Walking into a suite at the One and Only Royal Mirage, I am greeted with a table showcasing the latest scents from Carolina Herrera. The flacons, with a leather silhouette and gold detailing inspired by the Insignia accessory collection, are as luxurious as you would expect of the brand. I sit patiently admiring the bottles as I wait for Carolina Herrera de Baez, and the noses behind the two scents, Olivier Cresp and Hamid Merati-Kashani for Eau de Parfum CH Insignia Women, and Émilie Copperman for Eau de Parfum CH Insignia Men.
As they enter the room, there is an air of excitement. “Oh, beautiful,” exclaims Merati-Kashani upon viewing the contents of the table, “It’s the first time.” Picking up the bottles, the perfumers admire the final product. “I love that,” says De Baez. “It’s funny, what’s inside is very important, more important than the actual bottle.” Working just on the juice, it isn’t until the end of the process that everything truly comes together. “Usually with our clients worldwide, we don’t see anything at the beginning. At the end we see the bottle, we see the packaging, the shape, the concept, and the name. We see that it clicks, and then suddenly we understand the final concept,” explains Cresp.
The process works like this: After receiving a brief, the perfumers offer some suggestions. Some have numbers, some have names. Receiving notes and ideas from the brand, the perfumers then work their magic. “It’s like a script that comes together with different parts, and each person works on their own,” explains De Baez. “It takes a long time. Our latest perfume took three years. It’s a slow process.” However, there is a coherence between scents belonging to the CH universe. The bottle is reminiscent of previous CH fragrances and, as De Baez puts in terms of scent, “They are slightly different, but they all feature the Carolina Herrera DNA.”
Traveling to the Middle East over a decade ago, this particular launch pays homage to Eastern perfumery. De Baez was inspired to balance iconic ingredients from the Orient, such as oud and patchouli, with Mediterranean classics like rose centifolia and Italian bergamot. “There is a challenge when it comes to East meets West perfumes,” she says,.“The scents have to be liked outside the region, without westernizing them.” Since visiting the region, she has also been inspired by the way locals layer their fragrances. “I was fascinated by the way men and women perfume themselves. I think for me it was the birth of this incredible layering, where it didn’t matter if you were male or female, the smell was just as strong.”
As modern perfumery is forever changing, the topic of personalization is questioned. In particular, I ask about the movement away from gender-specific fragrances. Copperman begins, “Sometimes I think that’s it’s good when there are men’s and women’s fragrances. When a woman wears a man’s fragrance she feels different. It adds something which means that it is important to keep at least the concept.” De Baez agrees, “I think in the mass market there will be men’s and women’s, for now.”