Who: Sylvaine Delacourte, founder of fragrance brand Sylvaine Delacourte. Sylvaine’s eponymous brand was launched in 2017, after a 30 year career at Guerlain spent working closely with firstly Jean Paul Guerlain and then as the artistic director alongside in-house perfumer Thierry Wasser. Some of her big hit launches at the house include Insolence and La Petite Robe Noir and she was also in charge of bespoke fragrances, which gave her tremendous grounding for understanding what customers want.
She is keen to disrupt some of the cliches attached to fragrance ingredients, such as making vanilla sweet or musk notes animalic, by deep-diving into an ingredient to discover the creative possibilities that arise when it is aligned with unexpected or opposite aromas. Her fragrances sing with a quiet, dynamic modernity and we are big fans. We caught up with her at the London fragrance boutique Les Senteurs, where her collection is stocked.
Today I’m wearing Osiris, a fragrance from my next collection. A neroli flower, which I will launch in September 2019. My concept is to work around one iconic material, so my first collection was about musk and consisted of five white musk fragrances. After that I looked at vanilla, and this next collection will be around orange blossom. My concept of looking at one ingredient at a time is quite different from other brands, I think it is unique.
This next collection will be five different versions of orange blossom and the fragrance I’m wearing today comes from this range. I’m experiencing it ‘new’, which means without any maceration time. We need around one to two months to let the fragrance mature in the bottle, but this has just come fresh from the lab! It’s all about the nectar of orange blossom and I’ve included notes of dates, honey and cedar wood, it’s really creamy and enveloping, very sensual.
The fragrance makes me feel very comfortable and like myself. Everything I develop is very close to me and what I like, I don’t want to make anything that’s too far away from myself, I can’t create fragrances like that. I don’t like punchy perfume, it’s not me. I like to make fragrances with a lot of facets, ones that are refined, subtle and classy.
Fragrance is absolutely key in my life! I had many jobs before I found fragrance, I was a microbiologist, then moved to marketing, but I fell in love with perfume and now its my passion.
It was a dream to have my own brand, but I never thought it would happen because I’m a creative person and not very good with business, logistics, numbers, all of that’s horrible for me! Then I met the entrepreneur Pierre Henri Coustenoble, a younger guy well, younger than me, with very good head for business and we compliment each other. Together we have left and right brain, he’s dynamic and full of energy and very good for me!
I know the market. Working for Guerlain I was obliged to know what was going on with every other brand, including what sold well. I wanted to find a new angle and concept that didn’t exist on the market, something simple but strong.
Everybody is right, whatever it is they like, if they like a signature scent or if they like to change for the season, what ever works for them is right. There should be no rules on that, the important principle is that they love perfume.
I like to work on raw materials but in an different way, not with a classic approach. For example I like to create ‘bing bong’, a contrast between two opposites in nature. So when I worked on musk, where the ingredient is very pampering, very comfortable, very enveloping and soft like a pashmina scarf, I put it with ingredients that were opposite. I put very green, very fresh and lush notes, which made such a contrast…So, Bing Bong!
I like to put a smile in my top notes, some top notes can be quite rough and aggressive, but mine are smooth and smiling, almost encouraging you onwards.
When I consult with customers to create bespoke fragrances, I aim to extract the important scent memories in their lives, it’s a little like scent therapy, sitting on a olfactive sofa! Customers love to speak about themselves too.
With my psychological approach, I use my voice to put my customers into a hypnotic state, although they are always awake, not asleep. I am a bit like a sponge, I go into their heads and find all the positive smell memories in their life to use to create a fragrance that will mean something to them. That’s why I only need two hours with a customers to get what I want.
My perfume rituals are very simple. I put my perfume on my pulse points and where I want to be kissed. And all over my hair, on my clothes too. I spray once for me and people who get close, and another spray for everyone else. I’ll wear it to seduce, to go out to restaurants, to meet friends and so on, but not every day. When I’m testing my new developments I have to wear them on my own skin and I couldn’t wear anything else on those days.