This is part 2 of our interview with Xavier. Click here to read part 1
In the second part of our exclusive interview with Xavier Blaizot, the CEO at PCW elaborates on his vision and inspiration for the notes in Ombre Sereine, his fascination with perfumes that stay close to the skin and discusses how he defines success as a perfumer.
Ombre Sereine is your first collaboration with Grace de Monaco and it's our brand’s third fragrance. What was your inspiration behind this fragrance? How does it harmonize with the other two fragrances?
Xavier Blaizot: My initial engagement with the project centered around the metamorphosis of Grace Kelly—a contemplation on her essence, her lifestyle, and the delicate task of capturing this alluring juncture of her history. I was fascinated by the idea of representing Princess Grace’s seminal transition, without trying to impose something too specific. I was searching for an impression, an aura, an atmosphere. We started playing with something that had a hint of vintage, but with a modern approach - a touch of classic perfumery married with my signature, unusual accords. Personally, what makes this perfume special and unique is the synergy between old and new. It feels familiar, but fascinating and alluring all at once; it’s illusionary rather than precise. This led me, unequivocally, to the concept of a classic chypre. A chypre fragrance is the epitome of sophistication and elegance, think Chanel, Dior, and Lancôme. Enveloped in opulent floral arrangements, it exudes an aura befitting the grandest of galas— a symphony of scents, meticulously adorned and exquisitely attired. The chypre embodied the sartorial essence that I wanted to convey through Grace Kelly— a testament to her innate chicness and unyielding pride. As the narrative began to take shape, I assembled my notes to create an outline of the storytelling I wanted to express. It was important to incorporate elements from Grace Kelly's milieu, to include ingredients indigenous to Monaco. I sourced from my personal and treasured supply of lavandin—a lavender hybrid that boasts an intriguing green color and infuses the perfume with a distinctive quality, contributing to its appeal. Orange blossoms, a hallmark of the principality, have the power to transport your senses to the splendor of the French Riviera. Jasmine had a rightful place amid the other ingredients, imparting floral potency and resonance. I had this vision of an elegant salon, swathed in supple suede drapes, a place effervescent with conviviality and opulence.
Blaizot wanted to impart a particular sensation, although difficult to articulate precisely, he says it resembles the smoky, mineral undertones of cold tobacco. He wanted to explore the distinct beauty of this mineral aspect. He discovered its ability to act as a foundational note—its subtlety gradually revealing itself, clinging to the skin over time. It transformed into a nostalgic perfume, reminiscent of aged elegance, rich with mineral nuances. When he closed his eyes, the scent evoked the very essence of the story he wished to tell. He’s quick to clarify that his objective was not to reproduce the scent of a smoke-filled room. Instead, he wanted to convey a certain impression, a singular facet among many others. He speaks to the interplay of elements and of the suggestion of a subtle watery effect. To create this sea impression, he married the brightness and effervescence of the Mimosa flower with the darker tones and ambiance of a dimly lit room. This compelling duality created the delicate balance between the luminosity and obscurity encapsulated within the fragrance.
Let's delve into the captivating world of chypres. What sets them apart and contributes to their enduring appeal? What are the defining characteristics of a floral chypre?
XB: The chypre is an accord. It’s a family of fragrances structured from an accord. Typically, chypres start off with bergamot, to infuse a zesty citrus note. Then, there’s a floral element like rose, jasmine, or orris. At the base, are the earthy wood tones of oak moss and musk. Together these layers create a classic chypre accord. While the term "chypre" traces its origins to a fragrance conceived by Coty in 1914, it has undoubtedly evolved over time, assuming new dimensions and nuances. Personally, chypres have always evoked an atmosphere of elegance, akin to a grand gala or the allure of a red carpet. A chypre is abstract in nature, but when you encounter it, its distinctive character becomes apparent, and undeniably recognizable.
Other than the Coty, what would you consider to be another iconic chypre fragrance? In terms of modern fragrances, which ones embody the spirit of this fragrance family the most?
XB: When it comes to iconic chypre fragrances, you cannot overlook the timeless appeal of Chanel No. 5. Notable modern interpretations of a chypre fragrance are "For Her" by Narciso Rodriguez, "La Vie Est Belle" by Lancôme or "Good Girl" by Carolina Herrera. Their compositions strike a balance between the classic chypre elements and contemporary undertones. In this evolving fragrance family, a classic chypre interpretation in today's context often incorporates nuanced elements, such as the inclusion of what we refer to as "cotton candy burned sugar” notes. This effect can be achieved by introducing a molecule known as Ethyl Maltol into the composition. A mere touch of this molecule added to the fragrance yields a subtle yet captivating result, embracing the spirit of the classic chypre while infusing it with a contemporary twist. I added a tiny bit to Ombre Sereine as well.
Within Ombre Sereine’s exquisite composition lies the fusion of Pinkberry, mimosa, orange blossom, lavender, and leather. What was your process in selecting these specific notes? Particularly, how do you maintain the delicate equilibrium between deep, sensual notes like leather and musk, and ethereal floral notes and chypre elements?
XB: I live not too far from Monaco, so I’m well acquainted with its impressions and surroundings. It has lush flora that complement each other. This knowledge, cultivated through proximity, played a vital role in the creation of this fragrance. Moreover, during this period of exploration, I was in my “Mimosa period.” The inclusion of mimosa, with its aquatic and powdery undertones, seemed fitting as it summons the essence of the sea with a hint of skin. Lately, I have been fascinated with “skin” perfumes which has driven my creativity. These perfumes, rather than unveiling their full beauty on the blotter, slowly unravel on the skin, forming a unique bond with the wearer. To achieve this effect, I crafted a special accord of musks, which allowed the fragrance to seamlessly meld with the skin. Why did I choose these specific ingredients? As I smelled various elements, inspiration struck. One fragrance note spoke to me, then another, and yet another. It was an ephemeral moment of creation. If you were to task me with recreating the same effect today, the outcome would likely be different. Such is the beauty of creation—it is forever evolving, embracing the whims of the present moment. It is this very fluidity that entices me.
The original vision Xavier had of the salon served as the inspiration for creating a perfume with the correct formula. In particular, the leather/suede effect stood out as something obvious and powerful, giving character, confidence, and a trendy yet vintage feel. Xavier feels that as a perfumer his ultimate goal is to create a fragrance that evokes specific emotions and elicits desired responses from people. “When someone smells my perfume and accurately identifies the notes I intended to convey, that’s a success. If they mention being transported to a smoky salon filled with interesting people, it tells me the perfume has successfully captured the essence of the experience I envisioned.”
Coming up in Part 3 of our interview with Xavier Blaizot, we’ll delve deeper into his collaboration with Grace de Monaco and the inspiration behind our enigmatic third fragrance: Ombre Sereine, available for pre-order now.