A perfumer of 15 years at Firmenich, one of the world’s oldest and biggest fragrance and flavour company, Dora Baghriche tells us more about her work as a perfumer. She was recently in Singapore, her second visit in six years, for the launch of her creation: the Happy Chopard Bigaradia.
What happens when you work as a perfumer
Scents almost always connect us to emotion, and/or jogs a memory. Does it then get very emotional for you since you need to test out different fragrances every day, and how do you manage your emotions?
“Yes! I can’t control this. What I love about working with scents is they control you and you are not controlling them. In my daily life, I like to control everything. That’s the opposite in my job. When a scent triggers a memory, no matter good or bad, it is telling you something. You can’t filter it out. You have to deal with it. It can get very exhausting, and it can get very intense. My job is everyday therapy.”
Is it an occupational hazard to sniff out what people around you are wearing, and maybe even judge them a little?
“I can’t help it. I would never judge people based on the perfume they wear, but it can influence my perception of them, though not enough to say this guy is like that because he wears this. Wearing fragrance is about freedom, you have to use whatever that makes you feel comfortable. A lot of people use fragrances to seduce, to please others, I think that is wrong, I think you need to please yourself first. And if you are confident with your fragrance, you will inspire confidence in others. I like to see people confident in what they wear.”
When you have a cold or a stuffy nose, what do you do to clear your nose so you can get back to smelling scents?
“I have no remedy. There is a lot of non-smelling work to do, so I would do that. I also know a lot of smells in my head, so even if I don’t smell them, I can still write formulas. When I am sick, I get so frustrated (I can’t smell anything) that I write a lot of (fragrance) formulas. I would send them to be compounded so that when I finally recover, I would have a lot to smell.”
How do you take care of yourself and avoid catching a cold?
“I am really careful. When it is wintertime, I would avoid the wind and air-conditioning. I would avoid environments that have contrasts of cold and warm temperatures, and also places with high humidity levels. Scents smell very different in environments with high humidity, some become more intense, some not so intense. When I work with scents, we have workrooms where elements like temperature and humidity are controlled. It also allows us to adjust the humidity levels when we need to create a fragrance for specific environments such as a humid country like Singapore.”
Dora’s fragrance diary
What fragrances do you use?
“I use a lot of the trial fragrances that I am working on because I need to know how they evolve. On non-work days, I use a lot of iris-based fragrances like Chanel No.19, and I also wear a lot of Happy Chopard Bigaradia and Lemon Dulci. Lemon Dulci is an easy and mesmerising fragrance which I like. It is the first thing I wear after my shower. I even keep the small bottle in my bag; it’s something you can refresh yourself all day long. I’m not into heavy scents. I have pine, fig and mimosa home scents, which remind me of home in the Mediterranean. (She is currently based in Paris.) I love Versace Vanitas, which I created, and I still wear it.”
Talking about the Happy Chopard fragrances. What do you want to convey with this collection?
“Joy. There are many types of joy, and we are not saying that this is it. (This is our interpretation of joy.) The first two launched previously, Lemon Dulci is about the joy of being energised, and Felicia Roses is about the joy of starting anew. And the latest fragrance, completing the collection, the Bigaradia is about the joy of letting go.”
Would you recommend us layering them?
“You could layer Lemon Dulci and Bigaradia as they have similar notes, or Felicia Roses and Bigaradia because Bigaradia is also floral with its orange blossoms. You should always apply the warmer (or heavier) fragrance first, followed by the lighter one because the lighter scent will disappear first and the warmer one would be left on your skin.”