Today I’m Wearing: Incense Avignon by Comme des Garcons

Who: Bertrand Duchaufour, independent freelance perfumer. For more than 30 years Bertrand has been creating beautiful perfumes, initially for big brands, but for the last decade he has been a leading light of the niche fragrance scene. His much loved creation Avignon, is featured as one of ten perfumes picked for Perfume, A Sensory Journey Through Contemporary Scents, at Somerset House, where we caught up with him for a quick chat.

Today I’m not wearing perfume, I’m very sorry! I usually avoid perfume because when I’m working I like to get a natural atmosphere around me, it’s more efficient for me so I know I’m smelling everything correctly. I’m so overdosed, so overwhelmed by fragrances every day that I prefer to avoid wearing anything.

The fragrance of mine featured in the Somerset House exhibition is Comme des Garcons Incense Avignon. It’s a very clear, readable, simple scent. I wanted to translate the atmosphere of inside church, so, it’s a smelling mix of something strongly incense-y together with a mineral-like note and wet flagstone, which adds something fresh and chilly. The temperature in a church is often not the same as outside, as you enter there’s almost a cool note to smell, together with the clear incense and that mineral atmosphere. The whole spreads out everywhere in the church and I wanted to translate this exactly.

I consider my whole work, which I’ve been doing for over 30 years now, a piece of art by itself. I’m evolving constantly. My style is always evolving, I’m always trying to find the best solutions for good accords and I’m still continuing to find good ones.

It’s like the Holy Grail! I’m always looking for the Holy Grail because you never touch perfection, but it’s a question of faith. I’m always in the process of discovering, I’m never finished. Everyday I plunge in without really knowing exactly where I’m going, or even when I’ve arrived. But I’m still plunging, my entire career is a big plunge!

At home I try to be neutral as possible, it’s not that I hate to smell something, but I try to avoid being overloaded to clean my nose from what I’ve been doing all day in the lab. Or outside, because Paris is saturated with scents both good and bad, creating a mixture of perfumes on your path.

I feel very disturbed by strong smells that remain on my skin, even from outside going to my apartment. I feel very annoyed. I shower and try to keep my apartment as neutral as possible, definitely no candles!

When I was young I used to be crazy about the smell of truck gasoline, that diesel motor smell, and that very specific oily, damp, dirt smell of garages. Now I’m much keener on natural scents like tulips, they are very ozonic, with this very special chemical strong note I really appreciate. It’s that feedback of nature to chemical, chemical to nature, I realize everything I create is already done! It’s just a replay of nature.