Q & A with Perfumer Mona di Orio around the Launch of Chamarre



Around-The-Launch Series

Mona di Orio is one of the best-known names in alternative, independent perfumery from Europe.

On the occasion of the launch of her latest opus, Chamarré (richly ornate, brightly colored), we thought it would be a propos to ask her about her visual tastes and ask her to help us better understand her new perfume, an iris-laden composition.  


TSS: It is not easy to decipher your perfumes because you are not exactly where one expects you to be: why does a perfume called Chamarré starts with such dark, velvety and resinous notes in the initial stage?

Mona di Orio: Chamarré begins with a bunch of lavender followed by the clary sage and one aldehyde... It's a warm and deep departure, to give instantaneously a feeling of well-being and warmth...With a little touch of mystery at the same time ! The "real" essential oil of lavender is wonderful and has a lot of virtues too. In the symbolic language of the flowers it means "good luck"... And it's certainly not an old-fashioned note !

 Hygiene by Gustav Klimt

TSS: Was L'Heure Bleue a source of inspiration or a subject of study for you?

MdO: Absolutely ! When I smelt "L'Heure Bleue" for the first time, I was 15 years old, I had a real emotional shock ! I was so fascinated, so touched... I discovered a beautiful story under my nose, a mysterious travel to follow and such an intense emotion... I will always remember it, I don't have to smell it again, I have it my mind...



Femmes au tombeau by Maurice Denis
Giotto - Mise au tombeau.jpg
La mise au tombeau by Giotto

TSS: What was the initial olfactory concept behind Chamarré?

MdO: I created the first version of "Chamarré" for my partner Jeroen Oude Sogtoen, a bespoke fragrance...
I tried to capture a smooth and warm feeling, like a caress, like a precious and deep cashmere...

TSS: You used a delayed modern citrus note which cuts through the somber atmosphere of the perfume -- Lux presented a similar chiaro-oscuro contrast, and admittedly nearly all of your perfumes, except for Amyitis, contain an allusion to light although even Amyitis might contain it more indirectly. Are you a "visual perfumer"?

MdO: Probably...I live in the South of France, especially for the smells all around but also for the incredible colors and the  sublime light... I love this light, I feel it, I need it. So it could belong in a way to my creations and I never forget that the natural raw ingredients give a shiny "sillage" to the fragrance...

Yacht approaching the coast by William Turner

TSS: How did you come to elect to live in Nice?

I have been living in Nice for 20 years... I chose this town first to continue my studies at the university and to be close to Grasse at the same time and to the sea too... And I fell in love with this city!
I travel a lot but each time I'm so happy to come back and to find the lignt, the smells, the colors, the atmosphere, I'm always amazed by it.

TSS: What are some of your favorite painters and/or paintings?

MdO: A lot !!! I did some art studies at "L'Ecole des Beaux-Arts" during 3 years...

I appreciate especially the paintings from Gustav Klimt, Balthus, Edward Hopper, Paul Gauguin, Egon Schiele, Turner, Giotto, Maurice Denis and much more, but the list would be too long !
I research always a special and different light, a certain gesture, a texture...

New York Movie by Edward Hopper

TSS: Is the brusque quality of the citrus accord in Chamarré, which can be likened in my mind to a spear-head effect, a willed effect on your part? Could you elaborate a bit?

MdO: I feel like Chamarré is an oriental floral accord deep and warm, protective and seductive

TSS: Edmond Roudnitska with whom you had the possibility to meet and to study perfumery is very much a perfumer of luminous, crystalline textures -- what would you say you have retained from your apprenticeship with the master? What are some of his teachings that you reject?

MdO: He taught me first how to smell, how to be able to recognize a beautiful raw material, he encouraged me to be always demanding and patient... But we spoke a lot also about painting, philosophy, sculpture, music... He wanted to share his knowledge and his aesthetic view... For me a nose could be as a painter crossing different stages, styles...Like Picasso and his "Période Bleue" or "Cubiste"...
I Love this work because I learn every day, each time I blend some ingredients I experiment something new, reaching another step...

Some of the latest creations of Edmond Roudnitska "Diorella" or "Ocean Rain"  are more crystalline as you say and really different from the first ones like "Femme" or "Dior-Dior", more sensual and warm...

I don't reject anything that I learned from Edmond Roudnitska and our biggest difference is that I'm a woman and I live in 2009 !

I realize what a wonderful privilege it was to be his pupil and how much He encouraged me to be myself...


TSS: What are some other perfumers that you admire?

MdO: Ernest Daltroff, Germaine Cellier, Jacques Guerlain, Ernest Beaux and of course Edmond Roudnitska !

Near the sea by Paul Gauguin

TSS: One is struck by a certain elemental feeling in your perfumes, almost as if you used one of those huge broad Chinese calligraphy brushes to paint the perfume -- is energy, expressivity and strength more important to you than anything else?
MdO: What is important for me is to use the best quality of raw materials that I want... I don't follow any tendency or fashion movement, I enjoy to be free, telling my own stories...

My fragrances are intense but not strong, the essential oils are "alive", they bubble, they live !

Sometimes I have the feeling to be like a conductor trying to harmonize all my beautiful ingredients in a seductive harmony...

Our noses are formated almost sterilized because of the bad and poor olfactory environment even though we are submerged by different smells all around us constantly, it's a real paradox !!!
Suddenly the real natural smells could begin to feel more aggressive or neglected... And we're still so surprised by nature...

TSS: What is the goal that you delight in thinking that your perfumes have achieved?

MdO: I feel more than happy when some people told me that my fragrances gave them some strong emotions and good vibrations !!!
My biggest pleasure is to make dream and to let them feel...

TSS: Do you think that you more art-oriented or more wearer-oriented?

MdO: I think, I try to reach out to both ! It's always a balance between these two orientations...

TSS: What will be your next work?

MdO: Well, at the moment I just finished to create "Jabu"* and we have begun to launch it. It's an incredible adventure, I created this fragrance for the charity "Orange Babies" from The Netherlands which helps the babies and their mothers suffering from AIDS in Africa... It's a big project and I'm really happy to be involved in this collaboration...

* This interview is dated July 27th, 2009

Related Posts

Leave a Comment