Photography by Ma Récréation. Top, Daniela Andrier who really doesn’t like to be shot, bottom, her amazing study leading out to the garden.
She’s one of the most elegant figures in the perfume world. A Hitchcockian beauty whose taste one can trust. She is chic enough to match her outfits – often Prada or Azzedine Alaïa – with jewellery created by her friendMarie-Hélène de Taillac and with her perfume creations. Since, contrarily to the majority of noses who don’t wear scent, Daniela wears her own formulas. Perfumer atGivaudanfor a number of years, recently rewarded with the Chevalier des arts et des lettresmedal by the French Ministry of Culture, this mother of four has created almost all the Prada fragrances, the exclusive flower infusion essences as well as the wonderfulUntitled by Maison Martin Margiela. Five years ago, she decided to start working from home. A tranquil environment, overflowing with books, where she imagines the scent trails that will soon be on Department store counters. She has exceptionally opened the doors to her home for Ma Récréation, and speaks to me about what drove her to iris butter and galbanum resin…
When you were a child, do you remember having a special gift for sense of smell ?
Daniela Andrier : No because I thought everyone smelt things the same way as I did. You never have other reference points apart from yourself when it comes to sensations when you’re little. It’s when you grow up that you realise that others don’t have the same perceptions. As a result, I thought it was completely normal to be interested in smells and perfumes. As a child, I was already conscious of the fact that childhood only lasts for a time. I missed each day that passed. I really loved life. It was like a day-to-day nostalgia. And so I memorized the smells from everyday life : the myrtle perfumed baby cream, my grandmother’s Miss Dior flask, my aunt’s Chanel N°19, smells from holidays in Italy, the nature that surrounded us…A palette I still go back to today for the majority of my inspirations.
Photography by Ma Récréation. From top to bottom, left to right : red glass pendants suspended above the table, extract of a large painting hung in her study by her friend Brigitte Komorn, a tree planted in her working space and fresh flowers by her computer
Were there any perfumers in your family ?
Daniela Andrier : Not at all. I come from Germany and when I was a child, I didn’t even know this job existed. However, my mother had a very sensitive palate. She loved gastronomy and took us every year to theAuberge de l’Ill in Alsace that has always had three Michelin stars. I remember she used to amuse herself by finding what ingredients were used in each dish. She was as talented as a chromatograph. She even detected the imperceptible spices. And she was an amazing cook. I remember her orange duck, Grand Marnier soufflé, all these subtle recipes…My family were very sensitive about taste and I think that that educated us, my brothers and I, about refinement. On the other hand, I was never talented at cooking. I don’t have the patience to simmer for hours. Everything burns in two minutes with me. I have good ideas about associations but technically it’s not about that. Which is funny as I never turned into a technical perfumer.
And at what moment did you know you wanted to become a perfumer ?
Daniela Andrier : A lot later on. After the death of my mother the year I turned thirteen, we left Germany for Paris. I didn’t speak a word of French and it was a big change. When you lose someone close to you, you can hide behind melancholy or the opposite, by fighting it and transforming it into an exuberent enjoyment of life. Smells permitted me to refind my lost world without damaging its memory. I knew that at every moment I could use my nose to reconnect with my memories and unbroken emotions. As if I could travel back to the past without losing anything. I understood quite a bit later that perfume was a medium through which to not miss out on time passing. A kind of conducting thread that endlessly reenacts the past with a happy nostalgia. Years afterwards when I was a literature student, during a dinner, I met someone who said she would have loved to have been a perfumer but that she suffered from chronic sinusitis. This phrase had the effect of a revelation. Because I didn’t know this job existed before she mentioned it. I instantly understood that it was what I always wanted to do. The funniest thing is that I too had endless sinusitis. But I promised myself it wouldn’t be an obstacle.
Photography by Ma Récréation. From top to bottom and left to right : her study’s sliding door opening into the family room, shelves overflowing with books, magazines and perfumes, a few vials of raw materials which she’s currently working with, and on her desk : final trials to rework...
So how did you get into the world of perfume, being as shut as it is ?
Daniela Andrier : The day after, I got hold of a telephone directory and called Yves Saint Laurent’s offices to ask them how to become a perfumer. I was miraculously responded by a kind individual who told me about ISIPCA. But when I contacted them, they required a level of chemistry I didn’t have. I didn’t give up on my course of action so far and I managed to meet Jacques Poige, creator at Chanel perfumes, through friends. I did an internship in his laboratory and he enabled me to do another with Robertet(N.B. Robertet is a French company that fabricates perfume). Then I went to a perfumery school with Roure under Jean Amic’s direction (N.B. Roure was a legendary company of perfumes from Grasse which joined forces withGivaudanin 1991 before becoming Givaudan in 2000). I started to assist Edouard Fléchier and I was given my first briefs. I remember really well the enthusiasm I had when I worked on my very first formula. I took it very seriously, convinced it was a strategic launch (laughs) when it was only an eau fraiche for a little brand. However, I never lost this fervor, this joy and I think I go about each of my formulas with the same passion.
Photography by Ma Récréation. From left to right and top to bottom : a drawing of an ancient flask by Jollivet, the glass opening to the stairs of her house, and a collection of very good - ha ha ! - M magazines she is subscribed to.
You work alone at home, you don’t have the standard perfumer’s library desk within reach nor a balance to weigh your formulas. Just a few flasks on your table. How do you do it ?
Daniela Andrier : I took the decision to move my working area to my home a few years ago to separate my professional life from my family life (N.B. Daniela is married to Gilles Andrier, CEO of Givaudan). We did a bit of renovation work so I could isolate myself completely. I’m still completely in touch with the Givaudan laboratory though and they deliver me the raw materials I need to try out or projects that have just been prepared. I like the tranquility. It doesn’t harm the imagination, quite the opposite.
Do you have fetish materials you can’t live without ?
Daniela Andrier : I love all natural raw materials, without exception. I adore iris and galbanum in particular. I would have trouble living without iris, even with a very weak dose, it’s still there. I have obsessive phases with certain ingredients, like with music or food. At the moment for example, I only want grated carrots. I’m practically in love with them. Some weeks I happen to listen to the same song on loop without getting tired of it. I’m monomaniac even in the way I travel : every year I go to Apulia in Italy. I never get bored as I discover a new facet each time. It’s also wonderful to rediscover a raw material you’ve put aside for a while. You find in it qualities you didn’t find before. A form you didn’t see earlier. That inspires you to create…
Photography by Ma Récréation. Daniela on the telephone, as much at ease in Italian as in French, who listens to the thoughts of one of her clients under a chandelier unearthed in Venice, representing the red star.