCA (the French school of perfumery). I saw it was important to have a diploma, because I didn’t know if I was able to do that, so it was the first step in the industry. Then I had the huge opportunity to meet Pierre Bourdon, because I was working for Fragrance Resource at this time, in quality control. He was going to be retired three years later, and he said “Ok, I am going to teach two young people”. It was just my dream!! It was incredible.
AA: Do you think being a perfumer is more like an art or a craft?
JM: A craft probably, because you become a perfumer. Of course the better way to learn is to learn with a master perfumer. Being close to him, learning all the raw materials, learning how to use them and how to mix them. At the beginning you are in the background, you just have to be there with people with a lot of experience. They are going to teach you how they translate words into smells. Here you learn what is the job, by learning all the raw materials, how to mix them and how much of each you have to use. At first, you can’t do creative things because you have to show that you know how to use all the materials. Of course creativity is the main ingredient and that’s what is interesting in our job—taking inspiration of anything. It can be just words, it can be painting, music or anything. What I love in my job is to translate feelings or flavors into perfumes. Pierre Bourdon was saying that we have to do some “narrative perfumery”. You have to write a formula as you wanted to tell a story. That’s really what I try to do. Each raw material is here to play a role in the fragrance.
AA: Do you have an ingredient you really love to use? Or one you would like to use more?
JM: I really love orange blossom. But I don’t put it in every creations of course. I love the tree. On one tree, you can have little grains, which are very green, you can have “neroli essence”, and you can have orange blossom absolute. This is amazing. It’s a story by itself. If I could do something right now, I would do something about “osmanthus”. There is something magic with these tiny flowers, this very strong smell, this melting of floral, fruity, ethereal and woody notes. It’s a fragrance by itself. It could be the first part and after we can build something around it.
AA: How did you feel when we approached you and you discovered the Fragrance Republ!c? How do you feel to be part of this new initiative?
JM: I was really, really interested by the presentation of FR!. I understood the idea that if you could create only one perfume, which one would you do? What kind of story would you tell about it?
JM: I had no problem of constraint. You can just express yourself, your feelings. You have a chance, so you can take it and try. If people love the story and understand what you wanted to express, it’s done! For perfumers it’s amazing, it’s just a unique chance to have that kind of exposure. It’s like a secret garden of a perfumer.
AA: What was your inspiration for the beautiful fragrance you created that is FR! 01/02?
JM: The idea was to do a perfume around “tuberose”, but something new with this flower. How to treat it in a modern way, in my way. Tuberose is a very feminine flower with a very strong perfume, very “heady”. I wanted to do something lighter, more celestial. I tried to understand what makes you feel that this is tuberose but without all the heaviness. Then, I put some Rose of May absolute, and cocoa resinoid, because I wanted something bitter. I wanted something very feminine but lighter than the heavy and strong tuberose, while keeping its character.
— Ellens Cosmetics (@ellenscosmetics) January 26, 2017
AA: If this fragrance was a movie or an actress, what that would be?
JM: If it was a movie, I don’t know exactly which one, but it would be a movie that has a very intense and quite serious subject, but treated in a very light and funny way. If it was an actress, perhaps Audrey Hepburn, because she has this sensuality and femininity, but she was able to play movies with very fresh and funny manners. Something very smiley, but deep.
AA: Well, thank you, Julie and thanks for being a part of FR!