The Nose Knows

Sharp - - STYLE -

We spoke with Do­minic Ro­pion, master per­fumer and the ol­fac­tory mind be­hind YSL’S new fra­grance, Y, about how he found the sweet smell of suc­cess.

How do you start work on a fra­grance?

I be­gan work on what would be­come this new YSL fra­grance 10 years ago. When you first learn about per­fume, you start by recre­at­ing clas­sic scents like Chanel No. 5, just to un­der­stand how they’re built. Dur­ing this process, you make a lot of mis­takes, and those end up be­ing what you keep. Some­times you cre­ate with­out know­ing it.

So where in that process do you find your ini­tial in­spi­ra­tion?

For me, you are in­spired and you are not. When I go to a mu­seum or when I lis­ten to mu­sic, all of this of­fers in­spi­ra­tion. But fin­ish­ing a per­fume re­quires hun­dreds of mod­i­fi­ca­tions. You have a raw ma­te­rial and you work with it, as when you’re cre­at­ing a sculp­ture.

How do fra­grance styles shift over time?

Per­fume is such an old tra­di­tion. A fougère has ex­isted al­ready for many years. But you can add within those bound­aries — maybe to some­thing very sweet, very sen­sual, very warm, you add an ex­plo­sion of fresh­ness, and sud­denly it be­comes new. That’s where you see the style of the per­fumer.

How does mod­ern tech­nol­ogy play a role?

Now we can use frac­tional dis­til­la­tion, which lets us ex­tract cer­tain un­pleas­ant parts of a raw in­gre­di­ent. The re­sult is ac­tu­ally some­thing closer to na­ture.

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