The Fragrance Historian: Part one of a three-part conversation with Dimitri Dimitriadis

Of all the senses, smell has the greatest ability to vividly bring back the past. With over 25 years of experience working in the perfume industry, Dimitri Dimitriadis has the knowledge and capacity to link perfume’s past to its present. Based in Perth, Western Australia, Dimitri is a perfume historian who has written extensively on the subject. As well, he has curated exhibits, and has been asked to share his archival knowledge of fragrances for different projects and speaking engagements. We’re pleased to announce that Dimitri will be an upcoming guest writer for The Reverie. His background and insight into luxury fragrances makes him a great resource to discuss and decode the artistry of perfume creation with our audience. We welcome his expertise and look forward to his unique take on all things perfume.

By way of introduction, we get personal about perfume with this prolific collector and storyteller.

Tell me about the first moment you fell in love with a perfume/fragrance.

Dimitri Dimitriadis: I received my first fragrance at age 16 and made subsequent purchases in the years following, but the first time I fell in love with a perfume was at age 19. I was a university Arts student at the time working 2 jobs to stay in school, and could not afford such luxuries. That winter, I was given a partially used bottle of Hermès 'Eau de Cologne' (later re-branded 'Eau d'Orange Verte'), I think by a friend of the family. The juice - a zesty, uplifting tonic - was dispensed from an emerald-green bottle and it truly won me over. I have distinct memories of the smell of this scent trapped in my wet woolen clothes after being caught in a winter deluge on campus, and I have never been without a bottle since.

What sparked your perfume obsession? Did you have a “gateway” fragrance?

DD: I have always loved fragrance, but in fact it was two fragrances that kicked off my perfume obsession. They were ‘Hugo’ by Hugo Boss and ‘L’eau d’Issey’ by Issey Miyake. After graduating from university here in Australia in 1994, I moved abroad to my birthplace, Greece, where I completed my obligatory military service and worked for several years in an Athens advertising firm. It was on the Greek islands in the summer of 1995 that I met my (now) wife of 24 years. Later, when we decided to move back to Australia to be wed, as I arrived home, my mother whom was working as a perfume sales associate at the time, gifted me with these two scents. Not only the fragrances, but the entire body and ancillary product line for each. I absolutely loved the brisk, fresh nuances that layering these products offered, and I decided to take on a casual job selling perfumes on the weekends parallel to my full time job as a graphic designer. It was there that the spark ignited and my passion took root.

Has your taste evolved over time since then? If so, how?

DD: I believe it has. As a former student of natural botanical perfumery I learned to work with a perfumer’s palette comprising hundreds of individual oils and absolutes. Sniffing these components in isolation has given me a greater cognizance of how they are used in a perfume; how they might interact with, and underpin other notes in a composition. With time, this has given me a broader appreciation of perfumes and this is where the landscape has shifted. Whilst there are scents I wore decades ago that I still love, there are an equal number of fragrances that I’m pleased to have left in the past.

Regardless of the fragrance, what perfume flacon do you absolutely adore? Why is it so special to you?

DD: I am obsessed with Donna Karan’s bottles from the early 1990’s. Donna’s late husband Stephan Weiss was not only an incredible businessman that helped steer Karan to success, he was also an acclaimed set designer and sculptor in his own right. His bottle designs for her eponymous feminine scent, and her first masculine called ‘DK Men’ both possess an “alien-esque” appearance; flacons which would not look out of place resting on H.R. Geiger’s vanity in some far-flung space-scape. I find them incredibly futuristic despite their 1990’s vintage, and they are special to me because they inflect our global consciousness at the time, as we collectively looked upon the impending new millennium with optimism and promise.

What is your all-time favorite perfume and which scent are you currently loving?

DD: My all time favorite might have to be the afore-mentioned ‘Eau d’Orange Verte’; I’ve even borrowed the name as my Instagram handle! But there are a handful of others I consider signatures including Penhaligon’s ‘LPNo:9’ and Dior’s ‘Eau Noire’. The scent I am currently loving is ‘Royal Tobacco’ by Amouage; a gift from my family for my last birthday. It boasts an incredible cornucopia of notes which have a warm, sweet, woody/ambery distinction. The sum of these accords feels both luxurious and arresting.

How big is your perfume collection?

DD: Right now I have between 900 and 1,000 bottles. This number is always in flux as I go through periods of accumulation and release. I do feel it important to mention though, that a large portion of these are not intended for personal use, rather, they have been amassed for preservation purposes. I collect perfumes that have recorded the global zeitgeist, or that inflect movements in art, design and current affairs over the last 150 years. Bottles designed by renowned sculptors, architects and designers. I feel it important to identify these artifacts - these ‘antiques of the future’ - and stow them for subsequent generations to appreciate. A quantity of these I featured in my month-long perfume exhibition titled “120 Years of Attraction”, which I held here in Perth in 2021. The exhibition was well received and picked up in local, national and international press, and there were even requests to take the show on the road. Unfortunately the pandemic put an abrupt end to these plans.

What perfume is on your most wanted list? Which one in your current collection is the most precious to you?

DD: My most wanted, without a shadow of a doubt, is Hermès 'Doblis'; a Guy Robert creation from 1955 which has become so impossible to find, it has reached 'holy grail' status. In perfume lore, it has been said that 'Doblis' was once a favorite of Barbara Streisand, and that she allegedly hired a team in the 80's to procure every vintage bottle they could source from anywhere in the world. I'm not sure if this is fact or fiction, but the scent has certainly become an enigma. At the time of writing, there is a 50ml bottle of the 1990's limited edition reissue currently on eBay for a whopping €50,000 (ca. $53,000 USD)! I have a very special relationship with Hermès, and earlier this year, I turned over my one and only 1.5ml vintage parfum sample of 'Doblis' to the Maison's parfumeur and Director of Olfactory Heritage, Christine Nagel. It is my hope the sample might be examined using advanced chromatography and spectrometry so that its formula might be retrieved and this important perfume preserved. In my current collection, my most precious would perhaps be a stunning perfume bottle and box by French perfumers Lerys, called 'Or Bruni' (Burnished Gold). The stopper, foil labels and paper ribbons are exquisite, and the box - fashioned into a sublime paper drawer - is decorated with thousand-color renderings inspired by the batiks of Indonesia. It was made precisely 98 years ago, in 1925.

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