Maurice Roucel, Symrise

Premium Beauty News - What is your definition of your trade as a perfumer?

Maurice Roucel - It is an act of creation. Just like painters mix colours or musicians mix notes, we mix smells. This act leads to a work that results from your own creative skills, inspiration, and technique. Similarly to many fields, you need to learn the technique, but creativity cannot be learnt: you have it or you don’t.

Premium Beauty News - Has this trade changed over the past few years, in particular from a technical standpoint?

Maurice Roucel - It is a trade that is constantly evolving. Generally speaking, every new raw material, whether it be synthetic or natural, can produce a new form of creation. Technically, there are more and more synthetic molecules that are key to new fragrances.

The perfume trade has also changed according to social behaviours. For example, men’s perfumes have been freed: they used to be confined to woody notes, whereas you can find sweet, fruity notes now. We are heading towards an increasingly genderless style, which is also the case for women’s perfumes. What was true at some point in a given country is no longer so 30 years later, in the same country or continent. Social changes impact perfumery, things are not fixed.

Premium Beauty News - How can you innovate in perfumery today?

Maurice Roucel - There are two ways to innovate: if you have ideas, and if you have the right raw materials to help express them. Historically, France has never been too keen on fruity, sweet notes. The perfume Angel was introduced with a new molecule, and it revolutionized the market. That is innovation. People are also more open-minded, so perfumers can better express themselves, in particular thanks to the niche market.

Premium Beauty News - Is that what explains the success of the niche market, following the slowdown of traditional perfumery?

Maurice Roucel - To explain this slowdown, you need to have a look at the number of launches per year. When I started, in 1973, there were 20 launches a year. Today, this figure has reached 1,700 to 2,000, with both good and bad products. It is true that perfumery has become democratic, that all the greatest brands took to the streets with a multitude of perfumes. These are not necessarily bad perfumes: the raw materials are often qualitative, but the creative quality is no longer the same.

What is paradoxical is that major groups purchase niche brands at high cost, whereas they make dozens of millions with their own brands. I think these big companies encounter difficulties when it comes to developing creation, so they turn to alternative brands.

Premium Beauty News - What type of perfumery do you prefer to work for?

Maurice Roucel - I prefer to work with creators, people who have this passion for their trade. It is like a tennis match, you have fun when you play with someone who knows how to hit the ball back. The act of creation in perfumery is an exchange. For a perfumer, it is more interesting to work with these people that have such freedom. It is not a specificity of niche perfumery, though. It was like that when I worked with Sylvaine Delacourte for Guerlain.

Premium Beauty News - You spent several years in Brazil for Symrise. Is it an interesting country in terms of perfumery raw materials?

Maurice Roucel - It is a country that has a bright future due to its strong potential, but it is not a great ingredient producer for perfumery yet. There are many different fruit species, but only few perfume plants.

Premium Beauty News - What can you say about the relationship between Brazilians and perfume?

Maurice Roucel - Brazil is the biggest perfume consumer in the world, whether in terms of tonnage or value. They are Latins, they like wearing perfume, it is a natural gesture for them. Brazilians love powerful, heady perfumes with a long-lasting trail. They are fond of persistent fragrances.