Parisian fragrance house Atelier Cologne has been creating long-lasting and luxurious perfumes since 2009. Lane Crawford introduced the brand in Hong Kong earlier, and now the brand has set up a store at IFC Mall. Famous for its signature “Cologne Absolue”, a series featuring natural and blended scents, the brand’s Hong Kong store offers in-house leather case customisation service to complement the bottles. Atelier Cologne co-founder Christophe Cervasel talked to STYLE about the opening of their first store in Hong Kong and more.
Q: Tell us how Atelier Cologne sets itself apart from its competition?
A: In 2006, almost nine years ago, after [my wife Sylvie] and I had worked together for a year, she told me, “Christophe, I want to do something else. I want to realise my dream, which is to create a maison de parfum dedicated to cologne … to create the first cologne that lasts.”
That’s when we [created] Cologne Absolue. We have two things that are very different – the first one is the concentration. We have a pure perfume concentration – 15%, 18% and 20%, depending on the scent. We use a combination of the best essential oils, which is not always the case with other colognes. The traditional cologne usually has a low concentration – less than 5% – and the rest is alcohol. When you spray, it’s good but it doesn’t last.
Secondly, we use ingredients of the highest quality, which is usually what brands do for perfumes, but not for the eu de toilette. We have this [unique] formula – especially in Asia – we are really developing fast. A citrus-based scent with a lot of personality and long-lasting power is what I think that Hong Kong, Korean or Japanese customers are looking for, and even Chinese customers.
Q: Can you give us some tips on choosing the perfect scent?
A: All our perfumes are inspired by our moments in life. It’s good to read the story behind [the scent]. For example, Jasmin Angélique is about a man organising a scavenger hunt and secret messages to his fiancée; and the messages take her from place to place. The last place she goes is somewhere she doesn’t know – a roof deck on a terrace. When she opens the door, it’s full of Jasmine – the scent is very strong – and the man is on the terrace with a ring to propose to her. So the tip is – you should really know the story. If you like the story, you will like the scent. The second tip is – when you have decided on two or three that you like, you need to try it on your skin. We work with the best natural materials and essential oils, [the scent] might change on your skin. And because of that, it will become unique to you. Another tip is to change perfumes. Have three or four that you like, and change them [from time to time]. If you always use the same perfume, your nose gets used to it … We all have a lifestyle in which we are not always exactly the same, so we think you should have a different perfume for different occasions.
Q: You and your wife both worked with other perfumers before. What motivated you to start your own label?
A: It happened in a minute. She told me, “Christophe, I want to start my own company. My dream is to create a new style of cologne. I love cologne, [but] I cannot find it out there. [The colognes out there] don’t last and there is no diversity.” I told her if this is what you want to do, I will not stop you. Because the best thing in life is when you have an idea, you [go for it]. We started to talk and I asked her questions. I love cologne as well. At the end of the dinner, I told her, “If you allow me, I would like to do that with you, and I would like to marry you.” Since then, we’ve combined our relationship – our personal and professional relationship.
I thought she was going to tell me “Thank you, but no”, but she said yes. It was the first time in my life that I was overwhelmed by emotions to say something. If you don’t say it now, tomorrow might be too late.
Q: Did you make a scent for that night?
A: No. I think it’s a very personal story, so we’d rather keep it private … but I’d say Vanille Insensée is probably the closest.
Q: Can you tell us how you translate inspirations into scents?
A: The story actually helps us, like Orange Sanguine. It helped us create the scent. The decision we had was to play around Orange Sanguine. We have to find out what ingredients to [use]. So we said, “Why don’t we imagine the moment?”
Perfumes are about memories and we started to write this story, “In the South of Italy with coffee.” Then, we went to the company of the glass [container] and we told them the story. They brought us the ingredients, like tonka beans instead of coffee beans, which are [similar] to coffee and chocolate but are different. The story helped us [create the scent], so we made the story short and wrote it on the bottle. It might be interesting for customers to know where the inspiration [of a perfume/cologne] comes from. When we write the story and think about the moment, we come up with the formula.
Q: What is your definition of luxury?
A: I think for me, luxury is when you truly have time. It’s very much related to time – to appreciate something – a person, a location and a product. [Luxury is] when you really have the time to appreciate and not make your choice when you are in a hurry. I think it’s sad when you do things in a hurry. But very often we have to do that. So, I think luxury starts with saying “no” [to rushing].