We caught up with bespoke perfumer Emmanuelle Moeglin from Experimental Perfume Club ahead of Harvey Nichols launch
For some people, nothing is more annoying than strangers correctly guessing what perfume you wear – the goal is to smell totally unique. For others, nothing is more annoying than people not guessing what perfume you wear, asking you what it is, and then buying it for themselves.
If you fall into either of these categories, you might be frustrated that the world of bespoke perfume is somewhat inaccessible. There is, in the UK, for instance, Panhaligon’s ten-month course at Harrods, which costs £35,000. But who has the time or money for that? There’s the legendary bespoke perfumer Azzi Glasser, who can teach you how to make a personalised fragrance for £15,000. There’s also Floris in Mayfair, where you can blend your own unique fragrance and have the bottle engraved too, for £550, and Ormonde Jayne, where they base your scent on everything from your eating habits to what landscapes excite you (£250 made-to-measure and £10,000 by appointment). But generally, there’s not much else. In short, the world of bespoke perfumery isn’t a simple or cheap pursuit.
Bespoke perfumer Emmanuelle Moeglin is trying to change that. She set up Experimental Perfume Club in East London in 2016, an open perfumery where you can visit and take beginner’s classes in bespoke perfumery (from £150), she has launched her own bespoke perfume ranges called LAYERS (£95), which allow you to create your own perfumes using three core ingredients at home, and now she is launching Layers Perfumer’s Nest at Harvey Nichols, a hub where you can drop by and create your own fragrance in just ten minutes.
Below, we talked to Emmanuelle about why she became a perfumer, setting up Experimental Perfume Club, and how bespoke perfumery works
How did you start Experimental Perfume club and how long has it been going for?
Emmanuelle Moeglin: So we started about two and a half years ago, so 2016. We were and still are an open-access perfume lab, which essentially is a creative studio, where we create fragrance. The open access element was the whole reason why this place exists – so that people can come down and experiment with perfumes. We offer different levels of interactions with perfumeries, through our workshops and open access sessions, so you have everything from the one to one consultation to group courses. But essentially we open our doors to the public and they come down as a drop in and they access our perfume organ. It’s not a workshop, so it’s not taught. So I don’t know if you’ve heard in London there are very cool concepts like open access pottery studios, these things where you can just come and develop a hobby, without buying, training, without someone overlooking.
How do you make sure people aren’t not gonna break everything?
Emmanuelle Moeglin: We are a few in the team now, we are three, there is always someone to supervise. Obviously, people still have questions but it’s very free - and it’s also access to a vast perfume organ - which is like a library of scents.
What’s your history? How did you come to do this?
Emmanuelle Moeglin: I’m a perfumer by trade, I’ve been working for the industry of fragrance all my career, so about 13 years. I originally trained as a perfumer back in France at the ISIPCA in Versailles – that’s where I learnt the science and secrets of fragrance creation. I’ve since collaborated with some of the most esteemed perfumers in the world, working as a Scent Design Manager for global fragrance brands such as L’Oreal and Puig in Paris, Barcelona and New York. More recently I’ve worked as a fragrance trend forecaster in London, advising brands about anything scented.
And why do you love fragrance?
Emmanuelle Moeglin: Good question! You know what, it’s like an obsession that started when I was very young, when I was 12, 14 maybe. I was just really drawn to the product of perfume. It’s interesting, the passion for perfume is something that develops always and always, you can’t really get tired because when you’re a perfumer – I’m sure if you interview very, very experienced perfumers they will tell you the same thing – you never stop learning, there are so many scents. We only stock 300 here – 300 ingredients – which you could argue is a small perfume organ for people who are part of big corporate organisations. But most perfumers will tend to gravitate towards a limited selection of ingredients as their favourite. Around 200 or 300 ingredients as your core.
Do certain types of perfumers become famous for certain types of scent? What would your signature be if someone externally was describing what you do?
Emmanuelle Moeglin: It’s interesting, I remember meeting someone at a trade show and he was smelling our collection and he was like “this is beautiful” and he said “it really looks like you, it really smells like you” and I wasn’t too sure what he meant by that but I think what he meant was my perfumery is quite young, it’s quite minimalistic. I don’t work with formulas that are too complex, I work with formulas that are quite grouped; it’s not all over the place. One of my favourite brands that I like to take on my creative journey as a reference point is Hermes. If you look at all the Jardins and the Hermessenses, you know the little square rectangular bottles, if you smell them they have this kind of pure signature, they’re amazing. The perfumer at Hermes who developed this signature is called Jean Claude Ellena, he’s one of the biggest names in the industry. He’s got this incredible minimalistic signature and I guess this is something that I’m aiming for in the way I approach perfume.
What’s your favourite smell? It doesn’t have to be fragrance...
Emmanuelle Moeglin: It wouldn’t be fragrance anyway! I find it very difficult, this question, and a lot of people ask me ‘what is your favourite thing’ but you know when you work for so long in a specific industry you just learn to like everything. So I do have personal favourites, as in ingredients. I love iris which I use in a lot of my fragrances, I love an ingredient that you would have not come across before, it’s a molecule called ambroxan, which smells quite ambery and woody, something a bit like sand as well. And I love frankincense, I love jasmine.
Do people come here and have a personalised fragrance made for themselves? What is the process? How do you tailor a scent to someone if they walked in?
Emmanuelle Moeglin: As a perfumer, I’ve walked people through the process as in like hand in hand. The way we approach the bespoke aspect is certainly not through lifestyle or personal attitude. A lot of places do but after working with bespoke perfumery for two years it’s not something that I have found was very useful. My approach has always been through making people smell, making people discover the ingredients for what they really are and making them think. All the people who walk in our lab, I’m not going to make it for them, I’m going to guide them through the process and I’m going to help them into the decision but I’m certainly not going to make the decision for them.
I think it’s this combination of a learning curve of like actually ‘this is what jasmine smells of’ get used to it, rose, ‘this is what rose smells’ of and not what you’ve been told for many years by brands and marketing. And then really pushing them into the decision making process for them. I also always ask them to give me at least two or three of their fragrances, a library. There is something in perfumery which is not known by the general public - every single fragrance is categorised as a family. It’s a great little tool that allows you to essentially understand how the vast category of perfume is organised.
So every single fragrance that you wear, that all of us wear, will have this family and subfamily. What happened is that I have found that most people who come here have a portfolio, a scent profile, of fragrance that they always stick with and they’re not aware of this because for them it’s just a name, it’s just a brand. So they are wearing Byredo this, they’re wearing Frederic Malle that, but they don’t know these two fragrances by nature, as in how they smell, are connected. I teach them that.