Saturday, March 28, 2009

Interview with master perfumer Jean Claude Ellena

The first thing I sense in Jean Claude Ellena is his jovial, warm manner upon “C’est Jean Claude Ellena!” (This is Jean Claude Ellena!) Me, perfume writer and immense fan of his work, I feel a sense of elation as a dream has come true, due to extraordinary circumstances: a one-to-one interview with one of the truly Greats! His graciousness in granting me personally and the Perfume Shrine a big segment of his precious time is obliging and I can sense how truly charming his personality is; the things you have heard about that part are not tales. Like him or not, there is no doubt in my mind that Jean Claude Ellena is writing history as we speak. His coherent vision, his distinctive, instantly recognizable style, and his understated sense of chic have ushered in a new form of perfumes’ authoring that revolutionized the industry and has several esteemed perfumers following his lead. In 50 or 100 years from now, people will talk about him the way they’re talking about Jacques Guerlain, Germaine Cellier or indeed his former mentor Edmond Roudnitska. Not to suggest that he hasn’t cornered enough attention already! His appointment as in-house perfumer at Hermès has penned more lines than the latest Pulitzer Prize and waged quite a few jealous tongues in private. He remains unaffected, intent on his own ~admittedly ambitious, as befits his Aries, Scorpio rising, personality~ personal Ithaca; the journey is just as much an enriching pleasure as the final destination!

This interview in my mind had a core theme all along: Mare Nostrum, the Mediterranean, that infinite source of inspiration for civilizations aplenty and so I began by asking him a rather unusual question: “I have always entertained the ~wonderful to me~ idea that you have some distant Greek root in your lineage as both your demeanor & philosophical stance on life and your style of simple, austere and confident strokes is echoing the ideals of this civilization. Chandler Burr writes somewhere in "The Perfect Scent" that Ellena means “the Greek”, which is correct [Hellena is the official name for Greek, as evidenced in the now defunct royal title ‘King of the Hellenes’]. Being Greek I had always wanted to ask whether there is some truth to that, much as it is for Bulgari for instance (whose grandfather was indeed Greek, immigrating to Italy). At any rate I perceive you as very Mediterranean-inspired. Do you agree?” Jean Claude is thinking this over: “I can’t say that I am certain on this, don’t have records, but my grandmother did come from the Eastern Mediterranean, a long-time ago, the family traversing though Italy in the beginning of the 20th and finally residing at the South of France where we’re today. It’s true; the place has played an important part in shaping me, but also the ideas of the place, the ideals if you please. The Mediterranean spirit, the classical spirit of uniting beauty and la raison (reason, logic, sense) is very much my own too. This is something that has roots in Greek philosophy where beauty and reason were one and the same, but also in the problematic of one of my most favorite authors, Albert Camus. There is the entangled connection between beauty and logic, something that is very important to remember today. There is too much reason and reasoning behind everything today, especially with the Anglo-Saxon way of thinking in business, which is a bit “loud”, a bit all too present. We sidetrack beauty in favor of reason and that’s not how things should be, perhaps! My perfumes are constructed with the intention of no tricks, no labyrinths. You have to say “Ah that smells good!” That’s generous, that’s very Mediterranean. Then again there must be a minutely thought-out process, a methodology behind everything down to the last detail. But in general our century has lost la sensibilité, the sensibility; human beings have forgotten about it, resulting in a mass-market approach to everything ~products, relationships…Jean Giono’s books give that sense to life, that life has no inherent logic, no pattern. We have lost that sense of sensing the world, its strangeness and its charm”. The beautiful quote of Camus comes to mind: “At the heart of all beauty lies something inhuman, and these hills, the softness of the sky, the outline of these trees at this very minute lose the illusory meaning with which we had clothed them, henceforth more remote than a lost paradise... that denseness and that strangeness of the world is absurd...”

Jean Claude’s own childhood and young age opened up vistas to this beauty that he appreciates in subtle and finer things. It’s inevitable that picturing him growing up in a family of perfumers in Grasse (his father and brother are also perfumers, as is his daughter Céline), amidst the wonderful paysage, reading Jean Giono when he was 30, I wonder if he ever dreamt that one day he would arrive where he is now. “Absolutely not! It never occurred to me. I was doing badly at school, so my father said ‘you have to work’. And indeed that’s what happened. I started in the industry and learned from the craft. Even as a small boy I’d go with my grandmother for flower-picking at dawn in the Grasse fields. At 16 I began work at Antoine Chiris in Grasse, one of the oldest perfume houses in the world and with my 4-years experience when in 1968 the Givaudan établissement opened a perfumery school in Geneva I went there. I was the first student to enroll at that school!” He apprenticed under Maurice Thiboud, even at that early time simplifying the formulae to their essentials. “I was lucky in that I met a lot of people, I learned from them, they said I had potential and they encouraged me. I was never sure of my talent, whatever that may be; but I am very certain that I enjoy immensely what I do, I can tell you that!” And now his daughter Céline is continuing in his footsteps. “You must be very proud!” “Indeed I am! Family is very important to me”. His tie with his wife Susannah, of Irish and artistic ancestry, goes back 40 years and he has kept close ties with his extended family. They all live close by and spend every Christmas under the same roof. A very Mediterranean thing, I might add!

It was at 19 that Jean Claude Ellena got interested in Roudnitska, prompted by an article in a magazine given him by his father titled “Advice to a Young Perfumer”. He found in it the spark of a new direction: simplicity! The thought has taken a specific shape in my mind: “I can’t help noticing that the Spartan outlook in life in general requires some maturity; Greeks used to say “Laconism (ie.being simple, to the point) means Philosophizing”. Usually when someone is new in any profession they want to add, to augment, to impress, to go over the top! In perfumes, that means more power, more diffusion, more notes, and more ornamentation. Your own style is pared-down, loving to subtract: if you can say a whole essay in a few lines, you do so! Do you feel that this is something you learned from Roudnitska, or was the path to simplicity and maturity in your own life that necessitated this stance?” He laughs merrily as he recalls an argument they had with Roudnitska one day talking about philosophy. “Oh, but we had fun with Edmond! Good times together! We both believed that beauty is synonymous with generosity. He was very important to me. He opened a door to perfumery; he showed a new way, that things had to be simpler than they were at the time when a formula might contain hundreds of sub compounds representing various notes. But I like to think that I am going further, progressing what he started. This Spartan outlook you talk of is a necessity that has some ideal behind it and it also has quite a French expression in music. If you listen to Ravel or Debussy ~whom I both love very much~ there is this aspect of discreet pleasure, of sensuality, an intellectualism that is not devoid of sensuousness, of sensory pleasure in its simple melodious form.” As pleasure is a sensory notion, at this point we revert on his fragrances’ style: they have the sexiness of a woman who doesn’t flaunt her charms, but rather hides more than she reveals, instigating the desire to dig deeper and see what lies beneath, and leaving things to the imagination. “This is much more interesting, more intriguing! I like that idea. I try to follow it in my perfumes.”

You might be wondering how we have come thus far without mentioning the word minimalism ~it has become almost an axiom that whenever Ellena’s name is uttered in perfume circles, the word minimalism ensues. As if it was his manifesto. I feel that some people misunderstand the term attributing to it only the “transparent”, “watery” effect of many of his fragrances while on the contrary reading his book Le Parfum in the Que sais-je? Series I understand that he attributes to it the sense of playing “note for note”: devoid of sentimentality. He is categorical on this: “I don’t ascribe myself to minimalism; this is a misconception of my work. Simplicity is not minimalism and I don’t consider my perfumes minimalistic. The thing is they don’t try to say a lot of things at once; they are what they are! They provoke an impression, a feeling, which often requires months of reading behind it. They are simple, delicate, but like we discussed before, like Impressionistic music, they certainly have sentiment, they’re not only a mental exercise!”
“Apart from the aesthetic choice is there also some practicality into opting for sparse formulae? One tends to rely much less on ready-made bases like it was customary in the past, therefore there is better control of quality/supply of raw materials (and less variability on their standards), and also it gives the opportunity to start one’s own small niche house, like you did with The Different Company. Would you agree?” I ask him. He’s quick to do so. “Of course there is the technical aspect as well. As you correctly surmise, it’s easier to control the quality levels that way and to be completely certain of the vocabulary one uses in authoring. To bring you an example, I used to use Haitian vetiver + vetiverol + acetate vetyverile but I was never satisfied. Now I have a special distillation of vetiver, tailored-made for me. Why am I doing that? Because vetiver ~which is a material I adore~ has a very earthy feel. That’s its charm but it also often overshadows the top notes, it tends to engulf everything at its stride. So this concentrée de vetiver bypasses that problem and allows me to work like I want to. On the other hand there are two patchoulis on the raw materials market today, the “clean” one which you can smell in a plethora of fragrances and the real one. But whereas the “clean” one is popular and can be incorporated easily into a formula it lacks character, it has a one-dimensional personality. On the other hand real patchouli has a distinctive character, is multi-faceted and aids my formula into being what it is, when I choose to weave it in. I only use real patchouli myself.”

The luxury market is a vast theme for discussion but one he is quite eager to discuss. I sense that Hermès has largely emerged as the ne plus ultra chic luxury house (which it always was, in its way), but also gained momentum in its perfumery section over other luxury brands ~even over Guerlain which is a classic perfumes house, at least in the eyes of perfume lovers who seek distinction. In great part this triumph can be attributed to Jean Claude Ellena: a coherence of style that never seems to try too hard (at least in the outer effect, not the creative process, naturally!). I ask him if he believes that being appointed in-house perfumer for Hermès in 2004 has been a change of course for the company, five years now into it. He doesn’t want to take full credit: “It’s a deliberate direction that Jean-Louis Dumas Hermès and Véronique Gautier have taken and I suited them. I collaborated with them into a new wave which was pre-decided for Hermès but also evolved along the way. The brand wanted a different kind of product. There was no artistic director for the perfumery section before and although I had created Amazone Eau de fraîcheur for them in 1989, I didn’t know they wanted me for in-house perfumer till the question was asked. Our first collaboration with newly appointed Véronique was for Un Jardin en Méditerranée in 2002. But I ask questions to my own style, I show a new generosity and the result came out such as you see now. The power at Hermès is that the artist calls the shots. There are no focus groups, no marketing research on what we should launch. Only very few people decide on the finality of the launch. Hermès is very quality focused”. It is a small, traditional house that wasn’t initially thought of in relation to perfumes, but which has gained a respected following. “We are not going after big money, but after good money. We propose very sophisticated products for those who have a taste for them. We do not want to become too big, just be on a normal level. The increasing of an already superior quality is in my mind the only way out of the current economic crisis ~which hasn’t hit Hermès for what is worth. I like that we have an honest approach to the customer. It’s as if we say to them ‘If you like the product (and I do want them to like the product obviously), it’s OK and we’re very pleased. But even if you don’t like the product, that’s OK too’. I don’t want to break my back trying to cajole or deceive the customer, trying to ‘win’ them at all costs, be everything to everyone! There would be dishonesty in doing that and I don’t like it. I prefer to attract the ones who can become attracted in the first place. We’re not trying to outdo everyone in this business!”

At this point our discussion takes a path into other perfumes in the upscale, luxury game, a game that is ferocious, despite appearances and although tact dictates I cannot reveal the names discussed (it’s not very hard to guess anyway) he literally chuckles mischievously as I mention that his Hermessences have created several followers of the concept down the road! He is quick to point out that the prestige card is being played a lot, which might implicate the novelty factor that the exclusive Hermessences had in the first place, being a series of fragrances to be circulated only through Hermès boutiques; as well as the big size of expensive products. “There is a very obvious, easy way to show quality, Ellena says. You either increase the price or you increase the size. These are both very visual interpretations of luxury and the eyes play an important role in the luxury market. As to whether a big bottle has any real relevance, if there is a demand for it from the customer base, then why not? I don’t find it a bad thing in itself assuming there is a use for it.” When I point out that in perfumes a big bottle poses a very tangible obstacle in being a monetary investment when building a vast collection for the fragance enthusiast (as it is such a commitment over smaller ones), he reflects a bit on the market at large. “I do think there is no more excitement due to too many things on the market. There is too much product out and companies driven by the economic approach often don’t care for repeat customers, those loyal to one or two fragrances. They know that new brings in money, so they’re launching a hundred new things instead of focusing on less. I can’t say that I approve.” However one cannot dismiss the fact that products aim to sell, even if on a level-headed schedule. Therefore my question on marketability has some bearing on this. I have been curious along with many whether the transparency and watery effects predominant in this school of perfumery which Jean Claude represents are targeted to the Asian market which abhors opulent Westernized creations and applies scent very delicately. “What would you have to say to this, Jean Claude, in relation to your scents created for Hermès, especially the latest Un Jardin après la Mousson, Hermessence Osmanthe Yunnan, the exclusive Japan-only issue Eau de Ginza based on cherry blossom {Eau de Ginza was part of specific Hermès creations- including a silk scarf- especially designed to celebrate the Hermès Boutique of Ginza re-opening in 2006} and the new Hermès Colognes?”
Since we are dispelling myths, we might as well shatter that one as well: “There is no such planning or aim behind all this. It’s not borne out of a marketing strategy, but out of an aesthetic choice mainly. It’s true that Eau de Ginza was aimed for exclusive distribution in our Ginza Boutique in Tokyo, but in general the Asian market doesn’t really feature too much in perfume buying. They are not buying many fragrances, or if they do, they only buy them for the presentation. Hermès is a smaller-scale brand, a family controlled business with a very upscale profile. It’s very well known in Japan, but not predominantly for our perfumes, more for the silks and leather goods. Hermès is very popular in France, Spain, Italy and Germany, in Europe in general, where the perfumes sell well, and comparatively not very prominent in the USA. It has a very European profile and aesthetic and this is tied to its history. It hasn’t ventured outside its boutiques, like so many designer brands have, like ~to bring an example~ Chanel or Armani have their accessories such as sunglasses or watches available outside their stores. Hermès is boutique-only with the exception of some of its perfumes and only that. This keeps a certain level in everything but also a certain smaller scale recognisability; which is fine by me!”

The notion of fragrances thought out in relation to the house’s tradition and the markets in which it is most popular brings us to the latest offerings by Hermès: a new Colognes Collection (the Hermès Colognes are more than a trio, rather a Collection with upcoming additions…) comprising Eau de pamplemousse rose, Eau de gentiane blanche (2009) & Eau d'orange verte (1979). Eau d’orange verte, originally titled Eau de Cologne d’Hermès, was created for Hermès in 1979 by Françoise Caron. Eau d’orange verte has notes of orange, mandarin, lemon, mint leaves, blackcurrant buds, oakmoss and patchouli. The other two were created by Jean Claude Ellena to launch later this spring along with the older one as a trio presentation [1]. Eau de pamplemousse rose is “somewhat classic,” with notes of grapefruit, orange, rhubofix and vetiver while Eau de gentiane blanche is aimed as “a counterpart to traditional cologne,” without any citrus notes. It contains notes of gentian, white musk, iris and incense. The bottle design for Les Colognes Hermès is uniform, derived from a carriage lantern, and housed in the signature orange of Hermès, sealed and wrapped in a ribbon-like sleeve. How did the concept came along? “The concept of the Cologne Collection came with the desire to make real perfumery, the artisan way. The Eau d’orange verte one has been a very successful Hermès fragrance because it’s simple and sophisticated, in other words it is a product which philosophically has its ties with what Hermès stands for as a house. Cologne is a product that has a rich history behind it, it’s linked to the past, to the beginnings of Western perfumery and the fragrance industry and it also has a very Mediterranean sensibility about it, l’oranger, le bigaradier, the citrus fruits, the refreshing part; but here is the challenge, to make it modern again, to tie it with today’s sensibility and needs! The Eau de pamplemousse rose is not pink grapefruit, like it might be translated; it is grapefuit and rose.” I interject that he must like that grapefruit accord as he has used it in In Love Again and Hermessence Rose Ikebana, as well as a smaller facet of it as a small rosy wink in Kelly Calèche and I ask him whether he has thought about his next Hermessence. He laughs good-humouredly once more, he laughs a lot in fact ~I sense he’s much too polite to contradict me even if that weren’t so~ and he nods. “It’s a couture version of the accord; you must smell it on your own skin! There is a special finish to it, which can be sensed when applied to the skin, can’t put it into words that well. I work on two or three projects at a time. Work a bit on one, have a little vacation, occupy myself with another. The latest Hermessence is Vanille Galante of course and we haven’t thought about a new one. It will come...”

The mention of couture brings me to another question: “Many perfumers do custom-made perfumes for wealthy patrons for a hefty fee and it’s been very au courant in ‘diluted’ form by some niche brands that supposedly ‘mix’ something for you or encourage layering of simpler notes to create something unique for each customer. Would you mind elaborating on your own antithesis to “parfumerie sur mesure?” He doesn’t hesitate one bit. “I don’t want to lie, therefore I don’t like custom-made perfume making. If you come to me and say you want something for yourself only and you describe it and it turns out you want something like Shalimar what am I going to do? Make something that pleases that side of you, something that will please your ego and conform to your desire. It would take me a couple of days and I could lie and say it took me months. But that’s not creation! There’s no vision or real artistry behind this, as it only demands a good technician. As I consider myself a good technician I would certainly be able to create that which you want, but I wouldn’t want to do that. Would you love the result in six months from now? Or would it be just a passing whim, something that you liked without knowing why and how? A mere pleasing of your ego is just that ~a phase, a whim, a caprice! That’s not the way to make something lasting. I prefer a more artistic approach, that of the couturier. A couturier designs a dress for a show and you see it at the defilé and admire it and say I want that, but for me. And therefore I take it and adjust the measurements to suit you, but it’s still my creation, my vision, an artwork which has been slightly tweaked for you to claim it as your own and that way you can appreciate it as art rather than artistry.” It is such conviction which separates Jean Claude from the many that are devoting their talents to a rich clientele which demands things on a whim.

He’s also very committed to the present. In the words of Camus: “Real generosity toward the future lies in giving all to the present”. Ellena’s style doesn’t do the tango (ie.one step ahead, two steps back). There is no nostalgia or atavism in his work: his gaze is on the here and now and on to the future. Even in his homage to previous scents, such as his L’Eau d’Hiver for Frédéric Malle is to Guelain’s Après L’Ondée, there is a sense of modernity. “How do you feel about the perfume-enthusiasts’ community who is so attached to classics of older times, some which are revered without the people in question even having the chance to smell them as they truly were at their prime?” He ponders on it philosophically: “You’re absolutely right! One cannot really replicate an era, or how an old classic smelled like. The fragrance has changed due to various reasons, but the sensibilities have also changed resulting in a fake experience. But in general there is no sense in nostalgizing. Because nostalgia brings along a sense of regret and regret means sadness (tristesse), and this doesn’t make sense for the creation process. There is a feel of decadence in nostalgia and of the end. Mais on ne peut pas construire l’avenir seulement sur l’histoire! (One can’t build the future only on history). Therefore we may admire the past but we must look into the future”.

Talking about the perfume online community, I am aware that you are aware of its voice. Do you feel that in some small part it can shape some directions in the market? Is it something that you sometimes discuss with your colleagues?” Jean Claude is quite encouraging: “I am most certain that it can. There is an interest in what people discuss online”. And what about the new trend of corporate blogs (I mention a few names)? Is Hermès thinking of launching one too? “No, it’s not an Hermès way to communicate and I am convinced personally that the consumer can see the difference between a real blog such as yours and a blog handled by a brand, powered by a company only for promotion. And this might have some bearing on the issue at hand as well, which is sad. However, we had created an online page for Terre d’Hermès which was encouraging a sort of dialogue between us and the audience. We asked for visitors to write their stories on perfume in general, not just Terre d’Hermès or Hermès for that matter and we would publish the best, the most passionate ones channeling their feelings about perfumes; we had received more than 1000 mails, some of them were wonderful!”
[If you go to this linkyou can click on "Perfumer, Alchimiste et Poète" for a clip of JCE and on "Contes" to read some of the submitted stories, a couple of which are penned by Jean Claude himself].

As I have gnawed on what seems like close to an hour and a half of his time, I am recapitulating bringing this full circle with his life-views. Over the years reading intently about his work I recall many little tidbits; I had greatly enjoyed this quote of his: “I don’t create from a brief but from an experience I live. It might be an experience on the spot, on a real place, as for the Garden-Perfumes; a souvenir from an experience within Hermès, as for Kelly Calèche inspired after a visit at the Hermès leather stock; or a personal creative challenge around a material, as for the Hermessence collection. For me, creation means to try to build a road while walking". So from all the experiences in your life, which one is the most precious which you would have loved to turn into a perfume? I ask him. It’s a question he doesn’t want to respond to with something specific. “I can’t say that I want a specific experience embottled. I do not desire to be understood on isolated pieces, but on my body of work; nor do I want specific segments to characterize my spirit. There is a certain volonté (desire, volition) in me to grasp things out of life, all experiences are good, even the bad ones, I take everything and get nourished by them each day. I don’t know where it will lead in the end, but I am walking on the path all the same. The world is not perfect, yes…Mais malgré tout, je regarde la joie!", he accents his words with great emphasis, with passion. (Despite everything, I hold on to the joy). Are you an optimist then? I tentatively ask. “Je suis un pessimiste heureux” he laughs heartily with his generous, charming, very Southern-French way. A happy pessimist, then, like the hero of André Blanc, Henry de Montherlant [2] ...that’s Jean Claude Ellena!

Sincere, heartfelt thanks to Jean Claude himself and the Hermès team for the consideration of the PerfumeShrine.
Copyright ©Elena Vosnaki for the Perfume Shrine, All Rights Reserved.

[1]The Hermès Colognes Collection will work its way out into the world starting in May at Hermès boutiques, and then in June Hermès fragrance doors including Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Barneys New York, Bergdorf Goodman. By early 2010, the Hermès Colognes Collection will reach a total of about 300 U.S. doors, including Bloomingdale’s, Nordstrom and Sephora.
[2]Montherlant, Un pessimiste heureux by André Blanc was issued in 1968 by éditions Centurion.

The matter of the potential of his scents for reformulation has been already addressed on this article, therefore has not been included. Related reading on Perfumeshrine: Jean Claude Ellena, Hermès


  1. Wow! Thanks for such an interesting read this morning, E.

  2. Mike Perez16:58

    I'm so proud of you Helg - what a scoop!

  3. Excellent my dear! Quelle surprise.

  4. Thank you for this, E! Much to think about and ponder on this busy Monday morning. Thank you also to JCE for his incredible generosity in sharing his time and his thoughts with us.

  5. This was such a pleasure! Thank you!

  6. Elena! What a joy! What an inter-view! Great!

  7. Fiordiligi22:21

    My dear E, many congratulations on this very special and charming interview! What a delight to read it and some very interesting thoughts and ideas coming to light. Thank you!

  8. Great reading, E! Thank you so much. I really enjoyed it.


  9. stella p08:23

    The philosopher in me loves this beautiful interview! Thank you

  10. Brava, E.! I see you were also receptive to the famed Ellena charm – believe me, it’s even more effective in person!

    I’m glad you touched on the subject of minimalism, which was the theme of my recent exchange with M. Ellena in last Thursday’s post on Grain de Musc. The post triggered quite an intense debate, especially in its French version, with several commentators arguing that the term “minimalist”, in its wider meaning, could indeed be applied to M. Ellena’s style in spite of his own opinion on the matter, for want of a better term – many thought than an artist was not necessarily the best person to define his own work.

    In fact, a word came up in your post, “laconic”, which I first mistook to be said by M. Ellena himself because of the way his quotes are integrated in the body of the article. “Laconic” is pretty adequate, though clearly, the term didn’t apply to your talk with him! ;-)

  11. Thanks D, you're most welcome!

  12. Mike, thank you very much for your kind words; I believe it's never been done and he's quite reticent with interviews in general I know. I was terribly flattered he liked the PS content and the scope.

  13. Octavian,

    thank you so much! After all you know what a brilliant subject he is.

  14. J,

    thanks for your comment. I was genuinely charmed he's paying attention to what perfume lovers enjoy or not. It's not often people in high places do, but there is a genuine interest in the art, the craft and the brand; I could almost taste it!

  15. Marcello, thanks so much, glad you enjoyed it.

  16. My dear N,

    thank you honey for your kind words! (And glad to see you back! You come, I go...but anyway) He's a very intelligent and giving man.

  17. Thank you D, dearest! Hope I did justice to the subject, it was an honour.

  18. R,

    thanks, honey, I appreciate your saying so. Glad it was enjoyable!

  19. S,

    it's quite interesting to see how an individual who has obviously varied interests and intellectual capacities is directing that fascinating side into shaping a perfume "vocabulary" and from that one building a "text", but also at the same time giving us the "grammar" to interpret it! (to reference Umberto Eco's favourite similes into semiotizing theoretical stuff). Don't you agree?

  20. My dearest D,

    thanks for the wishes, it's so rare for something like this to happen as to constitute a cause for small celebration.

    My personal belief is that theoritizing is something indeed left for the critics, not the artists themselves, although since minimalism is already old news (we're post-post-post-modern now) I guess Jean Claude can look upon his work with the term already defined in his mind rather well. Whether he has an objective outlook on his own oeuvre is of course something we can't answer ourselves, but I believe he's very level-headed and doesn't leave things to chance; I sensed a desire for definite "path" (I am sounding quite Kodo Sawaki!)

    "Laconic" is indeed something I have been thinking for a long time and it's such a Greek and philosophic reference, so not the first thing to cross others' minds, so it's understandable how it hasn't been mentioned before. Yes, it's my idea, though he seems to like the concept himself!

  21. Brilliant-
    Both of you.

    This is certainly one for the record.
    You are both so generous with your time and knowledge....
    Many thanks !

  22. Aww, thanks dearest I!
    I think it was rather an unusual occasion, if I say so myself. :-)

  23. This comment has been removed by the author.

  24. "All experiences are good, even the bad ones." His balanced, Zen-like approach is revealed in his perfumes. I admire his ability to speak about his process with thoughtful candor. Brava E, very nice article.

  25. wow- what an accomplishment! great great article!

  26. Scott,

    thank you for your compliment, I appreciate your support.
    Indeed JCE's philosophical stance is very much evidenced into his perfumes, which makes them all the more compelling to intellectually dissect and feel at different moments and on different moods. It is unusual that he is so eloquent about his craft and so much willing to share with us. I wonder why this isn't more widespread. Arguably one might assume however that not all perfumers are so generous with words.

  27. Thanks J!
    Well, I did my best, I'm extremely happy it was accomplished at all. :-))

  28. Anonymous14:08

    He is really special, a leading light, and this was a wonderful interview. Thanks, enjoy your time away!

  29. He is really special, a leading light, and this was a most enlightening interview!

  30. This is my first time commenting here, but I just had to say - what a wonderful interview, and what an excellent article.
    I thoroughly enjoyed reading this, thank you so much!

  31. Th article is very entertaining. Very nice interview.


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