The Scented Salamander is delighted to introduce French designer Olivier Durbano. Apart from being a talented jewelry designer, Durbano is also a perfume designer and has developed the concept of a collection of perfumes inspired by his lapidary art called Parfums de Pierres Poèmes (Perfumes of Stones Poems).
His first fragrance was called Cristal de Roche (Rock Crystal); he is going to release a second scent in 2007 called Améthyste (Amethyst). These fragrances are part of a project to create 7 different scents inspired by 7 different stones.
Symbolism and philosophy preside over his creative process inviting us to look at perfumes in a renewed manner. His fragrances call us back to a state of naturalness and limpid contemplation where things are experienced rather than analyzed. In this manner, his perfumes individually bear no identifying names but contain in each flacon three marbles of the stones by which they were inspired and are colored the same colors as those. The interrelationship of perfumes and stones was intriguing to us. Olivier Durbano has accepted to answer our questions.
You are known first and foremost as a jeweler or jewelry designer. Are perfumes for you yet another means of expression that stands apart or is it a reflection, an illustration if you will, of your vision of the art of jewelry-making? In other terms would you say that you are attempting to transcribe stones into perfumes or is there something unique to perfume that cannot be expressed by a jewelry piece and which motivates you in seeking out a complementary artistic medium? Why create a perfume and not a piece of embroidered textile for example?
After I completed my training in architecture, I quickly became involved in the creation of jewelry pieces, especially necklaces, which are already rich with history and symbols. Stones, which were very important during my childhood resurfaced fascinating me with their naturalness, their truth, their imperfections, their power or their symbolism.....
I feel my creativity most of all when dealing with stones, which are either in the rough or dazzling. I create unique pieces of jewelry. Each piece has to do with an encounter with a woman, a discovery, an exchange. I insist on going through these three acts: The discovery of stones, which is always surprising and enriching, their being brought out. The creation of the jewelry, which is a little bit like a ritual, a form of artistic meditation. And last, encounters that take place in relation to my creations, the discoveries, the exchanges, the dialogs, the sympathies, and the friendship.
I've always been obsessed with the notion that each stone is an essence, a fragrance. The stone laying on the skin, its symbolism which is associated with aromas.
I was able to undertake this adventure because I was born in Cannes, near Grasse, and it is my encounters with perfumers from Grasse that have allowed me to create the first perfume, which is inspired by rock crystal: Parfum de Pierres Poèmes - Cristal de Roche - Eau de Parfum.
Perfumes relate to the most secret of our senses, the most unconscious one. Enigmatic, intangible, and full of mystery, perfumes evoke in the best manner possible the poetic dimension that I wish to reveal.
"To create love and beauty in the world" is my creed. One could also read it as saying: "To believe in love and beauty in the world", "to create" then would mean to reveal, bring to light.
I was particularly touched by the mention that you use threads taken out of antique looms to compose your necklaces. What was the source of your inspiration and what is its meaning?
I am as much attached to the past here as the past from elsewhere, as I am to our contemporary times and to the future. To mix and match antique materials, jades from China or threads from Syrian looms with today's stone beads offering modern shapes in my creations, this is inescapably life. I do not try to make something new, but only something that feels just right and balanced in my eyes and which faithfully reflects my philosophy. Each element brings its force, its history, this is very important, beyond the seasons and fashion trends. It is the same for a perfume.
The number 7 has a symbolic meaning of course, seven perfumes for seven stones. What is the role of symbolism in your approach to perfume design? Does that point to a profound need in you to go back, in part at least, to a sort of magical thinking? What do poems and poetry mean for you?
I think that meaning is found in everything, this is not always clear to me, but I have the intuition that it is important. I like numbers, I know a little bit about their history, their symbolism. When I work, I perceive them to be like a rhythm. It is just part of my universe. I believe in life, I know that emotion, mystery, and magic exist. There is that dimension that one can call "magic" in all things. This is what I wanted to suggest with the expression "Pierres Poèmes" (Stones Poems).
Poetry or magic.
Each flacon of perfume contains three stone marbles, "an ellipsis"
Your taste for travel and the exotic has been alluded to. Do you seek out perfume notes and fragrance accords in the same way that you seek out semi-precious stones?
Yes, but travel can also be experienced vicariously. Imagination is free. I like to do collages with all these things taken out from life. It is simple and there is no need to travel across the globe ceaselessly to achieve that. Observing and dreaming are enough.
Are there particular aromas that you prefer?
I like the aromas of old stones in places of worship, any place of worship. For the rest, I don't know, every scent interests me depending on the place and circumstances.
Why did you start with Cristal de Roche, the first stone perfume in your collection, and how did you approach it here?
It was essential for me to create the first perfume by following the most spiritual and pure of paths. Rock crystal imposed itself due to its strong symbolism: [it is] a precious link between heaven and earth, a familiar support for meditation. Incense is also very much linked to the elevation of the spirit.
Therefore I had rock crystal and incense to "write" about a journey to heaven, which would inevitably have to follow the paths of the Orient, using olfactory notes.
Cristal de Roche has top notes of orange, pepper, coriander, cardamom, cumin. Heart notes are incense: olibanum, benzoin, myrrh, as well as cistus. Base notes are sandalwood, cedar, vetiver, immortelle, oakmoss, and musk. It is a spicy woody fragrance.
Who is the perfumer or nose you work with?
I was lucky enough to be able to work with perfumers from Grasse who are very experienced, yet were curious to undertake that "journey" with me, agreeing, with their stores of knowledge, to experiment with certain associations of notes that they had not yet tried.
What kind of perfume will Améthyste be, if you don't mind my asking?
The amethyst which was considered for a long time like one of the most precious stones due to its purple, lilac, or mauve color, derives its name from the Greek "Amethustos" which means "protects against inebriety".
In the Antiquity, the amethyst was considered to be a talisman against drunkenness and a protection against poison and ill fate. It was a symbol of self-effacement, inner peace, and temperance but was also associated with the purifying force of the spirit.
Mythology has it that the Greeks used cups made of amethyst in order to protect themselves against the excesses of alcohol yet water poured in those cups made out of amethyst took on the color of wine.
The Eau de Parfum Améthyste also belongs to the family of spicy woody perfumes; a perfume that is mysterious and powdery, protective and fruity, like a resuscitated secret.
Top notes are: bergamot, pepper, grape, raspberry (hesperidic, spicy, fruity)
Heart notes are: incense, palisander wood, jasmin, orris (woody floral)
Base notes are: vegetable amber, sandalwood, musk, vanilla, (woody, musky, vanillic)
What is more generally speaking the way in which you view niche perfumery? You told me that you preferred to have a very selective distribution system... (Note: the Olivier Durbano website is only accessible with a password).
We live today with a sense of urgency and impatience. We hardly take the time to develop anything. For jewelry as for perfumes, I wish to take the time to make them known, to entrust them to people with whom there is a shared emotion. Rarity is luxury devoid of pretense. Little creative work holds on to this orientation. I have chosen to develop my creations according to this principle, even if it takes time, even if it is difficult at times.
Some practical questions: where can we buy your perfumes and what are their retail prices?
Olivier Durbano - Parfum de Pierres Poèmes - Eau de Parfum Cristal de Roche 100ml
Olivier Durbano - Parfum de Pierres Poèmes - Eau de Parfum Améthyste 100ml
Galerie Olivier Durbano - Bijoux & Parfums de Pierres Poèmes
42 rue Vieille du Temple - Paris 4 - France
Boutique Olivier Durbano
20 quai Saint Antoine - Lyon 2 - France
Parfumerie Taïzo - Cannes - France
Parfumerie Profumo - Milan - Italy
Parfumeries Durante - Profumum - Rome - Italy
Parfumeries Skins Cosmetics, Amsterdam - Netherlands
He also has a website: Olivier Durbano
And last, a question we like to put to all of our guests: what are the 10 perfumes (apart from yours) that you think one should absolutely smell and experience if only once in one's lifetime?
1- Love in White - Creed
2- L'Autre - Diptyque
3- Acqua di Sale - Profumum - Rome
4- Musc Ravageur - Frédéric Malle
5- Ambre Sultan - Serge Lutens
6- Odeur 71 - Comme des garçons
7- Chanel N°5
8- Paloma - Paloma picasso
9- Un Jardin sur le Nil - Hermès
10- Antaeus - Chanel
Thank you very much Olivier Durbano, we appreciate your taking the time to share your thoughts with us. We will be waiting for you to compose further and complete this necklace of yours made of seven dazzling perfumes.
Photo source: press release
Translated from the French by Chantal-Hélène Wagner