Nathalie Lorson could be considered one of the premier noses in the fragrance world. With over 70 scent creations on her résumé, from a sporty one for Adidas to luxe ones for Dolce & Gabbana and Dior to celebrity ones for Lady Gaga and Kate Moss (and even one for children!), her career has run the entire gamut of fragrance formulation. We caught up with Lorson, who is now designing aromas for Giorgio Armani, to learn more about her most recent invention, Armani Prive Cuir Noir, as well as to get her inside scoop on working with celebrities and how women should choose a fragrance that best suits them.
Giorgio Armani fragrances are known to represent the scents of Italy. What do you think are some defining scents of that country?
Italy is known to be “the garden of Europe.” Upon experiencing the beauty and the authenticity of its landscapes, as well as its natural richness and scents, you are immediately transported. As a perfumer, I love to work with natural Italian ingredients like citruses, flowers or woods, because they capture a unique and precious emotion. Bergamot, lemon, orange flower, orris, cypress or jasmine are so rich and multifaceted that you rediscover them each time you smell them.
You're most recently credited with creating Armani Prive Cuir Noir, which could be considered a haute couture scent. What extravagant ingredients did you use to nail the Prive distinction?
In Cuir Noir, I wanted to pay homage to the sensuality and elegance of the fascinating material that is leather. The whole perfume is built around the richness and the distinction of leather. I then used some other beautiful and high-quality ingredients to sublimate the refinement of this precious texture.
This scent is also a unisex one. What are your tips for creating a unisex fragrance?
I create using my own instinct and try to understand the person who is going to wear the fragrance and to imagine his or her personality. This particular perfume can be aimed at a man or a woman who has a strong personality and who takes pleasure in intense emotions. I imagine it being worn by someone elegant and sophisticated, who appreciates noble and precious raw materials and who is looking for something different.
Being from Grasse means you must have grown up saturated with scents, since that French city is known for its fragrances. How did you deal with the competition there?
I grew up in Grasse, where my father was a chemist at Roure. Smelling, for me, was child’s play. After passing the baccalaureate, I chose to attend perfumery school in Roure to learn the real profession of fragrance creation, and to gain an in-depth knowledge of raw materials. I was definitely convinced of my choice to become a perfumer and I always held firm to my instincts, which helped me to overcome any challenges I met along the way!
Describe your process for developing a fragrance. Do you begin with specific notes first or an overall feeling you want to create?
The first important thing when I start working on a project is to talk about the project directly with the client. It allows me to understand not only the perfume that they want me to create, but also the values and the history of the brand. Then I begin to work on an olfactive inspiration that I express with a selective choice of raw materials. The quality of each raw material used in the perfume is of great importance to me, and it is always a high priority during selection.
You've said before that you're inspired by anything that solicits an emotion. How do you go about defining the notes for bottling a specific emotion?
Everything can actually be a source of inspiration for me: travels, food, nature, artists, a color I like. I dream of everything that has not yet been discovered. Knowing the universe of the brand and the brief of the project also helps me to see which direction I could go in.
Do you have any signature ingredients or scents you tend to work with?
I usually seek harmony in accords. My creations are said to be round and sensual. For me, I like creating very sensual and comfortable fragrances with voluptuous facets. They are often built around precious and noble raw materials, providing a very tactile effect. In Cuir Noir, I tried to re-create the same tactile and sensual effect through the use of leather.
Has being a woman had an influence on the way you create a fragrance?
Broadly speaking, I think that when looking to create a fragrance, female perfumers are often in search of something delicate and refined, whereas men often tend to look more for efficiency. This is certainly not to say, however, that a male or female perfumer can’t adapt to the type of perfume that they are creating.
You are responsible for creating the first scent for children, Bulgari Petits et Mamans. How was creating a scent for a child different than creating one for an adult?
The concept behind the Bulgari Petits et Mamans perfume was to create a scent that could be worn by mother and child alike. The perfume, therefore, needed to be comforting and needed to evoke ideas of softness and delicacy. When creating a perfume for a child, aggressive or persistent notes are avoided in favor of more enveloping, cocooning ones.
You've also been involved in creating some celebrity fragrances, as well, including ones for Kate Moss, Victoria Beckham, Lady Gaga and Dita Von Teese. What's it like to work with celebrities when designing a fragrance?
I always find it interesting to meet people who have strong personalities and who belong to very different universes than my own. Creating a perfume for a specific person is like going into their secret garden and discovering their private universe. Each of these artists has their own universe. It is a very interesting creative process for me to try to embody that in a perfume.
What's your advice on how a woman should go about finding her favorite scents?
First of all, you have to feel comfortable with your perfume. Let your instinct guide you to the right fragrance. It has to emphasize your charm and your femininity, and reinforce your sensuality and glamorous side. Don’t smell too many perfumes at the same time. Make a short list of your favorites and choose two of them to test on your skin. Live with these fragrances and wait a while before buying the one you prefer. The same perfume can be very different from one skin to another. Furthermore, when you try a new fragrance, be very attentive to people’s comments. This way, you can tell if your perfume evokes what you would like it to and if it suits your personality.
Do you believe women should have a signature scent or a scent wardrobe?
Nowadays, with perfume becoming more and more accessible, it is often the case that people use several fragrances. Of course, this doesn’t mean that people shouldn’t have their favorite perfume, which follows them throughout their life.
Photo: Courtesy of the brands