- Olivier Polge, the Chanel perfumer who was going to be a pianist: "Perfumery is difficult to understand, it is not taught in schools and it does not have its own language"
- Daniel Figuero, Dior perfume ambassador: "There are people who like you better or worse because of the way they smell"
- Mathilde Laurent, Cartier perfumer: "We cannot live without breathing, nor breathe without smelling. I mean, we can't live without smelling."
More than 300 perfumes trace the career of perfumer Dominique Ropion (Paris, 1955). If I were – let's play at being a little Raffaella Carrà – a designer, she would certainly be in the Olympus of the greats of our time, like those names that everyone is familiar with, even those who know little or nothing about fashion, an 'inter pares' with Domenico Dolce, Stefano Gabbana, Giorgio Armani, Tommy Hilfiger...
However, the Frenchman, who since 2018 has been a master perfumer [note, there are fewer master perfumers than astronauts, an honour that is reached, if it is reached, depending on the achievements, once you have crossed the border of 15 years of profession, when you are a senior, as explained by the Academy of Perfume] is probably an absolute unknown to most of the population.
Ropion, an exceptional perfumer
Things change if we talk about his perfumes, because you will recognize him for his achievements. His nose is behind Tous' latest perfume, LoveMe The Emerald Elixir, but also previous great hits such as Amor, Amor by Cacharel, Euphoria by Calvin Klein, Flowerbomb by Viktor & Rolf or La vie est belle by Lancôme, the latter created with more than one nose, in collaboration with other exceptional perfumers.
Is this master, then, concerned about the lack of (re)recognition of perfume consumers, the 'anonymity'? "It's true that perfumers are less public than designers, for example, but it's not such a bad thing really, you know the saying 'secret life, happy life!'" he admits.
The master, on the other hand, has been recognized and decorated for his work. He can boast of being a Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (2012), Cosmetic Valley International Fragrance Award or Prix François Coty (2008) and in 2010 he was honored with the Oscar of Cosmetique Magazine.
Dominique Ropion has been part of IFF since 2000, a leading fragrance manufacturer, from where he works for many other fragrances. As reported by the expert portal Fragrantica, Ropion's creations "are known for their exact olfactory balance and impeccable composition. He's a daring perfectionist who takes risks to create masterpieces that stand out in the industry. Her perfumes are like grand architectural feats, balancing excessive doses of powerful ingredients with more subtle accords."
Dominique Ropion has created more than 300 perfumes. TOUS Perfumes
When did you know you wanted to be a perfumer and why are you? I didn't know that. I always loved scents and smelling everything, but it took me some time to realize that it was my calling. I owe my training to an accident of fate. I was studying physics at university and a position was available at Roure's boarding school; I jumped at the chance and joined. This obsession with smells and perfumery has stayed with me ever since. What defines you as a nose and what sets you apart from the rest? It's a tough question. I'd say I'm not that different from the rest of the perfumers. But what I do and what I think defines me, I follow my instinct and take every opportunity to develop my curiosity and creativity. And, in general, what characterizes a good perfumer? I think a good perfumer is someone who, first, creates good perfumes, and then it's based on the way you educate yourself. Like any artistic field, you must be curious, diligent and have the desire to improve. You've made several perfumes with other perfumers... How do you work with more than one nose in a scent? In the beginning, I work on my own on the fragrance I want to create. I think about the project and what I want to translate. Then we regroup with the other perfumers and decide which path we want to follow. Sometimes we mix different ideas and create the most interesting option.
From his latest creation for Tous and market trends
This 2023 that is about to end has received another creation by Dominique Ropion, Tous, LoveMe The Emerald Elixir, an 'olfactory whim' that has been created as a piece of high jewelry, where it has paid tribute to the most exclusive luxury with an oriental aroma that mixes subtle citrus and floral accords. For the base, she uses caramelized vanilla, Indonesian patchouli and musk garnishing it with fruity and citrus notes of green pear nectar, grapefruit and sweet orange to create a juicy effect on the top. In the heart, honeysuckle, jasmine with its luminous touches and violet.
Is it a gem? Is it a perfume? It's LoveMe The Emerald Elixir, by Tous.D.R.
Tell me a little bit about LoveMe The Emerald Elixir by Tous. What is this perfume like and what challenges did you face when creating it? It is a powerful and very feminine perfume with deep floral nuances. The main challenge was to achieve a creation that was modern, with a lasting trail and that showed its sophisticated personality. I created this essence with the idea of a precious fragrance that evokes one of the most coveted gemstones in jewelry: emerald. And by the way, what are the tastes and trends in today's market? Now we see a lot of concepts around elixirs, opulence, and power. There's also a wave of great feminine fragrances with floral, amber and gourmand notes. We try to respond to those demands with different interpretations that correspond to the firm's DNA. On each occasion, I work to match the requirements of the brand, the trends and that my personal signature is noticed. In addition to this Tous perfume, he has created great olfactory icons. How do you leave your mark on history with perfume? Well, I've almost answered you! I do my best to create great perfumes that will be remembered. In addition to the ones you have made, which are not few... What perfume that is not yours would you have liked to create? The Egyptian Kyphi [a mythological incense from Egyptian culture]
The power of perfume and smell, that 'forgotten' sense
Edmond Roudnitska (another great master perfumer, only born half a century before Ropion, nose from Eau Sauvage and Diorissimo from Dior) said that "a good perfume is one that leaves you in a state of shock".
Perfume, for Dominique Ropion, as highlighted in his biography on the IFF website, "makes people desirable, it is a fabulous power, that is why my commitment is to try to create emotions in my fellow human beings, making them feel more present in the world or away from it, contributing to build bonds of community, religion or love, building self-confidence, bringing people together and inviting them to take an interest in each other, if only to see how others smell."
Speaking of Routniska and her perfume as a 'state of shock'... What perfumes have surprised you, if any? During my lifetime, I was positively surprised by masterpieces such as Chanel N°5 and Femme de Rochas, even though I admit that Mitsouko, by Guerlain, was more innovative at the time. And which one? If I may ask... I wear perfumes, especially cologne. If I had to choose just one, I would say L'Eau d'Orange Verte by Hermès or perhaps 4711 by Mülhens. So why do we like to perfume ourselves so much, to smell good? Let's not forget that smell is a primary sense, it's in our biological history, it's instinctive. But if I had to be a little more poetic, I think a perfume plays an important role in each person's unique identity. On top of this, smells can bring back memories you thought were lost, and make you think of people you love. How should we talk about perfumes so that the general public understands everything behind them? I think we need to talk about the emotions we feel when we smell perfumes. Everyone can understand emotions! Does a perfumer smell more or better than the rest of us? A perfumer smells more since it's part of the job, and I think olfactory memory and the ability to remember smells is key to being a good perfumer. Do you have a perfumer who is more of a chemist, a poet, a cook...? Could you compare perfumery with other disciplines or arts? I would say that the poet is the only one I can compare myself to. The poet mixes words to create an image, to touch the imagination; I mix scents to spark the imagination