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Guerlain’s New Duo of Fragrances Explore Rose as an Artform

Photo: Courtesy of Guerlain

French beauty house Guerlain has expanded its signature fine fragrance collection, L’Art & La Matière, launching two new perfumes, Rose Chérie and Santal Pao Rosa. Each scent explores its own intriguing faucet of Guerlain’s iconic rose. Rose Chérie is  the “La Vie en Rose by Édith Piaf of fragrance”, four roses – Damascena rose, Bulgarian rosewater and essence, Turkish rose absolute, and Grasse’s Centifolia rose – with soft almond, paying homage to the romance of Paris. Santal Pao Rosa is more a story of sandalwood – powerful and strong – then refined by rose, a floral-spicy scent that is partially inspired by Pao Rosa, Aimé Guerlain‘s 1877 creation.

There is also the addition of four Guerlain classics, with the same formula, but with new names. Frenchy Lavande, Herbes Troublantes, Œillet Pourpre and Épices Volées, formerly and respectively known as Le Frenchy, Un Dimanche à la Campagne, Lui, and Arsène Lupin Voyou.

Guerlain’s master perfumer, Thierry Wasser, sat down with Vogue Arabia ahead of the fragrances’ unveiling to discuss the forces of art and intention within L’Art & La Matière.

Thierry Wasser. Photo: Alexandre Guirkinger

What is L’Art & La Matière?
L’Art & La Matière is a collection that first came out in 2005, and I’m unashamed to say we were one of the first to come out with a high end concept like this. For 200 years, our trade is beauty, and we are entirely responsible for the sourcing and creating the rare materials that go into our fragrances, skincare and beauty. At the heart of Guerlain is rare and raw materials, crafted in an expert way. The L’Art & La Matière collection is alive, some fragrances go in, some go out, and we add to it as we wish. Each scent is about the one special raw material, and then how we have chosen to examine it under a new light and highlight its depths and contrasts.

Why chose rose as a central material for the new launches?
The new additions of Rose Chérie and Santal Pao Rosa, some people say you already have rose fragrances in this collection, why add more? But rose has so many aspects to it and there’s so many ways its characteristics can come across. The existing Rose Barbare is very sultry and seductive, Santal Pao Rosa is rose with the sandalwood which is very grounded. Rose Chérie is much more romantic. So with the same flower, you can express three different stories and I don’t see why we can’t have these three different stories in that collection.

Rose Chérie. Photo: Courtesy of Guerlain

What’s the art connection with L’Art & La Matière?
The collection honors both the raw material and the intention. Take for example Angélique Noire, where behind this fragrance you have Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, or the Black Swan. There is that contrast, as in Swan Lake you see that struggle of black and white, the contrast of good and evil, where you realize evil is not that complete evil. You can always see the intention behind the material. Santal Pao Rosa has the intention of being spiritual and grounded, within the openness of the rose. Paris is allegedly the city of love, so Rose Chérie is that dream of Paris, its romance. And Guerlain has its home in Paris, so Rose Chérie is also very meaningful in that way.

Some of the additions to L’Art & La Matière are fragrances which have been renamed, but the formulas remain the same. Are there any reasons why you would ever reformulate a scent?
The main reason a perfumer would reformulate would be because of new legislation that means we need to change a formula slightly, like the Shalimar of today is not the exact same of a hundred years ago. It’s like a new game where a color has been stolen from my palette, and now I’m challenged to recreate it and what the memory of the original was. That’s the part of the evolution of fragrance.

Santal Pao Rosa. Photo: Courtesy of Guerlain

What inspires your fragrances?
I express myself through fragrance, and with this, my imaginary world is unlimited. Travels, encounters, feeling, sounds, smells can inspire you and trigger your creative mode. Take for example, Santal Royale; I created that one after a conversation with a man here in Dubai, who told me “European people like you have no clue whatsoever in designing real fragrances”. We had a two hour discussion, and when I returned to Paris, I remembered his words and I thought, okay, I’m going to prove you wrong. And Santal Royale proved to be quite popular, even though it’s an unusual way to be inspired.

How can one chose the fragrance that suits them?
Very often people overthink the fragrance. They want to know what does it mean, but I like to have a little mystery. If you explain too much, you kill that dream. Explanation is reassuring, but it’s not needed. Don’t think, just smell, and either you feel it or you don’t. If you don’t, you can continue on and find the fragrance that you do like. If you like Santal Pao Rosa and want to put it on your feet, fine, if it makes you happy. For the moment the fragrance leaves Guerlain, it is no longer mine. It is now your dream, for you to interpret.

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