Place Vendôme: The Power of a Fragrance Consultation

We all experienced it: in the perfumery, we want to buy a perfume as a gift for someone, but we don’t really know what to choose. Or even more, we are looking for that one perfume that is perfect for us. Haute Parfumerie Place Vendôme in Wevelgem is the only place in our country where you can go for a personal fragrance consultation. Fragrance guru and manager David Depuydt explains.

Text Anja Van Der Borght

FLTR: Steven Verstraete, David Depuydt and Chaira.

David Depuydt, manager of Haute Parfumerie Place Vendôme: “Without perfume, the skin says nothing.”

What are the principles behind a fragrance consultation?
DD: “Scent is our most intense form of memory. I base my recommendations on those memories to filter out elements – depending on what people have experienced in their lives, both positive and negative – and ultimately suggest a perfume that evokes as many positive memories as possible. You can sharpen a pencil at eighty and instantly relive moments from your childhood through its scent. We all have a shared collective memory; things we all know, like the smell of a church, for example. Then there are specific, individual memories and the scents associated with them. Perception of scents is also partly generational and dependent. Older people will associate lilies and carnations with sadness and death because these flowers were placed in mourning rooms in the past. The younger generation feels completely different about these flowers. They associate them with the sun, summer, holidays, carefreeness. So, depending on the generation in front of me, I have to take different things into account.”

How do you proceed?
DD: “First and foremost, I ask the customer to dive into their past and look for a number of positive moments that have marked them. It could be something that seems insignificant to an outsider, but is very important to them. Often people answer: the birth of their children, but also, for example, the smell of their pets. That can also be positive. Often I hear very specific things like the smell of grandma cooking and putting something in the oven. In short, those things that give a good feeling.”

David Depuydt:
“The image problem in perfumery is partly caused by the fact that today there is too much mixing of fake luxury and luxury.”

How do you interpret and translate a souvenir of a pet into a scent?
DD: “A pet, for example, can be associated with a sebaceous scent, kind of a greasy smell. Depending on the information I get, I will then let them smell a certain scent. Of course, that one question to go back in the past is not enough to suggest a perfume. Another important element is what the customer finds warm or fresh? But many people have trouble describing what they find strong, fresh, warm. After all, it’s different for everyone. Some find the scent of opium fresh and lemon scent heavy. And why do they find lemon scent heavy? Because it stings in the nose. So they experience that as heavy while they perceive something very round as light. To get a better and specific answer to that question, I ask: imagine that there is a volume knob on your bottle to adjust the strength, the intensity of the perfume, ranging from 1 to 10, what would be a good strength for you? This results in a more accurate answer than whether you want something warm or fresh. People will determine emotionally how intense their perfume may be. More introverted characters will usually put a four on it. And people who need to stand out, or who are insecure, will put a nine or ten on it to attract attention.”

What perfume are you wearing today?
DD: “Jasmin Grandiflorum Extrait by Guerlain, pure jasmine, very simple. One day is not the other and today I felt like wearing something simple but beautiful.”

As someone who has been in the perfume world for so long, do you also have a favorite perfume?
DD: “Certainly, Angélique Noire by Guerlain.”

What is so special about that perfume?
DD: “It’s an oriental, green perfume; actually a combination of something warm and something cold and you smell that duality in your nose. Technically, it’s very difficult to make, which is why there are so few scents like it. There’s only one major example, namely Must by Cartier, also oriental with galbanum (bitter green), a combination that also runs beautifully parallel in your nose. Both technically and emotionally a beautiful creation. Angélique Noire doesn’t contain galbanum, but it’s the angelica plant that gives the green touch. In that Angélique Noire, you smell the kind of fresh pancakes that you used to smell when you entered a tea room. My grandmother could also make them like no other and often baked them for me. For me, that scent is linked to a positive memory from my childhood. During the perfume consultation, I also ask the question: imagine you are standing in front of a mountain of fabrics and you can let yourself fall into it. Would you rather fall into cotton, muslin, silk, down, velvet, or linen? Cotton is very smooth, ironed, white, clean and corresponds to the aldehydes, which you find, for example, massively in Chanel N°5. Muslin is very permeable, so those are the hesperides. Silk is warm in winter and cool in summer, very supple to wear, those are the soft, oriental scents. Down is warm, enveloping, and soft, but without weight. While velvet, is the same but with weight. And linen, that’s very stiff the moment you put it on but becomes supple by wearing. Linen, those are the chypre perfumes.”

Can you associate down and velvet with scents?
DD: “For velvet, I would say, the original Coco by Chanel. And down, Mon Guerlain. Coco is a bit heavier.”

You also spontaneously ask the customer about a color that comes to mind and that they like to see?
DD: “At that moment, I use fragrance psychology. Red is of course the color of love, but it is also the color of danger, of dominance. Many men choose blue. Blue is a color of peace, but also of vengeance. Those are people who are very amiable, but you better not step on their toes because then the beast wakes up.”

Don’t you think people are sometimes influenced by what they see. You’re not wearing anything green now, so I might be subconsciously inclined to say green?
DD: “That could be, but in my questionnaire there are several questions precisely to double-check that. Impulsive or inconsistent answers are filtered out again. A fragrance consultation should not be too quick.”

Are there any other special questions?
DD: “Imagine you win the lottery and your budget is unlimited. What would your dream house look like? That’s also an important question to get an idea of someone’s preferences. People often mention something with large windows, minimalist but not sterile. A house with a garden, a swimming pool. These are all things that reveal information about them.”

David asks us all sorts of questions but never inquires about the perfumes we used in the past…
DD: “I don’t want to hear perfume names because that can be misleading. Sometimes people wear perfumes they received from someone but it’s not necessarily what they would choose for themselves and they use that scent out of habit. However, I do ask if there is a specific scent or ingredient they would absolutely love to have in their perfume or would definitely not want to have.

Can you use the perfume consultation if someone in the boutique is looking for a fragrance for someone else?
DD: “There are a number of questions we can ask. For example, if a man is looking for something for his wife, we might ask: what does your wife like to eat? What colors does she often wear? What is her personality like? Is she exuberant, or is she more reserved? Based on these questions, we can make a targeted suggestion. And then we see afterwards that it matches. I developed the fragrance consultation years ago together with Sylvaine Delacourte. Sylvaine is the nose who created more than seventy fragrances for Guerlain and has since established her own perfume house. I was the only one who learned this consultation at the time and have since developed it further over the years with a number of questions, things from my experiences. It is a pity that in other perfumeries there is no consultation in any way. Guerlain offers a fragrance consultation via computer, but that is nothing like a face-to-face consultation where you can delve deeper into the subject on all levels.”

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