Post by Ainslie Walker
Hello Fragrance lovers – something very special for you today!
Sylvaine Delacourte’s story is of hard work and perseverance. Currently Guerlain’s Artistic Director of Fragrance, an inspiring pioneer, in an historically male dominated industry. She has instigated change and innovation within Guerlain’s traditional curtains.
I attended Atelier Il Était Une Fois prior to the meeting, smelling 25 original, discontinued Guerlain fragrances. A beginner when it came to Guerlain, my visit to Paris was certainly rectifying this. Basics covered and now who better to bring me up to speed than Sylvaine Delacourte!?
With Guerlain’s Sylvaine Delacourte in Paris
Australian visit announcement!
AW: From the beginning, tell me about your career?
SD: I was a makeup artist! Knowing nothing about perfume I joined Guerlain, became a trainer in makeup for France and internationally, then Product Manager.
AW: How did you progress into fragrance?
SD: I became curious. I worked for the most beautiful perfume brand in the world. There was no in-house training for perfume so I attended Cinquième Sens and it was a revolution! My teacher Monique Schlienger was inspiring. I fell in love with perfume. I started to buy books and bottles – my collection was enormous!
I asked, “If I can study perfume, after I will create training for Guerlain.” I was given 2 years, paid, to learn perfume.
I attended Isipca, Firmenich and many more! I spent one week with Jean Claude Ellena.
I kept my word and created perfume training for Guerlain. I was the first person to do sales training about perfume at that time.
AW: From trainer to perfumery?
SD: Jean Paul Guerlain invited me for lunch. Handing me 3 blotters, he said “I’m creating a fragrance” I replied, “I am a beginner, I know nothing!” He insisted, I made my choice and he said, “I feel exactly the same.” It was Heritage. He said “stop what you’re doing and come work with me.”
I became evaluator, technological coach and psychological coach. [Laughs]
We did many perfumes together; from after Samsara, to Champs Elysees – a turning point: I was quite alone in that project, working with Olivier Cresp from Firmenich, nobody knew -it was secret and it was chosen to launch!!
JPG was upset about Champs Elysees, “Sylvaine, go into marketing, it will be good for you.” He developed Coriolan and Mahora – good perfumes but commercial disasters.
Guerlain was not in good health, I was asked to come back, “we have to launch a perfume, it must be a success!”
I developed one with Maurice Roucel and won against JPG and other perfumers it was L’Instant de Guerlain I cosigned with Maurice. Next, I won Pour Homme and after I won a floral, Insolence.
Finally I was made Director of Creation.
AW: Your current role?
SD: I control all the tools and language about perfumes we transmit to beauty advisers, press and marketing. I know all the steps of the perfumer; I know what’s inside. I know how to talk about it, so I know perfectly the message we need to give.
AW: Bespoke Fragrances?
SD: Since 2006 I’ve made 35 bespoke fragrances. I have 6 to make now! I created a 2-hour consultation with psychoanalysis, olfactive tests – I make them anosmic, almost in an hypnotic state to find positive smells from their life.
AW: Working with Michael Edwards?
SD: He is very cute. He comes many times, yes, to see me – twice a year to talk new products and their pyramids. He asks, “Are you ok with this category,” first. He is very professional and serious, does not take risks. Very kind -a gentleman. He understands perfectly the fragrances.
AW: Two fragrances most special to you?
SD: They are all my babies, but 2 are very important:
L’Instant de Guerlain for Women as it was tough at that time. I cosigned with Maurice Roucel, I was in the spotlight and it meant a new life for me.
Cuir Beluga I made for myself, it is me! It is my perfume! Cuir Beluga is the most beautiful fragrance I have created. It is difficult to stay at that level. This will be by my gravestone!
AW: Working with Thierry Wasser?
SD: I worked with Thierry on 3 fragrances before he joined Guerlain, when he was still at Firmenich, Quand Vient La Pluie, Iris Ganache and Guerlain Homme.
La Petite Robe Noir, the original, was an exclusive. When Thierry joined Guerlain he said in an elegant way “I have kidnapped your formula to make it more international!” [Smiling]
AW: Difficulties as a woman?
Always fighting as a woman – I did not want to be in the spotlight but when you do something you are proud of, you want to be recognized. Now, everyone in the team is important.
AW: “Musk-inade,” working with musk -L’Instant Magic days!
I am very fond of musk! It is very comforting, elegant, refined, and warm. Some are difficult to catch. You must blend a bouquet musks for everyone to smell it. It’s not easy to work with musk, it hugs close to skin, and it’s hard to make it extraverted. Musk is tenacious but has no trail. We have to add trail to the musk.
AW: Raw materials you like / don’t like?
I love vanilla, mimosa, heliotrope, iris and violet. I love vetiver and patchouli. Vetervyl acetate, heliotropin and hedione.
I work on delicacy and subtlety. I like to work raw materials in contrasting ways e.g. Cruel Gardenia – I made Gardenia like lace, very delicate and subtle. I made vanilla fresh and green in Angelique Noire. Rose Barbare’s rose is not romantic or fresh but dark, musky, nutty.
I don’t like indole – too animalic for me!
Oud I find the hardest – I don’t like it. Thierry loves working with that kind of note. I am happy he takes care of this!
Sylvaine Delacourte Australian Visit:
Sylvaine visits Australia November 3rd – 5th, launching L’Art et la Matiere collection, David Jones, Sydney.
Sylvaine oozes such passion for the brand and fragrances; specifics roll off her tongue without hesitation. She will share her remarkable knowledge to attendees. In addition she will host workshops, where VIP’s will create their own floral fragrances.
– 3rd November 6:30pm / 5th November 4pm instore at DJ’s.
– Perfume Creation Workshop $65, 4th November 10am / 5th November 1pm
BOOK through Sydney Perfume Lovers Meetup Group online or David Jones.
Thankyou for reading! Hope to see you there!