2020 . 07 . 03 | written by Karen Marin

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Fragrance lovers


Cities are often inspirations for fragrances, from Byredo’s Palermo to Penhaligon’s As Sawira to the entire line from both Bond N°9 and Gallivant Stories. Rarely, if ever, has it happened in the other direction, but this year the French city of Nantes is running a competition to create its signature scent. This is the whimsical project of Jean Blaise, director of Voyage à Nantes, an organization which promotes the culture and heritage of the city as well as local tourism. Inspired by a visit to Grasse, where Blaise picked jasmine and met perfumers, this unprecedented idea came to him. In an interview, Blaise explains “For me a city has its personality: like a person, it lives, it sleeps, it agitates, it disrupts, it creates curiosity… That’s what’s interesting! That’s why, in my opinion, a city can have its perfume. And in Nantes, we would be the first to have one.

To that end, Blaise invited perfumers Bertrand Duchaufour, Melanie Leroux and Marc-Antoine Corticchiato from Art & Parfum, a perfume design studio near Grasse, to spend 2 days in Nantes, to discover the city and soak up its soul. The group had a chance to explore the sites, take in the spirit, the sensations, the ambiance and the unique vibe. According to Blaise: “A city isn’t only a place where one lives, it is also a place where one has experiences, and it is the inhabitants who create the history of their city. This is how a city acquires a true personality”. Now each perfumer has the challenge of interpreting the city from an olfactory point of view.

Corticchiato explained in an interview “In perfumery, as in music composition, it begins with different notes and raw ingredients which come together in union. A perfumer must have in mind a scent that doesn’t exist which he will bring to life. That being said, one must understand that a perfumer doesn’t reproduce the scent of metal, of the earth, of a certain plant. He must go beyond that. A fragrance must be able to translate an emotion, a landscape. Here (in Nantes) there are stories coming from the salty and sweet water, from the greenery, from a crazy culture. But for the moment, I am incapable of saying what direction I will take because I have been submerged in the places and the energy of the city. Like fragrance, I need it all to mature and to macerate in my mind.

For Duchaufour, this is an unusual project. “I didn’t know the city of Nantes and discovering it has been a very lovely surprise” he commented when interviewed. Leroux added “We took in a lot in 2 days. Nantes is a passionate city but a complex one. We have to digest all of this.

The three have now returned to their labs where each will create a fragrance that embodies the essence of the city. The people of Nantes will be invited to vote for their favorite later this year. “We know there will only be one winner. That’s part of the game. (But) It’s not really about the competition” comments Leroux. The winning scent, which will be produced by Art&Parfum, will, not surprisingly, be named “Voyage à Nantes” and will be sold in the VAN boutiques and various perfumeries. The flacon will be designed by Atelier Polyhèdre, a ceramics studio located in Nantes.