Walking the hallowed walls of the IFF (International Flavours and Fragrances) in Paris one can’t help but feel a certain reverence.
In beauty circles the IFF is the pinnacle in terms of housing fragrance heavy weights and the creation of perfume, and I’m about to meet Anne Flipo who’s just been recognised as Perfumer of the Year at the Cosmetique Magazine Awards, considered the Oscars of the perfume world.
Walking the length of the white hallway I read the name tags on the doors of the offices I pass, each noting a notable perfumer including Flipo.
Instead of meeting in her office she chooses a room at the end of hall overlooking a pretty park. I’m struck by the airy lightness of the space as well as the natural beauty of the building’s outlook. A perfect place to be inspired to create as well as feel clear to do so.
Flipo immediately puts me at ease with her wonderful smile and relaxed dress. Today she is dressed head to toe in black – top and trousers – which she has paired with practical yet snazzy sneakers. Being comfortable as well as “cool and chic” helps her to create, she says and “be fresh in [her] ideas”.
She is modest too, especially about her award and makes a point of acknowledging all of the perfumers who have helped her get to the point in her career where she is today. A career that to date has spanned 30- years.
“Working with the best is easier. You lose less time,” she says. “It’s complicated being a perfumer. You have to have a good idea but you also have to be a good technician. It takes time. You have to experiment, experiment, and experiment.”
Today I’m here to talk about Acqua di Gioia (2010) and Acqua di Gioia Essenza (2011) both of which she helped create with Dominique Ropion and Loc Dong. She has most often worked in collaboration with Ropion (perfumer of the year in 2010) and Dong, with whom she worked to develop Manifesto.
“The idea for Acqua di Gioia was based on the mojito,” says Flipo. “Lemon, mint and white rum together so we tried to organise this oflactive impression into a fragrance. So you have the very beautiful quality of lemon, the mint effect and the plus the very interesting big floral sea. It’s very aquatic and powerful – the emotion is immediate freshness. It’s very linked to nature.
As she gets older she admits to “going back to her foundation”, which is her childhood. Growing up in nature in a big house with a big garden in Pircardy, northern France.
“I had time to smell nature and to be quiet in my garden. For me it is a huge strength. I lot of people did not have this opportunity to smell fresh lilac or fresh lily of the valley.”
Flipo describes herself as a very emotional perfumer. Her motto is that “perfumes need to have a wonderful smell and the scents [she] creates need to make [her] happy”.
“To give something in my formula, new and vibrant, is my way to work. If you give something of yourself in your fragrances people will react,” she says.
She has been trained to have equilibrium and harmony in her formulas but she believes what makes the difference is the detail. “It’s the details that makes the difference and makes the fragrance la perfection. For me it’s the details in the life which are the most important things,” she says.
Smelling the fragrance in Flipo’s office I inhale the sweet notes of sugar, lemon and freshness of the mint.
“It smells like summer,” I exclaim.
“Exactly,” smiles Flipo.