Who: Gerald Ghislain, CEO and creative director of the niche perfume brand Histoires de Parfums on which he is always working, with new ideas, new concepts and new perfumed stories. He describes himself as a dreamer and a generous man, always enthusiastic about life and new encounters and he travels widely to fuel the inspiration. We love his fragrances for their characterful personalities and intriguing storytelling as well as their wonderful compositions. We caught up with him on a recent trip to London, to find out what fragrance he was wearing…
Today I am wearing 1969 by Histoires de Parfums. It was created to honour the said year, with everything it entails. It is really the scent of Free Love, of a time when you could finally love whomever you’d like without being afraid of the consequences. It features a warm patchouli base, hippies used it a lot because of its aphrodisiac properties. When I created this perfume, I wanted something real, something bold and something true, not a meek and gentle perfume but a very sensual, sexual one. So you have the fire of spices, the cloy-ness of Mexican chocolate blending with the sultry bouquet of white flowers with hints of peach and exotic fruits.
It reminds me of the 70’s, the carefree mindset, the feeling you can go about doing anything you want and it will work out. I am always thinking ahead, working on new projects which I don’t know if they’ll work out but at least I’ll have tried. I believe in action, what matters in the end is what you do. 1969 is like that, it tells you ‘Act on it’ and ‘Be free and fearless’.
I spent my entire childhood travelling between France and Morocco. I was a solitary child, somewhat of a dreamer. I remember observing the world around me, the people, the landscapes, the colours of life in the streets. This youth in a Mediterranean atmosphere gave me a taste for herbs and spices. I was also struck by the women around me, the importance they attached to essential oils, their exotic Mediterranean beauty rituals. And because I grew up in this setting, surrounded with the scent of lavender, amber, thyme, laurel and all the spices North Africa has to offer, I naturally decided to become a chef.
Being a chef allowed me to translate all this colourful setting into my cooking. The culinary arts gave me this opportunity and the tools to make it happen. And during holidays, I went to the International Museum of Perfumery in Grasse. If you haven’t been there, Grasse is a small village on the Côte d’Azur where French perfumery was born. Every street, every wall, everything there is tinctured with perfumes and smells. This is when I realised perfumes were yet another way to translate my emotions, my dreams, my musings. I am no writer, so I chose perfumes instead of words, hence the name Histoires de Parfums. The link between perfumes and cooking is easy to understand, same pursuit of the perfect accord, same harmony, same attention to details and the same sensuality.
I have lived in Morocco and now in Dubai where there is a deep-rooted perfume tradition involving bakhoors, an Arabic incense and mukhallats, or attars which are oil-based perfumes. Every morning I pour some pure perfume into my body lotion and apply it over my perfumed skin, to enhance its longevity the way they do here with attars then I would burn bakhoor to trap its molecules in the lotion. It is a whole new world and sensory experience that I discovered here and in fact, this morning ritual is the reason why I decided to work on the bath and body line we will launch later this year. So that everyone may enjoy it the way I do.
I scent my home with bakhoor. Like I said, it is a kind of Arabic incense that I make myself with oud and spices and a blend of perfumes I often create depending on my mood. It is really different than the Indian sticks you might be used to in Europe or America. Here, everything is natural, it’s more potent, more perfumed. It reminds me of my childhood in Morocco you know, there isn’t a house in the whole Arabian world that doesn’t burn bakhoor nor a grandmother who doesn’t blend her own.
I have always, always been fascinated by the smell of stables, the hay, the leather, the animals, the manure, because I love horses. I find them calming. Whenever I look at them, spend time with or around them, I am at peace. I know a lot of people will understand this and have had the same experience when smelling oud or leather scents. People either love it or hate it, well I love it precisely because it is tied to this particular memory. A happy one…