Young, creative and successful: a next generation perfumer - An Interview with Mathieu Nardin
Mathieu Nardin is one of the - meanwhile numerous - young, creative spirits in the world of perfumery. Already at the age of 23, after his studies, he started working at the company Robertet in Grasse and has since created a broad variety of fragrances for a diverse range of brands. Today, 10 years later, he faces new challenges with another company from Grasse, MANE, and returns to his roots in France after several years in the US.
Mathieu, since you’ve been surrounded by perfumery basically your whole life, was there ever another career option for you instead of becoming a perfumer?
I once considered the option of working in the raw material sourcing. It is a fascinating job, where the sourcer travels the world, preferably where nobody else goes, in search of new plants and rare materials, ready to integrate the perfume compositions of tomorrow. More than discovering new odors every day, what I admire in this job is the consideration of the raw material in all its aspects, from its history to the respect of its natural environment, and the preservation of the ancestral knowledge of indigenous peoples.
What is your favorite way to create fragrances? Do you prefer to work completely independent? Or do you love the challenge of trying on potentially difficult briefings as an example?
In general, I start by taking over the project, I analyze it in all directions and start working on the projections of ideas that I have. Of course, I also enjoy being stimulated, surprised, through the discovery of new stories, new people, or new things. Everything can be inspiring.
You’ve already created for a broad variety of brands. What are the main differences between „niche" and „mass“ market creations for you personally?
These markets are completely different challenges and ways to create. On the niche market for example, we take more time to seek new accords and push them much further, almost in the overdose, with more asperities and greater creativity. The mass market is a very nice and equally challenging market, the goal being to create a perfume with much less asperity, rounder and homogeneous so that it will please the greatest number. It is very rewarding to be able to juggle with projects of opposite markets, it allows me to develop my reactivity and extend my know-how.
I have read about rose and jasmine being your favorite flowers because of your childhood memories and first encounters with the craft of perfumery, as well as incense and labdanum being some of your favorite ingredients. But are there ingredients you don’t like to work with?
Of course, we always have notes that we appreciate more than others, that are naturally easier to compose with, it allows us to say that a perfumer has his own “signature". However, it isn’t the most important. What we are looking for in each raw material is its effect in the perfume: the facet that will bring everything up to another dimension. It takes a life (and more) to understand all their complexity.
In retrospective, is there a project you aren’t fond of anymore? Or is it rather unusual for a perfumer not to be enthusiastic about a piece of his work anymore?
There are perfumes that correspond more to my personal tastes for sure, but there are also those that I am very proud of because I slipped a significant part of myself in their creation. Then the others, that I would not wear but that have required a lot of work and adaptation to a specific brief and a brand image, and which remain very good memories. I must also confess that I am very self-critical. Even at the end of a project, I never feel the moment when the perfume is completely finished. With experience, I understood that there is a time where I have to let it free and live its best life on people who will wear it.
What fragrances do you like to wear? Are there any standouts in your collection?
In general, I do not wear perfume. However, I happen to wear some of the ones I am developing, to feel them evolve over time on my skin. It allows me to get a more precise idea of them, better understand them. It is quite different to smell on a smelling strip or on the skin. Otherwise, I really like citrus perfumes, especially classic colognes structured by woody notes. It takes me elsewhere, to unknown destinations.
Under the aspect of ever-changing trends, mass appeals and the big influence that Social Media has become… What is your personal perception of perfumery these days? Is it different to when you were a child?
Instant internet access is a transversal fact today, no matter where consumers might be, it enables them to find answers to almost any question, at any time. Besides the increased level of knowledge they ask for (and they have), it has been a great social equalizer, giving opportunity to everyone to enjoy the hidden world of perfumery. This effect has allowed the return to a perfumery of exception, close to the one of the beginning of last century. We also see more and more emerging brands claiming “mindful perfumes” or “100% naturals”. For few years now, I have been working with those brands. It is another way of approaching formulation that I really enjoy, close to the traditional one (when synthetic molecules did not take as much place in the palette as nowadays). Behind this authentic perfumery, there is a place for conscious sourcing, a relationship closer to nature and the legacy of people working in the fields; something more human to human I would say, even though the extraction processes have made great progress!
Besides the return to a more authentic perfumery, I still have a nostalgia of the 80-90’s provocative ads that have crystallized in our collective imagination. It was a hyperactive period, and looking back at it now, you wonder how they got away with it! When muses where strong brand ambassadors and influencers, and someone’s perfume was shaping his/her own identity.
How important is traveling for you both personally and professionally?
Personally, it helps me to aerate my mind with fresh air, to take time to see things with more distance while enriching my mind with ventures of foreign places. Beyond that, traveling is a very great source of inspiration that feeds creativity in my everyday life.
What does a day look like when you don’t have to work?
Traveling when I can! On weekends, I regularly go to my parents house in Grasse, to take care of our olive trees. The rest of the time, I spend it exploring new places, alone, with friends or with family, in search of new surprises, amazements, by appropriating the city and its streets, its restaurants, bars, museums, parks, and boutiques. In addition, one of my favorite activity, yet very simple, is to lie down and read the pages of a captivating book.
What can we expect from Mathieu Nardin in 2019?
He continues to learn, but this year with a new palette of ingredients! It is my favorite period, as if I were starting perfumery over. I get to know new raw materials and how to compose with them, but I'm also very excited about the idea of developing new perfumes in partnership with new brands. In addition, after a few years in the United States, I am finally back in France. 2019 is also a year of personal challenges, where I will rediscover Paris and this delights me!
These fragrances were created by Mathieu Nardin.