Interview with Olivier Pescheux, perfumer. Graduated from ISIPCA, Olivier has left to Bangkok in 1990 to work for Payan Bertrand.  In 1992, he returns to Paris and integrate Annick Goutal fragrance house. He joined afterwards Kao Corporation in 1993, before joining Givaudan in 1998. He discovered along the supervision of Jean Amic the prestige perfumery where he will improve his expertise, facet by facet like a composer working his melody over time. He is one of the famous behind the fragrance house diptyque, having signed from his nose 34 boulevard St-Germain, Vetyverio, l'Eau du 34, Eau Moheli, Eau Plurielle, etc.

What is your motto?

"Be yourself and be authentic."

What are your most beautiful olfactive memories?

My most beautiful olfactive memories are rooted in my childhood. They are many and diverse, but I can’t forget the shock that I felt when I discovered Eau Sauvage by Dior! It was unbelievable - it smelled fantastic. I would also mention the smell of the baker’s oven and the perfumes of my grandparents’ garden. 

In another interview, you said that it was after seeing the film “Call me Savage” with your mother that you’ve decided that you wanted to become a perfumer. In the movie there’s a scene where Yves Montand smells strips of blotting paper and picks up tiaré flowers. Does this reflect what you do today?

No, not at all. What a disillusion. My office is not on a paradisiacal island like in the movie, neither has Catherine Deneuve ever tried to invite herself over! On a more serious note, the film neatly juxtaposes the creative and magical aspects of the art with the harsh reality of business and financial stakes. The perfumer played by Yves Montand even ends up in prison for not having fulfilled the obligations in his contract! Luckily, it’s a work of fiction.

Who have been your guides and mentors as a perfumer, and why?

There are many people who’ve been important to me: B. Arbellot at Payan & Bertrand, J.M. Duriez and H. Sorsana at Kao, J. Guichard at Givaudan, and all the people who I’ve worked with and who I’m still working with. Each of them has shared something with me in their own way - a bit of knowledge or a piece of advice, always without losing sight of what’s essential: that there are no rules and you have to be daring. A young perfumer needs to be observant and let things will slowly fall into place. It is sometimes a difficult task to combine the required patience with all the enthusiastic passion we you have when you first come into the craft.

Before joining Givaudan in 1999 you stayed in Bangkok for a year and half, working for the Grasse company Payan & Bertrand. You also worked four years for the Japanese company Kao. What are the olfactive notes that marked you the most during your stays in Asia, and why?

From my stay in Thailand I especially remember the incredible aromas of the delicious cuisine: the coconut, the spices, the smell of rice, the particular odour of the Durian fruit that Thai people love, and I also remember the less pleasant smells from the streets of Bangkok with all the pollution. From my time in Japan, I retain the fragrances of the temples and the Zen gardens of Kyoto, the smell of “genmaicha” tea (green tea mixed with roasted rice grains), red bean cake - all in all a lot of culinary memories!

 What have been your preferred raw materials throughout the years and until today?

I love patchouli, green notes, citruses, ylang-ylang, rose and so many others. I’ve been so lucky as to visit different places of harvest: The Comoros for ylang-ylang, Calabria and Sicily for citrus, Tunisia for orange flower, Provence, and so on. It is important to be aware of the amount of hard work that is done in these places. I have enormous respect for all the people who make an effort to maintain these cultures that are so essential for our craft [as perfumers].

What to you think about individually tailored perfumes? Is it just marketing or is it really possible? Do you feel that there’s anything on this topic that has yet to be explored, and what would be an interesting direction to take?

I really like the idea of being able to have your own, personal perfume. If the work is guided by a perfumer who can dose the different essences to sublimate particular facets, then yes, everything is possible!