MJ: Guerlain has been around for a very long time and has so many fragrances in it’s history, what do you think does it take to create a blockbuster fragrance? Like for example Shalimar?
TW: If there was a recipe for that, I would only do Shalimar. Unfortunately sometimes you hit and sometimes you miss. Please do believe me that I never wake up one morning and think “Wow, today I’m going to create a huge fragrance”. It’s still a mystery and I’m very happy that there are still some mysteries in the universe, you cannot explain everything. With Shalimar, I think it’s the designer who perfectly matched the spirit of the fragrance that made that fragrance successful.When you see that cartoon silhouette, I think this character became the incarnation of the scent and it was so different, it made its success. It’s not always the fragrance that makes the success, because at the end of the day when you go to Sephora, and I’m not saying Sephora is the temple of fragrances, don’t get me wrong, but if you go you can see a lot of fragrances, and they’re all decent. But why do some work better than others? We all try to express something, it’s like a book. Some sell, some don’t.
MJ: Do you think there are fashions for fragrance? In the way that there are fashions for clothes? What makes a scent’s appeal last?
TW: There are. You cannot forecast it, very often you see the trends retrospectively and fashion goes very fast. When I was young, you had two collections: summer and winter. Already a fast pace compared to the fragrance industry. Not only do you have winter, you have cruise, you have this and that. The pace of fashion is absolutely crazy compared to that of fragrance. That’s why the pace of trends for fragrance is much more steady, you don’t have a certain type of colour or print or texture that all the brands are going to rush into. You can say, look in the rear mirror: at the end of the 60’s and 70’s it was the hippy phenomenon that truly was very strong in fragrances and in the 70’s and 80’s women were trying to take over almost 300 000 years of slavery by men. That was a very strange feminism, because they describe themselves as men. Look at Saint Laurent – he put them in a tuxedo jackets. Smell the fragrances: Giorgio Beverly Hills, Poison – it was like, “I’m here, I’m in charge and I have status.” I think it was interesting to witness that because it was not a feminine feminism and I don’t think it’s how you fight. Why would you disguise yourself as a man, if you’re not? To me it was interesting. Then, unfortunately in the 80’s the world was shaped and touched to the core by aids and sex was mortal. It was a deadly act, or could be. Everything sexy and overtly sexual like the previous obsession by Calvin Klein saw a huge drop. You had all those clean fragrances and eventually unisex fragrances like CK1, Pleasures from Estee Lauder. In the ad you saw that girl with the puppies and the flowers, it has nothing to do with being sexual. So that was in the 90’s, the clean – Romance from Ralph Lauren etc. And secondly Guerlain came in. Because people said okay, sex is still dangerous, but how do I compensate? With sugar and sweetness! So you see what I mean? Fragrances are, in my opinion, the reflection of society at a certain moment. That’s exactly the point I make – you pinpoint some social and environmental issue into the fragrance.