Clément Gavarry: the art of fragrances

July 25, 2013

By Hannah Yakobi

Photography and video courtesy of Elizabeth Arden

Clément Gavarry, a celebrated perfumer at the renowned International Flavors and Fragrances (IFF), was recently in Toronto to launch his latest creation: UNTOLD by Elizabeth Arden.

Throughout his career, Gavarry has developed fragrances for Prada, Tom Ford, Giorgio Armani and Carolina Herrera. Apart from his love for exquisite scents, Gavarry is a globetrotter and boardsport amateur, who is passionate about surfing and sailing, a sport taught to him by his father when he was young.

In this issue, he shares the details about his latest creation and talks about his career in the perfume industry.

Clément Gavarry.

Clément Gavarry. Photo: Gregoire Mahler.

HANNAH YAKOBI: Tell us about UNTOLD. What is the concept behind this perfume?

CLÉMENT GAVARRY: The idea behind UNTOLD was to create a fragrance related to the harmonious balance of the many facets of a woman, such as energy and vibrancy. I actually matched each facet that I found to an ingredient.

I linked ‘vibrancy’ and ‘energy’ to bergamot and pink pepper. For ‘surprise’ and ‘unpredictability,’ I used the black currant, which for me is one of the most sophisticated fruits. For ‘refined elegance’ and ‘sophistication,’ I thought about flowers, and for me that would be jasmine and gardenia. For ‘mystery,’ which every woman has a touch of, it’s patchouli, while for ‘sensuality’ I picked musk.

How long does it take to create a perfume?

It takes more or less six months. For UNTOLD, we were a team of three from my office, who worked with three people on Arden’s side. The process was very smooth: no drama, no bumps.

Can you tell us a bit more about how and why you decided to become a perfumer?

My family is in the fragrance industry. My great grandfather was distilling the lavender, growing lavender fields and making lavender oil. My grandfather was a gardener in the fields of jasmine and rose for Chanel in the south of France. And my Dad was a perfumer at IFF in France for 40 years. He retired when I started in New York over 10 years ago.

Gavarry comes from a family of perfumers.

Gavarry comes from a family of perfumers.

Was there a particular incident that sparked your desire to join this industry?

What actually turned me off at first was being in the family of perfumers. You know, when you are a teenager, people say: ‘You are going to do the same thing as your Dad?’ And you, of course, reply ‘no.’

I thought I’d rather do chemistry. But I love to travel, so at the age of 18 I came to New York for an internship at IFF, which is where I am today. I fell in love with the job. When I arrived in New York, for the first time, I was looking at the work of perfumers not through my father’s eyes but from a different point of view. I realized it was amazing and that I wanted to do it.

You experiment with a lot of different scents on a regular basis. How do you refresh your nose after consecutively smelling so many things?

It’s training. It’s like if you listen to many different types of music, or when you try a lot of different types of food while cooking. For me, if I hear something too many times, it becomes saturated, but it’s different for a musician.

After training, it becomes effortless. If I want to refresh my nose, I tend to drink water. I don’t like coffee beans because they actually fill up your nose with a smell of coffee. People normally let you smell coffee beans to refresh your nose, because the coffee is going to kill what you smelled before.

The problem is not the ingredients—it’s the alcohol because it dries up the nose.

What are the perfume trends in the market this summer?

For me, it’s an ongoing trend that probably started about two years ago. We use less ingredients and showcase just a couple of them. Most perfumes are going back to nature, to richness and textures, to high quality.

How have you seen the Arden brand change in the last five years?

This is going to be the third pillar after Red Door and Fifth Avenue. It’s a very big launch for Elizabeth Arden.

UNTOLD has the same level of sophistication, elegance and femininity as Fifth Avenue and Red Door. However, we use more modern ingredients and a completely different way of developing a fragrance. Here, we blend the notes together—it’s almost like layering and signifies the perfect balance.

UNTOLD by Elizabeth Arden.

UNTOLD by Elizabeth Arden.

What is your own personal favourite perfume apart from the ones you have worked on?

For men, it’s Fahrenheit by Dior. For women, I like Coco Mademoiselle. Chanel has its own jasmine and rose fields, so this is a very sophisticated scent.

The UNTOLD story


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One Comment »

  • Jennifer Taylor said:

    Love this article of Clement! So excited about Untold by Elizabeth Arden


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