An edited version of this article previously appeared on Ca Fleure Bon written by Megan In Sainte Maxime.
I recently spoke with Stéphanie Bakouche, Fragrance Development Manager and perfumer for L’Artisan Parfumeur. Part 1 follows the early years and the creation of her first perfumes including Invasion Barbare for Parfums MDCI. Part 2, that you will read here focuses on Stéphanie’s work at L’Artisan Parfumeur and the creation of Rose Privée with Bertrand Duchaufour. This article is a result of our conversation at Cabris with additional written material from Stéphanie.
Working at L’Artisan Perfumer
In 2007 Stéphanie was hired at L’Artisan Parfumeur as a trainer and was promoted to International Training Manager two years later. This new role placed her in charge of worldwide staff training and the development of perfume workshops, where bespoke perfumes are created. The role also allowed her to visit the L’Artisan Parfumeur stores in Europe, Dubai and the Americas. Then in 2012, she became the Fragrance Development Coordinator, and her current role as Manager Fragrance Development followed soon after.
“I love to do the workshops and help people make their choices and get them to understand the differences. People think there are six or seven ingredients in a perfume but there are often more than thirty. So everything has to be explained. There’s an education to how to perfume themselves. I explain how to wear perfumes, how to smell in perfumery shops. Let the alcohol evaporate before you smell. Don’t touch your nose with a blotter. You deposit molecules in your nose that blends with the next one. Take a few minutes between blotters.”
Stéphanie in Cabris
Stéphanie is at the heart of discussions of ideas for new launches, so in this respect her role is similar to a creative director. She’ll look at olfactory mapping, the gaps in the market as well as ensuring new developments are consistent with the L’Artisan Parfumeur range. Trends and best sellers on the market will also be considered. Stéphanie briefs perfumers and takes part in olfactory or evaluation sessions. She’s still in charge of training manuals, how the story is built and how it is transmitted to staff. Quality control is also a part of her role. Another aspect involves reworks of current fragrances to respect IFRA (International Fragrance Association) regulations. However with the recent buy out by Puig, she imagines that this element may drop out of her role as it already has a compliance department.
Stéphanie also manages to squeeze in some time for creating perfume. As you can see Stéphanie’s role is fairly broad and it strikes me as the sort of position that would not necessarily exist in a larger company, as one person would be delegated to each function. She enjoys the scope though and says that it keeps the job interesting.
“A funny thing was that I passed on the workshops but I remain in charge of training and elaborating the training manual also which I still do…and in charge of all development of all new product development, compliance and quality control so it’s true that it’s huge but until now that’s the way it is.”
The Development of Rose Privée with Bertrand Duchaufour
Press launch of Rose Privée in Paris
Luckily for Stéphanie she arrived at L’Artisan Parfumeur around the same time as Bertrand Duchaufour She worked next door to him and had access to the lab. Bertrand would offer advice as needed on her creations. Even though her job was full, she kept developing her perfume ideas and finally the time was right for what was to become Rose Privée, L’Artisan Parfumeur’s latest release. As a perfumer, Stephanie wants to leave her mark on a creation.
“My aim as a perfumer is never to create anything that leaves people indifferent. I want to give some emotion it can be good or it can be bad but I want to have a strong reaction to it. You have to feel something. That’s a definition of a good creation – you give an emotion whatever it is.”
The idea for Rose Privée was to evoke the centafolia roses that bloom in the month of May in Grasse.
“My idea and first samples have been welcomed by the team, so I kept on working on this fragrance for 14 months, with the amazing luxury of having Bertrand Duchaufour as a Master Perfumer guide and Artistic Director. We wanted something extremely Mediterranean. I worked with an unusual quality of citrus, there’s an amazing company that makes some green mandarin and a clementine that I love and I used some basil and some violet leaf… I immediately worked with a little hint of carnation as when I smell may rose absolute I find it very spicy and I needed some other flowers to make the heart bouquet, because rose also on its own is old fashioned.
I think the biggest challenge on this fragrance was to make it accessible and modern and it’s difficult when you’re doing a rose theme. With a discussion with Bertrand we had the idea of lilac and this hint of magnolia that he taught me to use together with another rosy note. Magnolia essential oil alone doesn’t smell that nice. The base is chypre, it has a hint of patchouli and I thought how could I make things sunny and keep the Mediterranean spirit in the base and that’s where hay came from. Drying under the sun, so much sunny atmosphere warm and dry. And at this moment we thought that hay would replace oak moss in the chypre scheme and it’s a bit musky as well to make the base warm sensual and round. So that’s how its been constructed.”
Left : Stéphanie smelling May Rose petals before they will be extracted to obtain absolute in the Art & Parfum production centre : Right : Stéphanie adding Absolute May Rose to the first production of Rose Privée oil, in the Art & Parfum production centre
Stéphanie is an apprentice to Bertrand, but not in the classical sense. She doesn’t weigh components for Bertrand, but he provides guidance and advice. They also bounce ideas around with each other. For Stéphanie this is a brilliant way to work. She also says that Bertrand has the best technical knowledge of any one in the industry, so she is fortunate to have the chance to work with him and learn from his experience.
“It’s probably the most amazing development I’ll ever do having Bertrand Duchaufour as an Artistic Director and evaluator, and of course as a Master Perfumer. And advice on all the ingredients is something absolutely unique and exceptional. It’s amazing to have this luxury to have Bertrand guiding you in the steps of your development. And it’s true that the ideas for the composition were my ideas but his help has been absolutely priceless in helping me to highlight the different facets of the fragrance, with advice regarding the percentage of this and that ingredient.
He’s also someone who absolutely teaches us to work in a direction where there’s no use of doing very long formulas. If you have sixteen ingredients he would tell you one out of two is useless and he said try this without that and he would tell me to take ingredients out and it would clear everything out. And of course he was right. He really taught me to make ingredients breathe. I like to make personality out of each of my creations. I tend to exaggerate, maybe to put too much of this or that and he taught me so well how to enhance this facet. You don’t need to put more, you need to play on the contrast and this was very useful.”
Stéphanie’s Favourite Perfumes and Smells
I’m always interested to hear what perfumes perfumers like to wear. Stéphanie’s favourites in the L’Artisan Parfumeur range (apart from Rose Privée of course) are Voleur de Roses (Michel Almairac) and Dzongkha (Bertrand Duchaufour).
“I love Serge Lutens fragrances and admire Christopher Sheldrake. I really love Kenzo Amour. It’s a doudou (something children sleep with to comfort them), so comforting. I wore it when I had my baby girl … it has something sentimental for me. … I’m so crazy about Gucci Pour Homme. It’s smoky. Also some classical ones. I admire Mitsouko and No 19 and Heritage is the most amazing masculine. I’m part of the Osmothèque and so I have the chance to smell rare fragrances and I’m crazy about iris and I’m probably going to get a tattoo soon. Iris Gris from Jacques Fath I would die for and Bertrand said he has the formula and now he can’t find it. I keep some hope.
There’s also a beautiful niche brand that was created by Naomi Goodsir. Bertrand … created Or du Serail, it’s an amazing tobacco it has everything … but it breathes. It’s sugary, tobacco, leathery, woody. It has a sillage with this one. I make every person smell it. For me this an amazing perfume.”
Stéphanie smelling a patchouli tree
She also loves patchouli and her favourite perfume in this genre is Lorenzo Villoresi’s Patchouli. In terms of other perfumery notes, she talks about her loves.
“I love iris, cedar wood and jasmine, leathery and musky notes, the richness of spices such as cumin, curcuma (turmeric) and the vibrating freshness of cardamom. The deep leathery facet of narcissus, the surprising complexity of osmanthus.”
Stéphanie’s Future Perfumed Intentions
Stéphanie is currently in the midst of developing perfume projects and sees more creativity in her creation role in the future but she is also having a lot of fun as a Manager of Fragrance Development and working with Bertrand.
“For now I am of course exclusive to L’Artisan Parfumeur so if I remain as the Manager of Fragrance Development and once every year I launch one perfume I would love this. I’m conscious that I have an amazing chance to do both … such a key position in the marketing team and being a perfumer at the same time. … But definitely I will like my future to be more creative with L’Artisan Parfumeur, but I’m having so much fun as a Manager of Fragrance Development with Bertrand working with him.”
Notes : Images : Stephanie Backouche provided the photos of herself