What Goes Into Creating A Winning Scent? We Asked a Head Perfumer At Paco Rabanne to Find Out
People say that you're never fully dressed without perfume, but the power of scent goes beyond making an ensemble come together. Scents are connected to emotions, closely associated with memories and can bring the past into the present moment with one quick whiff.
Finding the right scent is like finding your way home, and one spritz (or seven) of your favourite scent can give you that much-needed energy burst or turn a frown into a smile. Male or female, that winning scent makes you feel confident, fearless and powerful.
Paco Rabanne has a stable of iconic scents for men and women, from the best-seller 1 Million (one of the UK's top-selling fragrances for men since its launch in 2008) to the brand's most recent debut, 2015's Olympéa, a bold celebration of femininity, strength and sensuality, designed to make every woman feel like the goddess she is.
Olympéa — brought to life by Brazilian model Luma Grothe — is the "woman men want, that women want to be," says Paco Rabanne perfurmer, Loc Dong, one of the scent's creators.
If you've ever wondered what it takes to create a winning scent, you're not alone. We chatted to Dong to find out everything you've ever wanted to know...
First things first: where does the idea for a new fragrance even come from? According to Dong, each time a scent is launched, it evolves the brand further in a new direction, while still respecting the legacy of the past.
"Every perfume starts with consumer and brand in my mind. My goal is to keep the DNA of the brand but at the same time bring exciting newness to consumers," he explains.
"The Paco Rabanne team defined the direction. And when I saw the video and the images they brought to inspire us, it was all about the power of women and there were a few images that spoke to me. As a perfumer, that’s all you need."
Since Olympéa is not your average icon, it's no surprise her scent isn't your average perfume. According to Dong, the fragrance is built around three main accords, with opposing elements fusing into a harmonious, intriguing scent.
First, there's an ambery wood, composed of cashmeran and ambergris to create a lively, strong base.
At its heart is salty vanilla, sensual and addictive, followed by the fresh, luminous and ultra-feminine bright jasmine (an alluring combination of green mandarin, living hydroponic jasmine and living ginger lily).
"The contrast between the vanilla and salty freshness brings an unexpected scent to this fragrance and creates this sparkling oriental signature," explains Dong.
The Paco Rabanne brand DNA when it comes to fragrance is all about pushing boundaries, taking risks and creating, bold and unexpected combinations.
"Paco Rabanne fragrances are overdoses in a very harmonic way," says Dong. "The brand offers olfactive signatures that are strong and original, as well as attractive and accessible.
"A Paco Rabanne fragrance has a real signature: it’s a juxtaposition, fun and addictive. It’s the translation of fantasies into a scent."
Those same exciting and contrasting elements in the fragrance can be found in the brand's hit 2013 men's sports fragrance, Invictus.
One look at the advert for Olympéa and it's clear: she’s a modern goddess, powerful and feminine.
Luma Grothe brings her to life to perfection as she saunters among the gods and goddesses of Mount Olympus in the film, descending an endless staircase before entering a watery pool. Stalking her way past her fellow gods to the tune of "Power" by Kanye West, she commands attention and respect and exudes strength.
Confident and irresistible, Olympéa is a celebration of past, present and future femininity in one laurel-crown shaped bottle.
According to Dong, each perfumer has his or her own technique when it comes to brewing up their next fragrance.
"Perfumers have different styles... My method is very simple, but complete. To create a perfume is like a journey of new discoveries. First, you must know where exactly you want to explore.
"It’s a journey of the full unknown; your last place will define your next step. When I create a perfume, I usually start from a simple, strong idea and I will work until my heart tells me it is now complete. That’s why 'simple but complete' is my guiding principle."
Even those with olfactory powers like Dong aren't able to tell if a fragrance will be a massive hit; there is no winning formula.
"There is no recipe for success, it is a neverending process. Success takes you by surprise," he says.
Although seeing all of the components of Olympéa come together, one thing is clear: she's got it.
Photo Credit: Paco Rabanne