In Conversation with Olivier Cresp

  • Posted on 2nd February 2016 by Marketing Team

  • How did you start out in Perfume?

    I have been a perfumer since 1975. I started at Firmenich in 1992 and became a Master Perfumer in 2006. As my childhood included an intensive training on raw materials I could quickly focus on formulation. Like many of my peers, I started working on technical products to better improve the technical side of my craft before I joined a fine fragrance team.

    Tell us a little about your family history with perfume and the famous Grasse region in France?

    My great grandfather cultivated roses and jasmine and my father and grandfather traded in raw materials. Perfumery is at the heart of my family history and heritage. My olfactory memory is still intact. I can remember family meals where we talked of nothing but perfume. There were fields of flowers all around Grasse in those days. It was wonderful! I would go to smell the jasmine that blossomed between May and September, along with the tuberose, the May roses and the violets. I would watch the extraction process of lavender, lavandin and iris. That was the environment I grew up in. If I had been born somewhere else, I might not be doing what I do today.

    Were your parents supportive of you becoming a perfumer?

    I come from a family of three children, and we all became perfumers. More than just supportive, my parents and my grandparents actually taught us everything! Most evenings, just as other children might listen to a bedtime story, the Cresp family would smell the fresh blooms gathered that day and would recognize them. The family secrets have since been passed on to my only son, Sebastien who became a perfumer a year ago.

    Do you remember making your first fragrance? What were your sensations at the time?

    I do remember that very special experience. I was about 9 or 10. I had collected all the flowers I could find in my parent’s garden. There was jasmine, roses, the flowers from various fruit trees ... I had them macerated in alcohol that I bought in the local pharmacy. The result was pretty poor and I remember how disappointed I felt. At the time, I didn’t know anything about fragrance formulas.

    What are your favourite materials and scents to work with?

    A few years ago, I fell in love with cedar wood! We have an extraordinary quality in our repertoire! I use it in all my creations, feminine and masculine, in the same way. It brings a fabulous creamy, silky texture, with a sensuous richness and an intense and elegant trail...It has so many qualities! This is truly my signature.

    How many fragrances do you work on at a time?

    I am used to working on multiple projects at once and I appreciate the rhythm that this provides. It affords the opportunity to view each product separately, then to step back, think about other ideas and projects before returning to the initial scent with fresh ideas and a more objective view. Fragrance development includes a lot of necessary pauses to ensure that the progression stays fresh and inspired. You do not progress creatively on a regular basis. In fact, progression on a fragrance is typically a series of small steps until you reach the final goal.

    How do you juggle so many?

    By juggling many projects I feel alive!

    What sort of challenges do you face during the production of a fragrance?

    For each project, I face a different challenge as all of my projects are very different. This is the exciting part of my life as a creator. My days are never the same and are always bringing fresh inspiration. As soon as I have a beautiful idea on mind, my challenge is to translate it into the most exquisite fragrance.

    Is there a particular fragrance you would love to make but haven’t had the chance?

    Shalimar. I have always been very impressed by this refined scent and its seductive nature.

    Describe your style? You have described it as ‘minimalist’ before...

    I confirm I have a very minimalist style. Every day I have the ability to create from a palette of 400 ingredients, but I prefer to use only 20-30 of them to understand them more deeply and so I can adapt them more easily, if need be!

    Where do you live now? Are you inspired by your surroundings?

    I live in Paris but remain very closely connected to Grasse. I used to return to the region for vacations and I am much involved in all of Firmenich’s activities there, particularly with research and development for our Ingredient Division. My surroundings and all my experiences continue to inspire me every day and everywhere I go.

    We read that you knew that you wanted to be a perfumer at age 7! Do you still remember this?

    Of course I do! As you can see I have never deviated from that childhood ambition.

    Describe your typical day?

    My working day typically begins at 9:30am and ends at 8pm. I like to start the day by smelling natural or synthetic ingredients, just to open my mind and find a source inspiration. The main portion of day is then dedicated to enriching my new formula, in collaboration with my assistants and discussions with both the Firmenich development teams and our clients. Above all, my job involves sharing and passion. An important part of my time is also dedicated to mentoring the younger perfumers. I like to share my experiences with them, and they are keen to express their new ideas.

    • Comments
    • Comment
    • by Debbie
    • can you give me a history of the ingredients for Cornubia? I have been wearing it since 1992. I love it, but something changed in about 2000. Am I right or not?
    • Hi Debbie, Of course! Cornubia references a fragrance from William Penhaligon’s precious archives: Cornubian Bouquet. Cornubia is a glamorous and rich fragrance with swathes of cherry-sweet vanilla and hypnotic heliotrope. Dazzling fruits and florals ebb and flow through haunting woods and musk, underpinned with thick clouds of vanilla. Seductive and warm, dark and luxurious, Cornubia is a fragrance to lose yourself in. Perfumer Nathalie Lawson produced Cornubia back in 1991.
      by Penhaligon's customer services
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