Interview with Ramón Monegal 11th July 2012 during his Germany visit
Florblanca: Ramón, when did your passion for fragrances begin? Was it a logical development because of the history of the family Monegal?
Ramón: Ultimately, yes. Originally, it was the desire of my father, but it came later. When I was 14, Myrurgia burnt down and I was helping with the reconstruction. Especially at the laboratory, I came in contact with the perfumery and I took interest in creating perfumes. Actually, I wanted to become an architect and started my studies as a young man, but I didn’t finish it and I started to learn the perfumer trade. Since then, I’ve been in Geneva, Paris and Grasse to adopt fundamental knowledge about perfume creation. I have to thank especially Jordi Pey, who is my mentor.
Florblanca: How long does it take, to become a perfumer?
Ramón: In total about 10 years, until one can call himself a perfumer.
Florblanca: How do you see the end of Myrurgia?
Ramón: Of course it’s very sad, when such a big label disappears. My great-grandfather, Ramón Monegal, had a manufactory in Barcelona for several drugstore products. Besides colors and varnish also laundry detergents, soaps and perfumes. His son, my grandfather Esteve Monegal Prat, was sculptor and his interest for the company was limited to the perfumes. So Ramón Monegal outsourced the perfumes. This new company couldn’t be called Monegal, because the great-grandfathers company was named Monegal, so he called it Myrurgia. He was the president and the head of Myrurgia until the late 40ties and my grandfather, Esteve Monegal, was Myrurgias face. Later, my father took over Myrurgia and after him my older brother Esteban. I worked for Myrurgia as perfumer since the early 70ties and was later Vice President of the company. As my older brother is a banker, Myrurgia was a different world for him. However, in the 80s, we purchased Dr. Payot, later also Aigner Perfumes and I created several fragrances for Aigner. In 2001 Myrurgia was sold to Puig, but Puig asked me to stay as perfumer – what I initially did. The end of Myrurgia came in 2008, as Puig stopped the production of Myrurgia. In the meantime also the last Myrurgia fragrance – Maja – has been sold to Mexico.
Florblanca: Have you ever thought of re-editing the Myrurgia fragrances?
Ramón: No, currently I do not have this in mind, especially, as all fragrances – just because of the ingredients – would need to be reformulated.
Florblanca: Are you training your nose? If yes how?
Ramón: Yes I do, just smelling, smelling and more smelling.
Florblanca: Can everybody become perfumer? What requirements are needed?
Ramón: Yes, I’m sure that basically everybody can become perfumer, like everybody can become cook. Of course, a good portion of passion is needed when someone wants to be a good perfumer, the same as if someone wants to become a good cook, he has to have the passion for good food.
Florblanca: When did you make the decision to found your own label?
Ramón: In 2008, when Puig stopped the Myrurgia production. I didn’t want to continue to work restricted by marketing issues. I wanted to be creative and this is extremely difficult for an employed perfumer. Therefore, I left Puig, took one year off and in 2009 I founded my own label. Now this project is a project of my whole family. We want to build it up solidly for our three children, my oldest son Óscar, my daughter Laura and Héctor, my youngest son, our Benjamin, and give them a good education and training, to enable them to continue with the business.
Basically this project became our fourth child. My wife Maria is just as strongly involved as I am, she is the planner and tradeswoman and I am the creative, the artist.
Florblanca: How do the ideas for fragrances take place? Are you inspired by nature?
Ramón: Most fragrances have been created because of a certain event, which gave me the idea. I celebrated my 50th birthday in a Spanish “patio”, surrounded by orange trees. As a result of this wonderful day between these orange trees, I created „Entre Naranjos“ to keep the smell of orange flowers, leaves, fruits and the tree bark, plus the deep and dark earth smell. Entre Naranjos contains the four components of the orange: the Petit Grain of the leaves, the Neroli of the flowers, the essential oil of the orange zest and a component that represents the tree bark smell. The earth smell is represented by patchouli.
So there are special events that finally lead me to a fragrance and the inspiration from nature, which exactly fits with the event.
Florblanca: What is first: the fragrance or the name?
Ramón: Seldom the fragrance, mostly it´s the name that exists first, or a certain event. For example „Lovely Day“, I created this fragrance
in on the occasion of my oldest son Óscar’s wedding October 10, 2010. The fragrance commemorates this wonderful day - the luck, the beauty and the love forever.
Florblanca: Is the naming in several languages not a bit confusing? How did it come?
Ramón: Just at the first look. We are more and more international and so it’s beautiful that we have the freedom to use other languages for our fragrance naming. It was a development and many names have been created by my children. Our customers love it.
Florblanca: Why do you not use any gender specification for your fragrances?
Ramón: Gender specification for fragrances is a marketing invention. The most fragrances can be worn by both genders. Even I like a fragrance and either it fits for me or not. It doesn’t play any role, if it is a feminine or a masculine fragrance. I leave it with my customers to decide and so I give them more freedom for selection.
Florblanca: What are your most beautiful working moments?
Ramón: The start! Nothing is more exciting than the start, to bring an idea to paper, to select and to determine the components and to start with the creation.
Florblanca: Is there any smell you specifically like?
Ramón: Yes, I love iris and leather! Iris, because it’s one of the most difficult scents and leather, because it smells wonderful.
Florblanca: What may we expect next from Ramón Monegal?
Ramón: This is a difficult question! I’ve received requests from the Arabian region and I’m now searching for an alcohol replacement, without being limited to oil and I think I´ve found it. Also, I’m searching for a way to replace the wonderful „infusion“, which has been used formerly in the perfumery. This would create new opportunities for me and my creations.
We also want to come out with new fragrances, maybe one or two a year or every two years, but always with a special event with requirements related to the fragrance development.
I’m also planning to produce pure perfumes (Extracts), but here there is no timeframe.
Florblanca: What’s your preferred fragrance?
Ramón: Chanel N° 19, a wonderful green Chypre!
Florblanca: Would you say that creativity is missing in the perfumery?
Ramón: Unfortunately yes. Mostly the creativity is limited to marketing ideas. Then the advertising is pushed before the fragrance exists. Money is spent for Marketing and Advertising and finally the perfumer gets the order to create a 12-Cent fragrance, which follows the Marketing strategy and order. The perfumer creativity is not really requested in this case.
Florblanca: Do you believe that the classical perfumery is gone?
Ramón: No, absolutely not! It still exists within the author perfumery – by marketing called “niche”. Especially when the real perfumer stands behind the fragrances and sells these with his own name and face, which is not always reality within the „niche perfumery“ (so called by Marketing). Frederic Malle has realized this authors perfumery wonderfully and seriously. His fragrances not only state the name of the perfumer, but also show his face and tell his history.
In Spain, we do not use the term „niche“, we speak of authors perfumery. The term “niche” gives us a negative feeling, because we call our burial places „niche“.
Florblanca: Do you prefer certain natural sources?
Ramón: Yes, in every case flower essences and plant essences, but in a lower proportion as formerly has been used.
Florblanca: What did you bring up to write a book?
Ramón: The idea to write a book has existed for a very long time, but I didn’t want to write a reference book. When I left Puig and took one year off, I took the opportunity to bring my thoughts to paper. So I wrote this olfactory novel, which results in a real perfume „Quintaessencia“. This perfume cannot be purchased, I created it only to have a real statement for the book and it’s exhibited in our perfume shop in Barcelona.
Florblanca: Finally, I would like to know how you see your start in Germany, which practically coincides with your start up in Spain. I guess it wasn’t planned this way.
Ramón: That’s correct. It wasn’t planned this way, but because of your activity in Germany, we are now in this beneficial situation and I’m very happy that customers in Germany are interested in our fragrances. Germany was always a special country for me and of particular importance. When we discussed within the family, to which country we should take our fragrances first, my wife and my oldest son Óscar said Italy and France. I said Germany and thanks to your initiative, my wish has been realized earlier than we expected.
Florblanca: Thank you so much, dear Ramón, for this detailed interview and all the new and exciting information about Myrurgia and your project RM – Ramón Monegal. I’d like to wish you and your family a successful and wonderful smelling (fragrant) future. I’m so happy that I could meet you, your wife Maria and your brand Manager Francisco personally and spend this marvelous day with you. It was a great honor for me and one I would not have expected even in my dreams. I´m very much looking forward to next year, when we meet again in Barcelona and thank you so much for your invitation.