« Perfume is also a matter of perspective and sensitivity » explains Anne-Marie Saget, professor and former perfume creator, author of writings on the subject. The composition of a perfume « à la française » and « the research of the ideal olfactory form », takes sometimes several years and is a combination of tests, facts and effects. With his sensitive mind and expertise in Physiology, the perfumer plays an exciting and thrilling part. « Even though young perfumers today are much better versed in chemistry and functional perfumery than during the “golden years” of perfumery I knew » notes Anne-Marie Saget.
In the secret of laboratories and famous Perfume Houses, from Grasse to Paris, from Italy to the outer reaches of Asia, creative ways are rapidly changing. In the industry, Marketing and even Corporate Social Responsibility are increasingly taken into account. The combination and dosage of ingredients in a fragrance change as much as tastes. The life cycle of a perfume is getting shorter : the return on investment must be ensured almost instantly, within one year. « “Global” fragrances are developed in order to appeal to the greatest number of individuals around the world. So, anything too distinctive is out », says Anne-Marie Saget.
Each fragrance is a journey. It can also be a time, a trend or an adjective : powerful, elegant, ambiguous... Evoking a country, a continent, even the Far East. Some timeless names are engraved in the collective memory: No. 5 (Chanel), Jade (Roger Gallet), or Mitsouko and Shalimar (Guerlain)... Anne-Marie Saget insists on the pioneering role of Jacques Guerlain, « the man who knew how to compose for the women he loved. » Guerlain and Christian Dior, symbols of « the Golden Age of Perfumery. »
Former Guerlain perfumer, Anne-Marie Saget is also an explorer of the senses. She travels with her nose and her instinct. And claims her trips bring her closer to nature and people. She doesn’t hesitate to go 4000 meters up in the Himalayas to collect rare plants for the sake of some confidential projects. « The plants found at this altitude are interesting, as much as the link with the communities of villagers who collect them. »
In terms of cosmetics, « eyes are now turning towards Asia » she says. Chinese Herborist brand is present in Europe and now targeting the United States. LVMH has signed a partnership with the Korean group Amore Pacific, about the highly innovative technology of « Cushion pack. » Expert in biotechnologies and nanotechnologies, Korea is now the world leader in the cosmetics industry !
INTERVIEW with Anne-Marie Saget: « When I met Jean-Paul Guerlain, I felt like Alice in Wonderland ! »
Michel Temman : Is smelling a science of the nose ?
Anne-Marie Saget : Certainly. Each individual may not be aware of it but has it deep down Especially in our European civilization where we have a kind of natural understanding of it, unlike in China for example, where people are not so close to perfumes. But the fact is, everything is connected, emotions, memories, analogies, which are very important, psychology.
Michel Temman : Plants and fragrances from lands far away, spices, fantasy: the perfume is also associated with travels, with Elsewhere... This is you, who have gone to meet minorities in Himalayan villages, in search of rare plants ...
Anne-Marie Saget : That’s my personal interest ! Perfume creation is a much sedentary job. The perfumer faces a sheet of paper, it is an act of creation. He creates a scent much like a writer writes a book. I went this way, which goes from creating perfumes to the origin of plants, but this is my personal choice. I find particularly interesting, in today’s context all the more, to go and meet these people and especially help them develop their resources, because it’s vital for them. Meanwhile it has also become compulsory for brands to work in the context of sustainable development and CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility). Our modern world is permanently looking for new products, and it is important to establish direct contacts with the villagers to understand the situation locally, regarding the collection and logistics – in order to be as efficient as possible, because behind a product and a supply chain, there are human beings. Ahead of these missions, I study the local biodiversity and never leave it to chance. On the other hand, to know what is potentially interesting for a perfume or cosmetics, helps me once there, to collect other plants because beside the species I am looking for, sometimes I make unexpected encounters. I do not bring a plant just for the sake of offering it.
Michel Temman : How did you get involved with perfumes ?
Anne-Marie Saget : That’s an old story. When I was 15, I wanted to be a perfumer but was told that I was only a woman and that I was not born into a family of perfumers, that I was not born Grasse and it was better to forget it all... Later, I studied aeronautical engineering and nuclear physics. Then, I decided to create a computer that would develop perfumes! That was back in 1974. I came very fast to realize that my project made no sense, because when you blend two ingredients, there is a chemical reaction and a fortiori, when ten products are mixed. By coincidence, I met Jean-Paul Guerlain. He then asked me if I wanted to work with him. I felt like Alice in Wonderland ! I resigned when Samsara was launched but I stayed 14 years with him at Guerlain.
Michel Temman : We often hear that Guerlain was the greatest perfumer of all times ?
Anne-Marie Saget : Yes, that’s for Jacques, his grandfather because he created timeless scents like Shalimar, Mitsouko, L’Heure Bleue, Vol de Nuit, which stills sells today. But there were also others like Edmond Roudnitska (who created Femme for Rochas, Diorissimo, Diorella, Eau Sauvage at Dior). But I have great respect for Jean-Paul, despite all that has been said about him, he is a great perfumer, the best of his time, until the acquisition of the brand by LVMH.