Who: Olivier Cresp, master perfumer at Firmenich, the Swiss based fragrance and ingredients company. Olivier joined Firmenich 32 years ago and – perhaps not surprisingly- he rates it as ‘Number one in fine fragrance creation’. He loves working for the house because it offers him such a variety of projects, including working in the niche sector with Goldfield & Banks founder Dimitri Weber.
We caught up with Olivier at the launch, in Harrods, of the new Silky Woods Elixir from the Botanical Series, which he claims is ‘A beautiful fragrance which is going to do really well in the market.’ The combination of Olivier and Dimitri is an exciting one for fragrance fans, since both are keen on using the very best ingredients. Dimitri has built his brand around beautiful indigenous Australian materials unused and often unknown by European and American fragrance brands, read our feature on his pioneering approach here. In this new launch a sustainable, Australian-grown oud note is used, the first in a fragrance launch, which offers a more reliable and more planet-friendly option for the note.
But, let’s get back to Olivier…
I don’t wear too many fragrances, because my job as a perfumer is to smell all the modifications I’m doing on the arms and wrists of other people, to check the strength, long-lastingness and diffusion of each fragrance. So I keep a ‘clean’ nose in order to really analyse well.
Otherwise, I love to wear Dior’s Eau Sauvage, because it’s classic, but also Juniper Sling from Penhaligon’s, which is amazing and I love it. And Dimitri’s Silky Woods Elixir, the one we’ve done together, is also a beautiful oud, very modern with an accent of vanilla, it’s quite friendly and on trend.
Dimitri and I have known each other for many years, and it was more than a year ago he called me and said he’d like me to work on his next fragrance. Dimitri wanted it to be very powerful, based on oud, but in order to be different from the rest of the market, we started to blend and gather fig leaves and fig fruit notes and blend it with wood. All the ingredients we used are of top quality, which is always satisfying. Also, the next trend in perfumery is definitely vanilla, so that’s why the vanilla is highlighted in the fragrance.
When I pass someone in the side walk or on the streets and I recognise some of my fragrances, I feel very proud. I’m also happy that it gives some happiness to other people. Today, when I was walking down the stairs here in Harrods, the atmosphere is very aromatic, it is like a cloud of delicious food smells blended with vanilla.
We used many modern extraction techniques for the fragrance too, like CO2 and microwave extractions (from Firmenich Firgood collection). Firmenich is the only company in the world using microwave extraction, we started work four years ago on it. Imagine a long microwave of 17 metres in length, its amazing! We can extract mute and hard to extract ingredients like muguet ( lily of the valley) where the yield before was too low to use, but with the microwave we can get great results.
There’s also Linden blossom, a beautiful pepper, a pear, a pittosporum and some flowers that were mute that are now available, about ten different ingredients in total. We started to work with them two years ago and microwave extraction makes it so interesting. It’s a whole new world and I’m glad that at the end of my career, more or less, I’ve encountered this new technology, it doesn’t happen very often.
To me, generally speaking, the best way of applying fragrance for both men and women is on the hair. Why? Because hair is often moving. In India women wear flowers like tuberose and jasmine flowers on the back of the neck, on their hair and it’s gorgeous. The hair is the best diffusers of fragrance, clothes are also good, but the best for me is hair.
I don’t want to use too many fragrances in my home, it’s very clean and discrete, even with shampoos and soaps, I don’t use strong ones so they don’t smell. We keep things neutral and calm within our house so my brain stops working and I can rest. It’s because when I go outside I like to discover what people are wearing, the metro or tube, for example, is very interesting to be connected to, so I can understand what everyone is wearing.
After covid, we’re all looking for new trends in fragrance, for three years we were all stuck and now we need to breathe, and appreciate life! I’m sure the next generation of fragrances will be on the clean side, and for next year we’ll see ideas with a ‘smiling’ effect, fragrances that make us smile and be happy, remembering parties and happy times, because we were on the grey side for awhile, but now we need joy.
I totally dislike flowers that bloom in the winter, like narcissi and hyacinths, I hate them. I never use them because I don’t like cold weather and I don’t like to be reminded of it. I work only on things I like, for example I love to work with flowers such as honeysuckle, orris, warmer weather flowers! What is important is that I use ingredients that I like a lot. If I like it, then others will too.