You know you’re a highly regarded perfumer when Frédéric Malle gives you his customary carte blanche to create a fragrance for his eponymous brand.
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Three times. Only the select few – for example, Jean-Claude Ellena and Dominique Ropion – have been acknowledged this way. But then Bruno Jovanovic is not your average perfumer.
His abundant creative and technical talents were nurtured by the industry’s greats as a student and young perfumer. They helped the Parisian make his mark early in his career with the modern classic Abercrombie & Fitch Fierce Cologne (2002).
- Calvin Klein CK IN2U For Her and Him EDT (2007)
- Paco Rabanne Lady Million EDP (2010)
- Chopard Mille Miglia EDP (2013)
- Sofia Vergara Sofia EDP (2014)
- Hugo Boss The Scent EDT (2015)
- Masque Milano Times Square EDP (2017)
- Coach For Men EDT (2017)
- Amouage Rose Incense EDP (2019)
Most recently, he produced Giorgio Armani My Way EDP (2020) and Carolina Herrera’s Bad Boy Le Parfum EDP (2021).
We catch up with the sought-after perfumer on the influence of his mother, mentors, and marijuana.
What fragrance are you wearing today?
You caught me at work, I don’t wear any fragrance when I am working. It’s too disturbing – my nose needs to stay sharp!
When I am not working, I like to wear what I am working on at the moment. It’s critical to wear your fragrances to know how they behave in usage.
When did you know you wanted to become a perfumer?
I must have been around six years old. I didn’t know what a perfumer was; all I knew was I wanted to create my own perfumes. I had no idea how to get there, but then again, at that age, I knew I had time to figure it out.
My mother has always been a fragrance lover and I guess the little boy wanted to make sure she would never run out of them!
Have you ever doubted that decision?
At some point I did. People know how difficult it is to get into the world of fragrances. And my friends didn’t want me to get hurt.
So doubts started appearing. But very quickly, I decided I had to try as I couldn’t even bear to think of doing something else. I am glad I did.
Where did you study? Did you have a mentor?
I worked hard to join the ISIPCA (International Higher Institute of Perfume, Cosmetics and Food Aromatics) in Versailles, France. It was a wonderful opportunity to enter that very closed world and to meet lots of perfumers who became mentors.
My first mentor was Raymond Chaillan [co-creator of Yves Saint Laurent Opium EDP], a remarkable perfumer and teacher who taught me my first steps as a creator.
Then I met Dominique Ropion [Mugler Alien EDP], who was teaching at the school, and Olivier Cresp [Mugler Angel EDP], who I was lucky to be able to team with on the elaboration of the school’s end-of-year project.
When I moved to the US [to work for International Flavors and Fragrances], I was mentored by Sophia Grojsman [Lancôme Trésor EDP] and Carlos Benaïm [Ralph Lauren Polo EDT].
Coming back to Paris [to work for fragrance and flavour company Firmenich], I teamed up with Dominique again and Anne Flipo [YSL Libre EDP].
When I look back, I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to work with and learn from all these giants.
What was your debut creation? And how do you feel about it now?
The first real win was in collaboration with Carlos Benaïm and Christophe Laudamiel for Fierce by Abercrombie & Fitch. We were immensely proud of it and lucky to see it become a classic. The three of us are even more proud of it now than back in 2004.
How would you describe your perfume style and formulas?
I like to work in a quite simple way. My fragrances must have a strong but simple message. The point is not to confuse people with a myriad of ingredients. I like my formulae to be precise and concise. This is the recipe for signature and lasting character.
You’ve created three EDPs for Frédéric Malle – Dries Van Noten, Monsieur and Dans Mon Lit. Did these prestigious projects come with added pressure?
Frédéric Malle is all about luxury. He has the deepest understanding of it, and it shows in the way he works. He gives us the luxury to remove all pressure.
Developing a fragrance with him is all about taking our time and sharing emotions, thoughts and ideas. It’s all about beauty.
Giorgio Armani My Way was another high-profile co-creation of yours with Carlos Benaïm. Were you given a tight brief, or did you have relative creative freedom?
We were quite free in the development of the fragrance. From the beginning, we wanted a white floral bouquet revolving around tuberose.
Once that was accepted by the Armani team, we were given the freedom to try literally thousands of different ideas to wrap the bouquet. This led to thousands of adjustments and modifications over five full years.
Your 2021 co-creation [with Fanny Bal and Nicolas Beaulieu), Carolina Herrera Bad Boy Le Parfum, is notable for its cannabis facet. How did you go about creating it?
I created that fragrance in 2008 but it was deemed too daring back then. I wanted to illustrate the idea of something illicit that could turn “legal” as soon as it became a fragrance. Obviously, the note never contained anything “illegal” but even simply mentioning it was considered too much.
It took 12 years to find a brand that would dare going with such a provocative idea.
Have you ever had big differences with a client about a perfume project and how was that resolved?
Not really. Discussion and communication can fix anything.
Do you ever read reviews of your creations? Do they matter to you?
Sometimes I do because you can always learn. I tend not to pay too much attention, though, because the reviewers don’t know what went on during years of development and that is completely normal.
What are you working on now?
Obviously, I can’t tell as it must remain confidential. But I could tell you that the incredible palette of ingredients at Firmenich is awakening new olfactive obsessions.
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Richard Goller is a fragrance and grooming blogger. His blog is called Fragroom. A senior editor with 20 years' experience, his blog allows him to combine two of his passions: engaging content and the always-intriguing world of fragrances. When he isn't blogging, you'll find Richard indulging in his newly found passion for balcony gardening.