January 5, 2012
Maria-Candida Gentile was one of the perfumers I wanted to meet at Pitti Fragranze 2011 in Florence. I had never smelled her perfumes, just read some great reviews by others. So when we met, I began to smell all the perfumes first, and was really surprised that the perfumer was there too! I began to interview her near the perfume stand as I was charmed by her Barry-Lyndon perfume – but soon we realized that it`s completely impossible as new people come again and again every minute to join the conversation. You know – Italians are very open people, they love to communicate so a quiet tete-a-tete interview is impossible in this perfume crowd! So we made a business card exchange and arranged for an e-mail interview right after Pitti Fragranze. This is that interview .
What are your very first scented memories?
Maria-Candida Gentile: One of the first scents I can remember is the “clair matin” roses of the garden of my family house in Italy. The parents house is on a sea shore in Liguria, so the climate is good enough not only for roses but also to gardenias, camelias, verbenas, cedrinas, calycantus to bloom. I remember a huge magnolia tree of 15 m high, the oldest of the little village.
A lot of my family members were chemists, a sort of tradition in my family. My parents wanted me to become a chemist too, so I did chemistry studies and graduate The University of Florence as a chemist, while I was always fascinated by the fragrance’s world and its creation.
What was the call for perfumery – why did you decided to become a perfumer-creator? Have you had any other professional background? Maître Parfumeur – how did you obtain the title?
MCG: Since I was a child I noticed I was very sensitive to scents, I was going in the gardens and fields smelling flowers, making bouquets and collecting in my child’s books the one I preferred. I started very soon to prepare my own scented waters, like rose water. I prepared small glass bottles which I offered to my family and friends.
Later on, after graduating at the chemist school I moved to the gorgeous Italian Alps with my husband and sons. The pure and fresh air of the mountains helped me to explore new scents, and forge my passion for fragrances, I woke up with the desire to learn with the best, this is why I decided to go to the little French village of Grasse, where most of the fragrance masters in the world have learned. There I was trained and followed by a very special tutor Carole André. I worked with him in his laboratory “Iris consulting” and he taught me so many things… the little secrets that masters only give when they decide you can be one of them… I will remember forever his very beautiful training on the “sillage” of the roses.
Do you think that everyone should have an educational (or other) course in perfumes?
MCG: Not necessarily, what makes things special is invisible … (laugh)
How do you develop the taste for good perfumes – to divide good perfumes from mediocre ones?
MCG: The best fragrances are capable of doing good to us, not only smelling good. They are able to give great and deep emotions, they are authentic. We all grew up with Nature, for thousands of years we develop our instinct and emotions based on what we saw, touched, heard and smelled.
This is why I only use natural essences, they are the only one which can talk to our senses, the only one that do good to us and that we have pleasure of carrying all day if we want to. Chemical fragrances can please at first but then our all body gets very quickly tired and rejects them, we feel saturated.
A good fragrance always starts with a good intention, the more you love your creations the more they are loaded with the energy of love and they do good to others.
Did I get you right that you implement ONLY natural essences and oils in your perfumes?
MCG: Yes, although is it much more difficult as you know. it leads to the best quality and most of all it touches in our heart. I have used nature identical mollecules, but the more I work the more it makes sense to me to use only the natural ones. Chemical mollecules give me a headache! Fragrances is like everything around our lives, we have to take clear steps now to make them healthy, fair and sustainable.
Luxury can not be if it does not do good for us, our families and the planet in general. I love selecting very limited quantities of essences, like citrus in small islands in the Mediterranean sea. It is not only for finding the best quality but also to help local artisans to live from their beautiful and authentic work and keep the tradition alive. A brand without a clear commitment on keeping the environment pure and healthy does not deserve to exist any longer.
Now your brand carries your own creations and a bespoke service as well. Could you tell – what are the most popular demands for bespoke perfumes amongst men and women? Is it characteristic enough to say based on their demands – which family (theme, style, accord, note) is missing now in the perfumes of luxe and niche Houses?
MCG: My creations are unique, I do not follow trends nor look at what the market is “missing”. I work at the opposite of how the industrial world works. I do what I love and what my friends and clients love and desire.
Very often people ask me to create a fragrance which connects them to their childhood or a precise memory of a moment or a place which means a lot to them. Others are looking for very exclusive essences, rare flowers, grey amber, agarwood, the rarest iris for instance, these notes are so rare that they create real exclusivity for the person who wears them.
How did you choose the ideas of your MCG perfumes? What is more complicated to create for you – bespoke or commercial perfumes?
MCG: They are inspired by memories of places and moments I love, mostly from the Mediterranean region, sometimes by my favorite music artists such as Gershwin or Billie Holiday to whom I am dedicating the new limited edition.
What is your own style in perfumery – how would you describe it?
MCG: Aside from the skills and knowledge, science and chemistry, there is a level which belongs for the instinct, authenticity of creation. I usually spend days gathering intuitions, testing and usually it flows as if a natural connection was established between the formula and me, a “bridge”. Then I take time to smell and smell again, make some adjustments until it becomes clear that it matches what I have seen, what I have felt, what I have dreamt about or what someone has shared with me.
Could you tell our readers about the difference between Italian and French perfumery style? Is it possible to tell blindly – here`s French perfume, and there`s Italian perfume? (German, Japanese, Russian, American, whatever nation you could discern in perfumery)
MCG: There are origins, and with origins the natural and sensorial environment that goes with, which becomes our reference. This is an alchemy that make every person unique. Every nation has its references, places, and has its own energies that changes over time. The fragrances that make sense for someone is not only about its content but about its formula, the way it is used, its connection which its deepest emotional keys.
Aside from a list of essences that people from certain nations are used to, I believe there is only the school of the heart that leads to the heart of people, and if you want to define my style or the Italian style, I would say this is it.
What is your opinion on the perfumery boom in the world? How many perfumers would be enough for this planet?
MCG: This boom is a mass business boom, where fragrances are designed for profit, but, for most of them, they are not designed for / nor with love nor with Nature, the 2 components which are essential to make beautiful fragrances. I meet more and more people though who are saturated from this and look for authentic fragrances, that they can trust, which have a real creative behind not another product from marketing.
To answer your question about “how many perfumers would be enough for the planet” : why limiting? fragrance is one of the most beautiful thing, every one should have a chance to find the one that they love. Today more and more of us are eliminating what do not make sense to only choose with care and information, what is good for us, go back to natural solutions to go beyond the ordinary, and to what make a real sense in our lives, this is what I am about.
I believe, you are not a member of Natural Perfumers Guild. There`re a lot of passionate perfumers in NPG, some of them are self-taught and they are making their perfumes just because they cannot express themselves without perfumes. They know aromatherapeutic properties of materials, they write books, they share their passion to Nature and scents with all their heart. Their perfumes are quite unique and well-thought.
MCG: I know them, just follow my own way, I am very independent, but thanks a lot for the ideas.
Any plans for new perfumes of MCG House? What are you working at the moment?
MCG: Yes, over the last months I have created three new limited editions, devoted to amber, gardenia and fougere… today I am working on a seaside fragrance, with natural iode notes… it is the end of the beach time here in Italy (this interview was made in September 2011– Sergey) so I am gathering my memories of a very special place, but I won’t tell you until the creation is finished :-)… here again I am looking to create “seaside” formulas with only natural essences, it is very difficult but your body immediately understands the purity and “familiarity” with the real place.
Over the past few months we have received lots of requests from people around the world who wanted to find my fragrances also in their country or order it from home, so we are now selecting outlets and partners which work on niche and authentic luxury projects. Hope one day you could find my fragrances in Russia too! 🙂 I am also busy working on private projects for exclusive luxury brands or places like hotels and private residences for which I design personal fragrances or home scents.
Thank you very much, Maria-Candida, for your time to answer the questions!
MCG: You are very welcome, Sergey!
Courtesy of Maria Candida Gentile we have a 10mL sample of Barry Lyndon to giveaway. To be eligible go visit the website and leave comment on on what you learned from this interview. The draw will end on January 8, 2012.
We announce the winners only on site, our new www.cafleurebon.com page and on our Facebook page, so Like Cafleurebon and www. cafleurebon.com use our RSS option…or your dream prize will be just spilt perfume
–Sergey Borisov, Contributor