The first day of our perfumery course started at the Edmond Roudnitska garden and the Art et Parfum studios. I intended to give an overview of perfume techniques and to analyze some of the greatest perfume masterpieces, and this corner of Provence was the perfect start. Roudnitska founded Art et Parfum a year after the end of WWII, and this 70 year old enterprise is still thriving under the guidance of Michel Roudnitska, Edmond’s son and student.
Roudnitska’s garden is a beautiful place to visit, especially during the spring months when every leaf looks fresh and dewy and every blossom seems like a gem, but it’s not a museum to the great master. Besides Michel, three other perfumers work out of the studio–Céline Ellena and Eric and Jean-Claude Gigodot. Céline Ellena moves her hands when she talks as if conducting an invisible orchestra, and she’s utterly spellbinding. She shared her thoughts on perfumery and what makes her work as an independent creator both challenging and exciting.
“You have to suppress your ego when creating a perfume,” she said. “As a perfumer you’re interpreting someone else’s vision, and you have to listen well.”
“I hate the term “nose. We smell with our mind and we use our imagination to create far more than we use our noses.”
“Do I wear perfume? No. I can’t do it when I work. Would I ever create a perfume for myself? No, I don’t know how.”
I’ve decided to call Ellena an interpreter of dreams.
Another person who has a prominent role in Art et Parfum is Olivier Maure. Maure started by working with Edmond Roudnitska before creating his own studio, Accords et Parfums. The fragrances many of you love by perfumers like Bertrand Duchaufour, Thomas Fontaine et many other independent perfumers are made here. Maure and Marjorie Bertocchi took us around the production site and showed how the final process of creating a perfume is done.
The famous Diorissimo patch was on the cusp of breaking into bloom, and even so, the air around it smelled of damp soil, fresh buds and that unique sweetness of Provencal spring.
Photography by Anna Kozlova.