„Hands on Dries van Noten“

Words: Junior Lodge

The French perfumer Marie Salamagne has crafted an eau de parfum for Dries van Noten’s new Impossible Collection. Soie Malaquais is a deeply intense and opulent fragrance featuring a silky scent with succulent notes of blackcurrant and bergamot. Complementing the sumptuously rich scent is a well-crafted bottle conjoining Delft porcelain with deep burgundy glass. Salamagne’s fragrance takes its name from the store adorning the Belgian designer’s name in Paris.

In a Zoom call, Salamagne spoke vividly of the creative collaboration by celebrating the opportunity to work for van Noten by underlining the fashion’s designer role as a generous and humane source of inspiration. Indeed, Salamagne’s creative spark for her new fragrance was ignited by a visit to van Noten’s boutique on Quai Malaquais in Paris’ sixth arrondissement. The nature of this inspiration chimes fully with Salamagne’s favoured approach to delve deep into the creative soul of the commissioning designer. The Quai Malaquais boutique piqued the perfumer’s senses with its palette of vibrant colours and studious state lent by wooden floors and vintage furniture. The creator of Soie Malaquais declared “I found a silk dress and immediately wanted to recreate the scent of silk, which is very specific and unique, and combine with something softer, more gourmand, mixed with chestnut.” She invited me next time “to smell and eat a chestnut and maybe you will inhale the bridge between silk and chestnut. This was my impossible combination – an unexpected blend of silk and chestnut.”

In response to the question of what Soie Malaquais conjured, Salamagne’s response was swift and sharp – “it might catapult you to different places because it is a multi-faceted and colourful fragrance. It conveys the notion of happiness, colour, ease and comfort for everybody. Yet, the addition of bergamot, black currant on the top note offers something crispier and fizzier, but you might also get something more sensitive with balsamic notes. The vanilla and Peru balsam wrapped with chestnut imbue the fragrance with heightened complexity.”

Salamagne also shared her own approach to creating a new fragrance. “I infuse my perfume designs with a lot of emotions and creating Soie Malaquais was no different. I started with a very strong idea, but most of the time what emerges is something real, true, and emotional. I remain convinced that when sharing a story always resonates with a listener. In creating Soie Malaquais for Dries, I tried to reinterpret his universe, but drawing heavily on my own personal experience.”

At the launch of the Impossible Collection, Dries van Noten remarked with relish of stories being embedded in all his products. That declaration provoked an interest in the story being retailed by Soie Malaquais. “I wanted to combine this note of silk, which hasn’t been made so far in fragrances. And I have always noticed that it has a special and distinct smell by imagining a woman wearing a silk dress on her skin. Silk’s soft yet refined nature was alluring as the fabric (and scent) represented a perfect vehicle to embody the renowned elegance, femininity and colour of van Noten’s fashion.”

As one of 10 perfumers commissioned to contribute fragrances to the Impossible Collection, Salamagne visited Van Noten’s majestically manicured estate perched outside of Lier, Flanders. She spoke effusively about the impact on the design process of the time shared with the globally known Belgian designer. “I think what inspired me also is that we were so lucky that Dries invited us in his fabulous house (and garden). Every nook of the property exudes beauty, everything single object at the house is well carefully chosen so that that one felt transported to another planet. And I think this inspired us even more by smelling numerous items, registering the profusion of colours, being seduced by the special varieties of plants, and imbibing the scents of roses and citrus.”

Salamagne warmed invitingly to the seemingly demanding brief of combining extreme scents in one fragrance. “I am deeply fond of the idea of combining things that would not necessarily fit together because it is the way to emphasize one another.” She drew a parallel from the realm of painting – “this is rather similar to a painter’s use of clair-obscur where if you want to place a figure or item at the front of a scene, you tend to contrast it with something different. I am deeply fond of this approach but pushed it far beyond just combining two opposing elements.”

The Impossible Collection’s promise of gender fluid scents prompted yet another plunge into Salamagne’s approach to perfume design. “I feel really blessed when given the opportunity to work with a designer as I tend to give my best when dialogue induces inspiration. Being asked to undertake an assignment with a set brief is akin to being in a box, and paradoxically, this tends to catapult my own creative freedom. During the design process, you try to understand as best as you can what you would like to express and translate this into reality. I have never thought that a fragrance should be for exclusively for men or women. The beauty of any scent appeals to me, for example, I can fall in love with a scent of bread, and therefore, we can readily register that an emotion can be sparked anywhere. Similarly, we should not be driven by a colour or a sentiment that this is solely for women. Increasingly, one sees men wearing rose scented fragrances and women tend to increasingly wear woods and leathery notes!”

As our languid conversation meandered to a close, a question emerged on the source of professional pride that comes from designing a critically acclaimed fragrance. Salamagne was most demonstrative in stating that “there is something so subjective you cannot control. You can be attracted by the beauty of the bottle and I enamoured with this bottle as it constitutes a piece of art. But you can also be attracted to wear the fragrance as it also offers more than a touch of mystery.”

Salamagne is both unequivocal and disarming on the nature of Soie Malaquais’ target customer. “I firmly believe that fragrances can convey emotions, and therefore, I am far more interested in the emotions being unleashed in a 12-year-old girl or an 85 year-old man. In creating Soie Malaquais, I remember visiting the Dries van Noten boutique an inhaling the wooden furniture and colourful silky dress. That sensual experience triggered a burst of emotions in me but they were confined to that particular location. I am not thinking the Soie Malaquais wearer should be a blonde, 25-yearl old Parisian woman. Such a perspective would be far too narrow and too constricting and the opposite of the spirit of open-mindedness and inclusion that I aspire to convey.”

In concluding our chat, we returned to the personal and professional connection forged between the perfumer and van Noten. Does the design process become more in the context of a human bond emerging between the two creatives? Salamagne confidently stated “most certainly, such a constellation changes a lot as we never work for ourselves. The exercise of professional collaboration also means satisfying a brand and creating an element of alchemy with someone. Alchemy allows you to better understand what is going on or the thrust of expectations. We were all enriched by visiting van Noten’s atelier and seeing him collaborate with various partners. In creating a fragrance, inspiration can spring from anywhere. The feedback that comes from hearing that the perfume bottle will be burgundy or learning its name is not only inspirational but can also leave a huge influence. Having this opportunity to discuss, spend so much time with Dries, you certainly want to give the best of yourself.”

Salamagne’s best design effort should ensure that Soie Malaquais perfume will certainly attract critical and commercial acclaim.

„Daniela Andrier and Marie Salamagne on designing their new scents for Dries van Noten”

Words: Junior Lodge

Listening to Daniela Andrier introduce her new perfume – Jardin de L’Orangier, one instantly senses the depth of clarity and conviction about her craft. German-born Andrier educational background as a philosophy major at the Sorbonne in Paris might contribute to the innovative perfumer’s alluring capacity to explain the complexity of fragrance design in a languid and intelligible manner.

The new perfume forms part of Dries van Noten’s Impossible Collection – a collection of 10 fragrances with seemingly contrasting scents. Andrier combines sweep deliciously ripe orange tinged neroli with sandalwood to deliver a sensually explosive scent. Jardin de L’Orangier attacks one’s olfactory sensations to convey both instant pleasure and playfulness yet it remains fraught with mystery and layered playfulness. The evocative sensual pleasure begins with the stunning packaging – a rich burst of orange coupled with a seductive light purple. No surprise that a playful use of colour adorns this new Dries van Noten perfume as the Belgian fashion designer is universally known for his masterful use of tints and shades.

In response to what Jardin de L’Orangier conjures, Andrier was both ebullient and poetic. The perfumer’s response was gloriously generous – “it is a very blooming fragrance with orange blossom provoking other floral notes to convey the impression of a very heavy-blooming orange blossom. And this is underlined by the sandalwood background that gives it this almost milky orange blossom. The scent would be that of an orange blossom smell in the late evening. That the flowers would’ve been very stressed by the sun and intensely smelling, and then it’s cooling down in the late evening, but you still have the intense and narcotic smell of orange blossom.”

Van Noten’s Impossible Collection aims to pitch contrasting aromas into one scent. This seeming creative challenge was not daunting but rather reflected Andrier’s own approach to fragrance design. She noted “the idea was to associate two antagonists in the collection but as a perfumer, antagonists do not really exist as many differing notes can co-exist. However, this stark contrast very much reflects the design spirit of Dries van Noten and inspired me with its essence of fantasy. I love the idea of the unexpected together and think that what inspired me was very much the relation van Noten has to colour combinations, and I tried to make an interpretation of that colour combination in crafting this new perfume.”

One anecdote signals the ease with which Andrier approached the creative collaboration with Van Noten. In a movie to introduce the Impossible Collection, Andrier dressed in the colours the bottle of Jardin L’Orangerie. This was without her prior knowledge that bright yellow and purple would be eau du parfum’s bottle. Beyond the ready alignment between the German perfumer and Belgian fashion designer, Andrier said “the video episode revealed my nature as a very intuitive perfumer, a very intuitive person, and my intuition is really something that guides me a lot in or my job.”

During the interview, Andrier outlined her own design approach. In undertaking this assignment, she “swiftly translated the product into an orange blossom fragrance with almost over-mature orange blossom flower contrasted with a whiff of milkiness. Therefore, in viewing the bottle of perfume, the yellow conjures a bit trouble (the milkiness and overripe flower) but also the plush pink connotes something very natural and bright. I see myself very much as a translator of fragrances, meaning this sensory form represents a parallel alphabet. Once I understand a designer’s universe, I can readily translate these into a fragrance. In that sense, I rarely need to be either analytical or intellectual. On working on a new fragrance, I never say „Okay, this is what Dries van Noten stands for and how do I approach his request for an impossible combination?“ My approach is far more intuitive because I am almost closing my eyes and venturing into an enchanted forest to get the right fragrance there.”

In creating Jardin de L’Orangier, Andrier immediately registered the allure of orange blossom – a scent that can be easily worn by the full gamut of ages – from a new-born to evoke something childish, to teenager and their innocence, and for women that embodies seduction. The perfumer swarms that orange bloom is an “amazing flower that you can dress it up and give it whatever kind of identity.” Andrier interest in “the use of orange blossom also allows for the emergence of a fragrance to project different facets of user’s personality. This Dries van Noten fragrance teems with seduction and sensuality from the blend of ripe orange blossom, milkiness and sandalwood note.”

The mention of a magnificent review of Jardin de L’Orangier in an English daily provoked another nugget of insight into Andrier’s craft as a perfumer. The article with its sumptuously rich language gave Andrier an emotional jolt but the perfumer seized the chance to expand on her craft. “When you create a fragrance, once you are working on with such intensity that it becomes etched into your mind that it forges a giddy acquaintance. Once the fragrance is completed, it leaves and one forgets about the structure of the formula. After some time, the fragrance becomes a stranger again to yourself by which I mean with this is it becomes something that you discover as a whole that is no longer a part of yourself. And you can then appreciate the beauty of it more than when you worked on it, because you get into a distance and you see it for what it stands by itself, because it’s no longer attached to you.”

Andrier reprises the imagery bequeathed by late evening scents. “Late evenings when you smell flowers but cannot see them, you are unaware of the origin of the smell but it remains pungently present in the air. It is invisible and yet so present. And there is something happening with the night, the air late at night, the very, very strong flower smell, the whole mixture of it.” Jardin de L’Orangier represents an opulent and multi-layered fragrance with its giddy blend of blooming orange flowers, sandalwood and milkiness. Daniela Andrier has gifted us another fragrant illustration of her immense creativity and passion for her innovative craft.