High Note: The Making of Ferragamo’s Fragrance Amo

High Note: The Making of Ferragamo’s Fragrance Amo

Renowned world perfumer, Marie Salagme, discusses the making of the brand’s latest fragrance.

Renowned world perfumer, Marie Salagme, discusses the making of the brand’s latest fragrance.

Text: Stella Pak

A true creator has the ability to travel and explore various forms of expression. From the intuitive sensibilities of painting and dance to the analytical curiosities searching for truths in med school, Marie Salagme, perfumer of the world renowned Firmenich, found a passion that pokes through emotions and nostalgia through precise formulations of scents. V had the opportunity to sit down with Marie to chat about what it was like to make Amo – the latest fragrance from Salvatore Ferragamo.

The very beginning of your artistic endeavors began with painting and somehow you went to med school and now here you are as a perfumer. How did your interests evolve?

I was very lucky. I studied chemistry and I had a feeling I chose the wrong way because I was dancing and painting a lot. I had this artistic feeling in myself that I wanted to express. While I was studying chemistry, I heard about a school, ISIPCA in Versailles. They train noses. I had no clue about that job before. The only thing is that I always loved smelling. Everything. Every odor. Not only perfumes. I liked to smell the grass in the garden, skin, milk, etc. I think I was sensitive to smell and I had this revelation. I knew as soon as I heard about this school was it. I knew that I was going to become a perfumer. It’s hard to explain it, but it was a kind of flash I had. The road is really long to become a perfumer, but I managed. I met interesting people and worked really hard and today, I became a perfumer.

How do you merge your senses and express them through scents?

It’s a lot of intuition and you train a lot. It takes a long time to transform in your brain what a smell could be. When you start, you learn to associate your smell to everything. It could be a color, it could be a texture, it could be a tree, a meal it could be anything. You try to describe in your head as precisely as you can. And that’s how you remember them. The more you train, the more comfortable you get and recognize them. And then you start combining them. It’s a matter of associating images with a smell.

Where do you start and how do you layer the complexities of a fragrance?

I love starting with a raw material, from scratch. We are all very different, the way we work as perfumers. The way I start is with very small strong accords. Sometimes it could be one raw material. Because I feel that if it’s strong enough and rich enough and faceted enough, it could tell many stories. If you take the vanilla absolute, for example, when you describe it, it’s not only sugary, it’s leathery, it’s spicy, and it’s woody. So using one quality of vanilla, you can express it in very different ways. Light soft, more woody, intense and masculine. The palette is so wide that I like to start with a very simple thing and add facets and pieces to make it softer, more wearable. But the thing is, I always keep it to the original idea and the strong accord that I had. Otherwise, you can have something that has no personality. The project takes a long, long time.

Do you ever end up starting with something and then it gets so complex it draws away from the original idea?

Sometimes it happens. You are familiar. You know the idea is there but you lose it after a year or two years of creating. So you need to settle down and re-smell the older modifications and ask yourself, did I choose the right way or not? For me, it’s never a matter of going back. It’s never a matter of wasting time because I need to keep the signature. It’s ok. I learned from point A to B. Sometimes I go back, start from there and do it again.

Do you find yourself overwhelmed with scents sometimes? You mentioned how it takes two years to make a fragrance. I’m imagining all the little bottles, the iterations. The processes.

It can be hundreds of trials. People don’t realize how involved we get in a project. You have to get deeply into it. That means you have to do a modification everyday. You have to be very humble because sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t and you have to accept that. Think, ok. It doesn’t work that time, but I learned. Or I’m super happy it worked and that’s great. It’s a very long process and it can be frustrating. But as I said, if you start with a strong idea and your client is confident with you and you share a lot with them, it’s perfect.

It has to be a positive collaboration.

It has to be. I’m convinced you have a nice product if you work in harmony. It smells good if the relationship is harmonious. I’m totally convinced of that.

Do you draw inspiration from your own memories? Working with a fashion house, I’m sure they give you mood boards, etc. How does your life and memories merge into the process?

Of course they merge into it. As a perfumer, you’re sensitive to what’s around you. Everything. Your inspiration is coming from where you are, where you’ve been, what you eat. Everything. It’s an immersion of the brand and what make you as a human being. I’m here to give my best for the brand and to express as much as I can what they want to be and the image they want to give but of course I have the raw materials that I love. It can be neutral. I have these French influences. That’s why when you give different perfumers the same idea you want them to express, you will have very different proposals because we are so different as perfumers – as creators.

What was the visual expression of Amo and what was the raw material you chose for this fragrance?

The Ferragamo team came to Paris and they had a vision for the Amo woman. I loved the brief because it had pictures, colors, and it was very rich. I had a vision of this lady going out into a club wearing this super nice dress, with sparkles and high-heel shoes and everyone wanted to be her or hang out with her. And I decided to start on an accord around a bitter alcohol from Italy with bitter orange and aromatic notes. That was the starting point. I decided to work this cocktail with a duo of vanilla to make it very feminine. Super attractive, addictive. I wanted her to be young, soft, yet audacious. The audacity was coming from the alcohol beverage and the femininity from the vanilla.

What are the colors that you saw? I imagine nightlife?

I saw the light into the night. I saw orange and pink, with lots of luminosity from disco balls. When I discovered the bottle, I was so happy because it was full of light with the shape of the bottle cap. It made sense for me.

Do you ever feel that perfume can smell on someone else’s skin? The way it smells on you would be different than how it smells on her?

It could smell a bit different but the global aesthetic of the scent is the same. It’s all a matter of how you feel with it. Sometimes you like a fragrance on your friends and you wear it and you’re not comfortable with it. It’s so personal. I give vials of trials for my friends. And they give me their own opinion and I can smell the fragrance on them. Sometimes you wear it on your own and you wouldn’t be as objective as you would when you smell it on someone else so I ask them to wear it and I spend the night with them. I’m working. During the day when I work in the office, I never wear anything. I don’t want to be disturbed when I evaluate all the modifications and not be influenced by other smells. But at night when I leave the office, everyday, I pick one trial that I thought was interesting of the day and I spray it on myself so I can see how it reacts on my skin. I can analyze if it was good, not good, strong or not strong enough. Sometimes I put two trials. One on each arm.

When you have some of your friends try it, do you pick certain personalities of your friends?

Yes, Yes! It’s very interesting to analyze them because now I tend to know what they are into. I know the fresh ones, they are like clans you know? I know who to give the vanilla. When they come back to me, they could say, “I like it but it was very heavy.” But I knew that because of their sensibilities. It’s interesting. I like the vision of someone who has nothing to do with the industry. At the end of the day, you want to create a fragrance for an everyday woman who has no idea on the details. It’s just the feelings. She needs to fall in love with the fragrance. Amo! It’s a matter of love.

UP NEXT

Paco Rabanne's FW18 Show is an Homage to the 60's