Monday, July 30, 2007

Interview with a perfumer: Vero Kern from Vero Profumo

It was with the greatest pleasure that I introduced you to the new exclusive perfumes by niche swiss line Vero Profumo a while back here on Perfume Shrine. Today it is my even greater excitment to introduce you to their creator: the masterful Vero Kern, a lady of high olfactory pedigree who agreeded to an interview for the reading pleasure of Perfume Shrine's many readers. Vero with her long salt and pepper hair and her deep gaze that denotes a wise soul is a sight to behold. Her attention to detail and her hesitation regarding correct use of english were endearing to me. I assured her that we would be thrilled to know what's on her mind. And so, here we are!

PS: Hello Vero! You are a relative newcomer to this world, yet your perfumes denote complexity and experience. Could you care to explain how this happened?

VK: Hello! I started my perfumery career almost ten years ago. And I’m working with aroma material for twenty years now. The desire to create perfumes was strongly rising during my aromatological training and the final decision for this to be shortly ten-years-passionate-love-affair was above all a distinct curiosity, even a straight on Faszinosum on scent phenomena, but also a great zeal to know and learn all. For almost two years I was making the itinerary Zurich-Paris and back once a month. There, in the same school where Lyn Harris {of Miller&Harris} also went, I was initiated in the secrets of classical perfumery. I‘m blending with natural and synthetic essences. So absolutely novel and most important for me was to learn all about synthetics.
Creating perfumes in a classical way as I do needs a lot of time, patience, endurance and many, many tries until the definitive product is born. Complexity in perfumery requires besides technical know-how also imagination, intuition and some shameless artistic liberty to bring up important influences in material choice, accent setting and originality.

PS:Your aromachologist background means that there is some sort of spiritual appreciation of the energy of living things. You work with naturals. Myself I find that fascinating and quite hard. Do you think that more traditional perfumes as opposed to simple aromachological blends are also beneficial in providing health and mood benefits?

VK: The sense of smell is linked with our limbic system that controls our feelings and emotions. So I believe that all smelling things provide an emotional reaction: To like it or not to like it - here is the question. I think that enjoyable and enchanting smell experiences, no matter the original resource, always create great mood benefits.
Blending my perfumes in a more traditional way was 100% an artistic and aesthetic decision.

PS: You know, I got the mood elevating vibe especially from your Rubj{click here for review}. Was this intentional when creating the scent or just a pleasant side-effect?

VK: It wasn’t intentional at all, but I’ m very pleased if you tell me so. Creating rubj, I had something like a very erotic skin scent in mind. Finally it ended up with the combo of almost narcotic Orange blossom absolute, sensual musk and Jasmine. Could also be a scent for Lovers - urban Lovers - like this couple, that are stranded in this small downtown hotel-bed and watching there lovely beach sunsets on a pink portable TV. {she laughs} I had this kind of frantasy while creating. {laughs some more}. This scent blooms wonderfully on sun-kissed summer skins.

PS: I can very well visualise that. {I am also bursting with mirth now}
Now, a question I always ask when dealing with perfumers ~ do you find that the quality of the ingredients is of lesser, equal or greater importance than the innovation or beauty of the formula? In short: could one create great art with paints or great music with garbage like Stomp do, if we translate the concept in perfumery? Or is this impossible?

VK: The combination of movement, percussion and comedy in a new, innovative and never seen before performance is really unique. Unique artwork needs innovative ideas, the right material going with, techniques and the ability to transfer that into creation.
To translate the Stomp concept into today’s perfumery is very difficult. Most of today’s perfumes, including some niche products, are drawn up for global markets. Global marketing goes with global advertising. The advertising costs must be tremendous and innovation is required and focused on all kind of concepts. I think they can’t be too artistic thus. I never went too deep in this, but it would be very interesting to hear from an industrial perfumer how this works in reality.
Basically, I believe, that a beautifully touching-you-and-me perfume formula, can only be achieved by using high quality material AND innovative new ideas - in both, concept and creation. Consequently this demands a more complicated, longer development and production and that also has its price.
It’s my fervent intention to create beautiful scents - scents with soul. I think soulful scents bear a unique secret.

{At this point I am almost swooning, this is such a beautiful thought...}

PS: Onda {click here for review}is a very unusual and daring composition with a deeply animalic tonality. Do you think people nowadays are ready to move on from the cult of the clean and venture again in the Napoleonic decadence of musk and richness? I see the pendulum swinging myself, but I want your expert opinion.

VK: Apparently the sense of smell is the sense of paradoxes. Paradoxical and ambiguous, it’s the sense of the refinement and the animal, the brutish. This sense also evokes strong emotions, moods and impressions. Working with scented materials creates the most bizarre pictures in my head. Onda is a good example. The original idea was to create a leathery Vetiver surrounded by flowery and chypre notes and I had a fantasy like this going with:
Isabella Rossellini as mystery Dorothy Vallens, wearing this beautiful blue velvet gown, and Johhny Depp as Ed Wood wearing Glenda’s {from the character "Glen or Glenda" film by Ed Wood}sexy glamorous white-haired wig, dancing together a very slow Tango Argentino at Manhattan Roseland Ballroom.{she laughs at the image}
A divine picture, but unfortunately the material didn’t match with. LOL… I had to find some other lines… and so on.

{I am laughing playfully at this fabulous image myself! What a concept!}

To come back to your question, I think the little naughty animalist or erotic touch in my creations is more a kind of signature or personal preference than a marketing decision. Actually the clean watery concept never did interest me much. “Clean smell” means to me a beautiful big Olive-oil Soap coming direct from Aleppo, Syria - not perfumed at all.
I don’t know if time is ready for more daring styled scents. But with the latest perfume launches ~I refer to the very dark Tom Ford Private Selection or the soon up coming dark Sarrasins by Serge Lutens~ there might be “something” going on in this direction. We have to wait and see.

PS: Since we are on that note, as you brought up two very different concepts, do you perceive a difference of aesthetics between American and European fragrance audiences? How would you define it?

VK: I am still trying to find out possible differences. Comparing to the very active US perfumery forums, I couldn’t find much similar European ones so far. So it’s difficult to give a clear statement about this. Maybe Americans dream sometimes of naughty animalic scents, but in reality they prefer to buy more fresh, glamorous fragrances. What I can see in all these audiences is the phenomena that everybody is constantly hungry for new staff showing up. Heated up by fancy media advertising they create a big hype ~almost hysteria~ around a new product and suddenly it’s all gone again - Nada Mas. Amazing!

PS: I can't help but agree with you. It's terrifying how quickly they churn out new products! But enough of that.....I read that you trained under the great Guy Robert. How was this experience for you and do you find it has influenced your style? How would you describe your own style?

VK: Guy Robert was of great help for me. I first met him years ago in Paris at his latest book promotion: Les Sens du Parfum. His book was something like a professional highlight for me and has certainly influenced my composing and styling. Later we corresponded. I sent him my mods to judge and he gave me useful feedback and tips on them. He also encouraged me during the long development process, but he was never "teaching" me. He is a kind of spiritus rector and a mentor for me, I’m very thankful for his help.
To describe my own style is very difficult. Using rare high quality raw material, for instance the natural Ambre Gris and other precious stuff, as well as handmade techniques, I might consider them as New Traditional for Connoisseurs.

PS: And so they are! Are there any perfumes from other noses that you admire and revere and which ones are those?

VK: Once a year I travel to the Osmothèque at Versailles to study the great compositions of the perfume Giants. I love and wear the following Extraits de parfum: Jicky Guerlain, Tabac Blond Caron, Shocking Shiaparelli, and Fracas Piguet.
The styles of Aimé, Jacques and Jean-Paul Guerlain, Ernest Daltroff, Jean Carles and Germaine Cellier have effectively influenced my own creations.

PS: Vero, what are your plans for the line in the future? Regarding additions, possible limited editions, distribution and positioning?

VK: My perfumes have only just a few weeks that have come out and of course I still have to work on promoting. Also, for better customer service I’ll provide in the coming weeks some shop facilities - on the website as well as here, at the home base. Continuation on the line is planned for sure and I have some ideas but can’t go in details yet. Limited editions are definitely not my thing! The scents will be positioned as Premium perfumes with a few selective selling points worldwide.

PS: Thank you Vero for a most elucidating interview.

VK: And thank you as well.

As we part our ways, I can see that Vero will soon be the talk of the town and not just that either. Her line will debut in the US in 2008. You have ample time to take notes and make your sniffing lists.

Pic of Vero Kern and bottle of Rubj provided by Vero Kern
Pic of Johhny Depp courtesy of johhnydeppfan.com


  1. Reading the impression of Onda, along with Vero Kern's inspiration while creating it, is very interesting. I like Onda, but do not get anything deep or animalic from it. It actually smells and feels quite bright and lively to me -- not fizzy or sparkly, but more like warm sunshine.

    I do, however, think it's very distinctive. I have yet to smell anything else like it, and that's quite a feat in and of itself.

    Nicely done interview with Ms. Kern. She comes across as very charming and with a quick intelligence. I hope she's experiencing the success that you were wishing upon her back when this interview was first published.

  2. Thank you Nathan for your kind comment, you're welcome on Perfume Shrine.

    Onda is indeed unique and although I find it very deep, quite dry and a little reckless, I like your description of warm sunshine. I believe maybe male skin might bring different aspects to the fore and this is highly intriguing to contemplate, especially for such a luscious scent as this one.

    Vero is a gem, the kindest and most charming person and I do believe she is doing very well in her endeavours. The reception she has had from the perfume community and critics has been great and I am sure that commercial success is ensured.
    Her being a perfectionist, I can't wait for what she does when she's ready to launch another fragrance!


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