INTERVIEW: THIERRY WASSER The Finest Nose
Thierry Wasser is a free spirit. Very early in life he learned to trust his instinct and allowed his curiosity and a few special people to guide him through a series of magical and creative encounters. He seems to have been destined to follow a career in perfume.
Born in 1961 in Montreux, growing up in the countryside of Switzerland, Thierry unconsciously developed his sense of smell by collecting and drying herbs. He recounts his daily walks to school as profoundly more interesting than the classroom. “I collected herbs like other boys my age collected football cards.” This hobby allowed him to revel in creating new concoctions. By the age of 20, he received a Federal Diploma in Botany.
After coming across an article about Givaudan in a local Swiss magazine, Thierry spontaneously made an appointment with Jean Hadorn, the Director of the perfumery school. He enrolled in a standard course at Givaudan in 1981 and by 1987, he became a Fine Fragrance Perfumer with Givaudan, Paris. In 1993, he accepted Firmenich’s proposal to join them in New York and get the taste of the “Big Apple”. This lasted 9 years. Shortly after the birth of the fragrance Dior Addict, Thierry returned to Paris. His professional life has been marked by a series of outstanding encounters with “spiritual guides”. He describes the act of fragrance creation as the direct expression of these encounters. “If an original idea, a spark, comes from a single person, it takes two to communicate that idea”. For Guerlain, he is the author of Quand Vient La Pluie and Iris Ganache in 2007.
In 2008 Thierry became Guerlain’s Exclusive Perfumer and created Guerlain Homme EDT (then EDP Intense and L’Eau), Idylle EDP in 2009 (then EDT, Duet Rose Patchouli, L’Eau and Eau Sublime), Tonka Imperiale, Flora Nymphéa, Cologne du Parfumeur, Shalimar Ode à la Vanille in 2010; Jasminora, Shalimar Parfum Initial, Floral Romantique and London in 2011.
HOW DO YOU FEEL TODAY WITH THE ICONIC SHALIMAR PERFUMES AFTER 90 YEARS OF
SUCCESS? Shalimar is a perfume that always made people dream! It is one of the biggest myths in the perfume history. Shalimar is the first oriental fragrance ever and I am very proud of it!
THE FIRST SHALIMAR WAS CREATED 90 YEARS AGO, HAS THE FORMULA CHANGE AT ALL TODAY? Part of my job is to preserve the integrity of all formulas. And since I do manage the sourcing of all raw materials, I try my best to have it as close as the original.
WHO IS THE SHALIMAR WOMAN TODAY? Every person who is chic and daring would wear it!
PLEASE TELL US MORE ABOUT SHALIMAR? Shalimar Initial was a work showcasing the floral and powdery iris facet. I did make a focus on four raw materials that Jacques Guerlain always liked and used: the centifolia rose, iris, vanilla and of course tonka bean.
WHY IS SHALIMAR LEGENDARY TODAY? The association of the fresh bergamot and the sensuous vanilla was unique at that time. The amazing bottle designed by Raymond Guerlain was the cherry on the cake!
WHAT IS YOUR SIGNATURE IN SHALIMAR FRAGRANCE? If you try to play with a classic formula like Shalimar, first of all, you have to know it intimately. Then, it is an intriguing play with the original formula’s raw materials, the same way you would play with words in a joke.
TELL US MORE ABOUT THE HISTORY OF SHALIMAR... Jacques Guerlain was allegedly inspired by the legendary love story of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal. Indeed, it was his own vision of the garden of Shalimar seen from Paris in the early 1920s.
IS SHALIMAR A BEST SELLER FOR GUERLAIN? It is one of our best sellers which deserve the name of a classic since it is still popular 90 years after its creation.
WHAT IS YOUR VISION FOR THE NEXT COMING SHALIMAR? Actually, I am not sure there will be another interpretation of Shalimar. If the chance happens, I’m in no way able to tell you.
TELL US MORE ABOUT SHALIMAR SECRET INGREDIENTS? I can’t reveal any secrets, but the only thing I can tell you is that Shalimar is definitely the most representative of our fragrances illustrating the Guerlinade.
All photos courtesy of Guerlain.