Who: Christopher Yu, Managing Director, United Perfumes. Originally from New Zealand, Chris is responsible for the distribution and development of United Perfume’s stable of luxury perfume brands, which includes Fornasetti and Cire Trudon and was previously involved with the successful brand-build of Diptyque in the UK. He is a self confessed fragrance nerd with an office shelf stack and desk containing –we guestimated with him –around 1000 fragrances.
We’re from China originally and my grandmother was into herbal medicines. She had this fragrance oil which she thinks is some sort of jasmine. It sat in her medicine cabinet next to things like dead sea horse, lotus roots and God knows what else! Going back now to smell it –because those bottles are still there- I’m not sure it is, but whatever’s in that bottle holds this mythical, magical thing for me. It reminds me of comfort, my grandma would look after my cousins and me after school, we’d hang out with her. I still think fragrance is alchemy, it’s more than just the notes, it creates memories and emotions.
What you’re exposed to at a younger age influences your ability to be adventurous. I now love white florals, I will wear Robert Pigout Fracas -tuberose-d up to the hilt!- with no problem and no one ever thinks I’m cross dressing. You just forget fragrance doesn’t have a gender. So my grandmother must have influenced me, those feelings of comfort and being looked after, adventure and alchemy were blended with those white florals, so I have a real deep love for pungent white florals.
Today especially in Europe, men tend to be more adventurous. At our counters we’re seeing a lot more confidence when choosing from men, we see young men coming in who know fragrance through Lynx but ask for a bottle of Creed Aventus. I’m like “You’re 14 years old? How do you know that?’
Young men are going beyond label very quickly today, for so long I wasn’t confident enough to move past Calvin Klein, but now you don’t need that label support and men today have the confidence to say ‘just slap it on my skin and see what happens”. Independent fragrance brands still offer a different voice and they challenge your perception of fragrance and make you realize you don’t have to smell ‘fresh’ or ‘clean’. Due to perfumes such as Diptyque’s Philosykos you can smell like a Greek holiday.
Perfume has the power to transform invisibly, to make you feel finished, dressed, better about yourself, comfortable, sexy or ready. Whether it be your morning cup of coffee or fragrance, they both have the power to transform you.
I come to the office not wearing anything because everyday I trial about ten different smells as we work on developing new fragrances for our brands.
This morning I was walking to the office with the dogs and noticed the honey suckle weaving around an iron fence smelt quite strong, so I came into the office and I dragged out every single fragrance I knew that had honeysuckle in it to try to understand what I’d experienced. I’m not a nose, but I help develop the briefs they use.
I get on the tube at night and I can guarantee someone will sniff around wondering what the smell is. And the litmus test is if someone actually says’ what are you wearing?’ then I know that’s the winning formula.