Fabrice Pellegrin spends most of his time in his workshop, creating scents for the likes of Victoria and David Beckham, Hermès and Thierry Mugler. But after almost eight years in the making (most perfumes take an average of 18 months from conception to release), his latest creation, Volutes, merited a trip.
"Diptyque co-founder Yves Coueslant came to me eight years ago with an idea for a travel-inspired perfume," says Pellegrin. "It was finally inspired during a long cruise. There was a woman smoking a fruit-scented cigarette, and it reminded me of stories my father told me, when tobacco was a luxury and only rich people who travelled could have this unusual smell."
The result is a unisex fragrance that blends iris and saffron, with honeyed tobacco and dried fruit.
Born in France, the son of a perfumer, Fabrice made a natural decision to join the family business. "You could say it ran in my blood," he says. "I was surrounded by a perfume-filled environment. It not only made sense to become a perfumer, but I feel it was a gift."
After training under his father and perfumer Michele Saramito, Pellegrin struck out on his own in 1998 with Eruption for Men.
"It always starts with a story," says Pellegrin of his creative process. "Sometimes it's an idea from a film, a piece of music or a cut of fabric. That story tells me all I need to know - the sex, the age, where they live - and I try to find the inspiration."
This year alone, Pellegrin has worked on at least six fragrances, including scents for Biotherm, Diesel, Playboy, Reminiscence and Swarovski.
"At Diptyque, I have total freedom to choose the olfactory direction, but that in itself is demanding," he says. "With Volutes, it was very difficult creating a unisex perfume; you have to find that balance between male and female."
Pellegrin prefers working with women's scents. "For me, perfumes are all about seduction. It's easier to interpret a woman. I have more than 50 fragrances at home - men's, women's and raw materials - and I wear them depending on how I feel."
He adds that the perfume industry is seeing a return to tradition. "In the past year we've seen a lot of major fashion houses creating exclusive ranges," he says. "They're going back to perfumer mastery, and many have hired in-house perfumers for the first time in 50 or 60 years. It's a great thing to see. And smell."