In the continuation of our exclusive interview with Xavier Blaizot, the visionary CEO at PCW, we delve deep into the metamorphosis of his creative journey and the evolution of his artistic process. He discusses the intricacy of crafting a fragrance that not only captivates the senses but also possesses solid marketability. Blaizot balances the quest for commercial success while preserving an unyielding commitment to ingenuity.
Your work is very complex. How do you build a tangible product from abstract concepts?
Xavier Blaizot: It’s like other creative professions, such as music. Interpretation plays a vital role, akin to a synesthetic experience. It involves perceiving ideas through another sense and creating associations. However, this process can become intricate because you must consider cross-cultural perceptions. To engage a wider audience, I must go beyond my personal vision and scope and thoroughly analyze from a broader perspective. Much of my work revolves around interpretation and catering to people's desires. For instance, if I’m asked to create a cotton flower effect, it’s a challenge because cotton flowers don’t have much of a scent at all. Yet, we all have an imagined olfactory perception of a what a cotton flower smells like. So, when asked to produce a "cotton flower effect," I am aware of the need to interpret this based on what they expect it to smell like. This is where the abstraction of something abstract really begins. I understand how people envision the fragrance, although it represents something intangible. It's the same when I’m asked to create an orchid scent. Orchids lack fragrance, but there's this image of this white flower, a bit green, very natural. I understand the impression. This is where you can either go very linear or get a bit unconventional and try something because there's no wrong answers.
What do you think sets Ombre Sereine apart and how do you think it's going to resonate on the contemporary market?
XB: I think it's a very marketable fragrance. We have the codes of a successful, commercial fragrance and we know it will have widespread appeal. However, its true distinctiveness lies in my endeavor to transform it into a skin perfume (one that seamlessly melds with the skin), infusing it with unconventional ingredients to give it personality. The musky notes, tobacco undertones, and a touch of mimosa create an entirely new effect. While it retains a familiar, commercial character, it possesses an unmistakable uniqueness that sets it apart from its counterparts. This duality allows it to be both accessible and wearable, but it also conveys a distinct personality and a fresh concept.
For Blaizot, the fusion of appeal and originality paves the way for starting a trend - creating a fragrance that smells good, but still retains a unique, innovative edge.
How do you integrate sustainability principles into your development and production processes?
XB: The pursuit of sustainability in perfumery is both simple and complex. One way I address this is by sourcing ingredients locally, significantly reducing my carbon footprint. For Ombre Sereine, the jasmine and orange flower grow near Grasse, France. The citrus is from Italy. Prioritizing local ingredients was not only important for sustainability purposes, but it was also important for the fragrance to capture the unique essence of Monaco.
The synthetic ingredients are optimized chemical processes which are not demanding in terms of energy consumption. We used a bio perfumer's grade alcohol, which stands out within the world of perfumery for its premium quality and environmental cleanliness compared to other alternatives. When working with natural elements, the true art lies in creating a synthetic accord that is complemented by natural ingredients. For instance, when crafting a rose fragrance, I would not just include rose essential oil - this would be considered crude by my mentor. Instead, I construct an accord with rose, intertwining metallic, petal-forward, and leafy notes. Only towards the end would I introduce the rose to achieve the desired natural character. Solely using rose essential oil would yield an overpowering scent, diminishing its quality and incurring exorbitant costs. Plus, the production of rose essential oil necessitates an astounding amount of petals—approximately ten tons to yield a single kilogram. From an economic and sustainable standpoint, the magnitude of this requirement becomes apparent.
I would say some synthetic ingredients are awesome. For example, Ambroxan. Ambroxan is like if there's a party in my nose and everybody's invited! It's a beautiful scent that is just so addictive.
Where is Ambroxan derived from? How would you describe the scent?
XB: Ambroxan is derived from clary sage. It’s an elusive aroma, hard to explain. It’s often described as a musky and mineral scent, but it defies straightforward explanation. Personally, I think it has a rock-like quality, although rocks themselves lack any discernible scent. This synthetic ingredient, that has a distinct familiarity, exudes a remarkable beauty.
It’s not a coincidence that Blaizot used Ambroxan in Ombre Sereine. Its mineral, rock-like quality connects it to “Le Rocher” (The Rock), the heart of the principality of Monaco. This was a deliberate and important narrative choice that coheres it to Promenade Sur Le Rocher and Danse Étoilée.
Lastly, can you share your first perfume experience? Was it your own, or a family member's?
XB: Are you familiar with the French concept of "madeleines," symbolizing nostalgic childhood memories (as depicted by Proust)? I have a powerful olfactory "madeleine" associated with my mother. Whenever I encounter Thierry Mugler's Angel, I am transported back to moments when my mom, preparing to go out, would spray it on as a finishing touch. The scent of Angel has become inseparable from my memories of her. Every perfume worn by my family members have this cherished "madeleine" effect on me. As for my personal perfume choices, they were largely influenced by what my father would bring home. At 15, I boldly embraced Habit Rouge by Guerlain, a fragrance marketed to someone much older than I was. Today, my scent choices vary daily – I can’t pinpoint a specific fragrance I wear regularly. During work hours, I don’t wear fragrance and opt for neutral deodorants to ensure they do not interfere with my professional duties. However, once I step out of the workplace, I can indulge in fragrances with exuberance.
Discover Xavier’s artistry in Grace de Monaco’s enigmatic third fragrance: Ombre Sereine, available for pre-order now.