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What Drives Matiere Premiere Founder, Aurélien Guichard?

Even before he founded his own niche fragrance company, Matiere Premiere, in 2019, Aurélien Guichard was admired for his distinctive creations. The list below will give you an indication of his prodigious talent:

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  • Bond No 9 Chinatown EDP (2005)
  • Sean John Unforgivable EDT (2006)
  • Gucci Pour Homme EDT (2008)
  • John Galliano EDP (2008)
  • Nina Ricci Ricci Ricci EDP (2009)
  • Robert Piguet Casbah EDP (2012)
  • Versace Eros EDT (2012)
  • Trussardi My Name EDP (2013)
  • Narciso Rodriguez Narciso EDP (2014) 
  • Michael Kors Wonderlust EDP (2016)
  • Zadig & Voltaire This is Him! EDT (2016)
  • Valentino Valentina Poudre EDP (2016) 
  • Salvatore Ferragamo Uomo EDT (2016)
  • Issey Miyake L’Eau Majeure d’Issey EDT (2017)
  • Tom Ford Sole di Positano EDP (2017)
  • Giorgio Armani Armani Privé Bleu Turquoise EDP (2018)
Matiere Premiere founder Aurélien Guichard

Aurélien Guichard comes from a Grasse-based family with perfumery running through its veins. His grandparents grew roses and jasmine for the industry.

His father, Jean Guichard, winner of the inaugural Prix François Coty in 2000, created classics such as Cacharel LouLou EDP, Calvin Klein Obsession EDP and Hermès Concentré d’Orange Verte EDT.

So why do I rate Matiere Premiere so highly? The name of the company (French for “raw material”) says it all. From the product descriptions on the website – no flouncy, self-indulgent stories – to the scents, the perfumer lets his way with quality ingredients speak for themselves. The result: standout creations (some of them already genre bests) that offer excellent value for money. 

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You come from a Grasse-based family that grew jasmine and roses for perfumers. Did you know at a young age that you wanted to become a perfumer? Or was there another career path you also considered?

I grew up in a family of perfumers. Almost everyone around me in my childhood was either a perfumer, a sculptor, or an artist, so I grew up with a beautiful vision and an aesthetic environment. Before I decided to pursue this profession, it was instructive and inspiring to witness both the joys and the sorrows of these creative fields. 

Fernweh Editions Fern & Petals Candle

If I hadn’t become a perfumer, I would have loved to be a professional athlete (if I had had the talent for it); my second passion was field hockey.

Overall, what has always interested me the most is working with people from different countries and horizons, whether through creation, sports, or professional collaborations.

Your father, Jean Guichard, was also a great perfumer. How did he influence you?

My father influenced me with his discipline, work ethic and vision of this profession. He saw perfumery more like poetry rather than an industry; he taught me quality is intricately tied to craftsmanship. 

Other people have also left their mark on me, particularly my grandparents, who instilled a love for the land and the gifts of nature in me. My mother, a sculptor, served as an example in believing in the power of my creative intuition. 

Finally, all the people I have had the privilege to collaborate with over the years, especially the couturiers, have played a significant role in shaping my journey.

Where did you study? 

paris Matiere Premiere

I come from the south of France, but I grew up in Paris. I’ve always been drawn to expansive topics, which led me to pursue my studies abroad. I completed my university education in England and later studied the art of perfumery at the Givaudan Perfumery School in France. I felt the need to explore other cultures and work with people from different backgrounds and experiences. 

How did your fine fragrance career get going? 

I was fortunate to begin my journey with people who believed in me. At the age of 23, right after graduating, I had the privilege of creating fragrances for Guerlain and Nina Ricci

The essence of creation and the magic of it lie not only in crafting perfumes but also in the intuition of the brands that we, the perfumers, collaborate with. It’s important to trust young perfumers to compose fragrances for the big houses. It doesn’t happen so often these days.

Is there a perfume that has special significance for you and why?

Many perfumes have unique stories which make them special in my eyes. But Matiere Premiere Radical Rose is a dream come true to me: cultivating my own centifolia roses, extracting absolute from my flowers, incorporating the absolute into one of my formulas, and finally, bottling the creation under my own brand.

You launched Matiere Premiere in 2019 and have made a big impact already. Had you wanted to start your own company for a long time? Has it given you more creative freedom?

I have always felt a great sense of freedom, even when working for other brands. However, my desire to establish Matiere Premiere came from an aspiration to create a complete expression of my tastes and desires. At Matiere Premiere, I am both the perfumer and the artistic director, which allows me great freedom to bring my vision to life.

One of the things I love about Matiere Premiere are the succinct, no-nonsense perfume descriptions on the website. Is that a deliberate approach to avoid the over-embellishment and elaborate stories?

That is exactly it. The goal is to present perfumes in a factual manner and share my olfactory intention in a minimalistic way, without embellishments. The concept of functionality is crucial in that sense. It’s important that there is a truthful connection between the narrative and the creation; I want people to understand what they’re wearing. 

I compose Matiere Premiere fragrances with a round construction – creations are linear, instead of being built around top, heart and base notes. What you will smell immediately after spritzing effectively stays the same for hours on end.

You have the distinction of being the only perfumer to own and produce his own rose centifolia on the family-owned farm in Grasse. Does that come with great responsibility?

Absolutely. In addition to roses, we also cultivate tuberose and have just begun lavandin in February 2023. This comes with a real sense of responsibility – running a flower farm is a complex and beautiful enterprise, as you work with nature every day. I have reconnected with families of workers that have collaborated with my family for generations. 

And I have also decided to bring our farming activity into the future with organic farming techniques, so we are Ecocert certified. Finally, my goal as a farmer is to bring a sense of truth to my creations – it’s almost like adopting a more purist approach.

Radical Rose is the fragrance that contains the highest possible concentration of rose centifolia from the Grasse region. We really pushed it to a maximum. Overdosing on the rose meant I had to emphasise its positive facets while tempering any less desirable notes. 

saffron Matiere Premiere

It was about maintaining richness and complexity, with luminous notes at the beginning – saffron and Jamaican pepper – and avoiding the slightly oldish facets of the rose. Which is why we chose the cistus note, which captures the scent of rose resin that lingers on your hands after harvesting rose centifolia.

While natural materials are central to Matiere Premiere, of course you also use synthetics such as Ambroxan… 

Matiere Premiereis a perfumery with a distinctive style. While each fragrance is unique, they share a common olfactory DNA. 

I use an overdose of a natural ingredient which I then facet with either natural or synthetic elements. Both work equally, although the perfumes contain between 85% and 92% natural ingredients.

I’m particularly enjoying the exuberance of Matiere Premiere French Flower. Anything unusual about its creation?

Working with a primary raw material often means that beautiful classics have already been created around it. Take Robert Piguet Fracas, for instance, a masterpiece. Hence, my challenge as perfumer is to offer something new and propel the fragrance into uncharted territory. 

tuberose Matiere Premiere

Tuberose-based perfumes often tend to be dark, black, opulent, almost dangerous. With French Flower, we took the opposite route: it’s a luminous, radiant and clear fragrance. What makes it almost unique in the world is that we use French tuberose and, of course, we are happy that it’s one that we grow ourselves. Olfactively speaking, French tuberose is enveloping, solar and expansive, while Indian tuberose is greener and harder. 

The idea of French Flower was simple: to recreate the scent of our tuberose field at night. This is why I chose to combine two extractions of tuberoses, an absolute and an enfleurage, and no other white flower but a hint of orange blossom. It’s one of the most beautiful scents in the world – almost an olfactory shock.

You’ve recently launched Matiere Premiere Vanilla Powder. I see you sourced vanilla absolute from the Fair for Life agricultural programme in Madagascar. Why is responsible sourcing so important to you?

At Matiere Premiere, sourcing is my first act of creation. The quality of the perfume is linked to the sourcing in many ways. We always prioritise olfactive excellence, but we also consistently favour ethical and organic productions, striving to find the best producers providing the best quality. 

The future of luxury lies in the access to high-quality raw materials. Ethical sourcing is the luxury of today and tomorrow.

How do you juggle your roles as perfumer at Takasago [the Japanese flavour and fragrance corporation] and founder-perfumer of Matiere Premiere?

I’ve found a balance between the two roles. When working at Takasago, it’s about being at the service of a brand and its creative universe — couturiers, marketing directors. When I work for Matiere Premiere, I work at the service of natural ingredients. These are two different approaches that I equally enjoy.

Fernweh Editions Candles

Additionally, I’m working on expanding our farm near Grasse. This gives me the opportunity to work in a totally different environment. Working in various contexts and locations around the world is a privilege, a chance to practise my craft in a completely free manner. If I feel free, fulfilled and happy, it’s also because I’m fortunate to work with fantastic teams. 

At Matiere Premiere, my two incredible co-founders enable me to bring this project to life. At Takasago, I work with great teams in a very stimulating environment. Lastly, in the agricultural context, there’s this love of the soil, of nature, with passionate people working alongside me… I am very lucky.

Matiere Premiere fragrances are available in South Africa from Skins Cosmetics. 

Writer

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.