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domingo, 10 de abril de 2016

Arnaud Poulain of Les Eaux Primordiales: Inspired by Jules Verne

by: Sergey Borisov

I first met young perfumer Arnaud Poulain, founder of the Parisian brand Les Eaux Primordiales, in Milan, but outside the Esxence-2016 exhibition. This young perfume house cannot afford to be an exhibition participant as it`s not a cheap pleasure. But it`s good for any perfume specialist to pay the brand a visit, have a look and smell, and get acquainted with new perfume trends in Esxence. So it was a real pleasure for me – after all of our Facebook messages – to met the man personally. He`s a big muscular guy slightly under 2 meters and he looks more like a rugby player than a perfumer.
Sergey Borisov: How and when did you start your professional perfumery activity?
Arnaud Poulain: Following the footsteps of my father, I first studied electrical engineering and industrial mechanics. Thereafter, as I was working on the command lines of the ice cream manufacturer Haagen Dasz, I met a salesman from the group Interparfums who noticed I had a very peculiar ability to deconstruct perfumes to their core ingredients and advised me to attend the same school he did. This was a revelation. At that school, I met Amelie Bourgeois who was then a professor. She became my friend and mentor and took me with her to Paris when she launched her own studio, Flair.
After taking several advanced courses at Cinquième Sens, I rejoined Différentes Latitudes for 5 years as a business developer. There I learned a lot, and in parallel, the idea of creating my own perfume brand began to germinate in my mind. From my former experience, from my former "life" could we even say, I'd always kept a strong taste for meticulous craftsmanship, arduous work, and strong noble materials.
Sergey Borisov: What were your responsibilities in Cinquième Sens and Différentes Latitudes? What did you learn from those times that help you now with Les Eaux Primordiales?
Arnaud Poulain: I didn’t actually work at Cinquième Sens, I was there as a student for one year. I then directly started to work for Différentes Latitudes as a business developer for France and was in charge of Amouage, Byredo, Parfum d’Empire, Odin, David Mallett, Robert Piguet, Frapin, Liquides Imaginaires, Fornasetti, etc. This is where I learned everything business-wise concerning niche perfumery and its specific distribution networks.
Sergey Borisov: How did you decide to create your own brand?
Arnaud Poulain: While working at Différentes Latitudes for 5 years, I’d always continued to work on my own creations with Amélie and when I came to the point of having 6 finalized fragrances, I jumped into the adventure. Several close friends with experience in the field helped me with the design and refining the global concept, its specific universe, and influences.
As for the specific process for each perfume, we started to work together with Amélie as soon as I had a precise idea. We began by selecting the raw materials we'd need, then did several tests until we reached the exact result I had first imagined. Luckily, we had a very similar vision with Amélie, which makes working together a very pleasant and productive time.
Amelie Bourgeois and Arnaud Poulain  at work 
Sergey Borisov: When I was trying LEP perfumes, I found them to be “innovated classic” fragrances. Why did you choose that sort of concept? Do French people prefer their perfumes to be classical and historical – and not new? Why so?
Arnaud Poulain: I like intemporal/timeless things, in general. Concepts that will last and stand the test of time. As for perfumery precisely, I am particularily fond of Guerlain, Caron, Chanel, and a lot of other mythical brands. I, therefore always try to base my creations around beautiful and noble olfactory families, especially the finest materials, the highest concentrations, and an extensive maturation time.
Sergey Borisov: For me one of my favourite perfumes in the LEP range,Moment Perpetuel, is a lavender fougere – but it is so new and different from any classical lavender perfume! I would rather think of it as a totally new perfume!
Arnaud Poulain: Originally, Moment Perpétuel was created as a cologne. I absolutely wanted to pay a tribute to this magnificent material that lavender is, but with a modern twist. Lavender, thyme, blackberries, and blackcurrant would be the base of it. But we also incorporated modern musks. Finally, I chose to go the extract way instead of a lighter cologne.
Sergey Borisov: Please, tell me about the new perfume you just launched,Mécanique Intuitive. What’s the main idea, what’s the inspiration, who’s the main hero? How does the legend fit into our present times? What are the main notes and the story of its creation?
Arnaud Poulain: The name Les Eaux Primordiales comes from a Jules Verne’s novel, 20000 lieues sous les Mers (20,000 Leagues Under the Sea). I’m a huge fan of the novel and see Mécanique Intuitive as an homage to the extraordinary mechanics invented by this magnificent author. This perfume is solely built around core and base notes. Originating in the leather family, we also dabbled into the amber realm. We used tonka bean absolute in high quantities, it’s one of my favourite materials, and first built a leather “accord” inspired by the fragrances from the 1950’s with Labdanum and Violette. Then the amber accord comes in with patchouli, benzoin, cacao, and some osmanthus to add a fruity shade. Mécanique Intuitive is built around the music of the heart and base notes.
Sergey Borisov: Could you please name some books, pictures, songs, fashion items or just any objects that could be paired with LEP fragrances?
Arnaud Poulain: I love architecture books, design books, photography magazines and own several, mainly about Bauhaus, Mies van der Rohe, Robert Mallet Stevens… and especially albums about the couple of German photographers, Bernd and Hilla Becher.
If I had to name one fashion designer as an influence, it would be Azzedine Alaia for his minimalist and direct approach, his noble materials, and his elegant and intemporal silhouettes. As for music: Antonio Vivaldi, Piotr Ilitch Tchaikovsky, Richard Wagner, Richard Strauss, to name a few.
Sergey Borisov: The moment of perfection. How do you define the moment to stop all the improvements?
Arnaud Poulain: I only start to run tests when I’ve already arrived at a point where the perfume is a very precise idea in my head. Therefore, it’s not that difficult anymore to know when to stop, since the moment when I stop corresponds exactly to when the test is exactly like what I first had in my mind. I try and try and never stop until I reach this point. It can take a short time, or a long time. There are no rules.
Sergey Borisov: The sense of taste and style. How would you say – what characteristics should LEP fragrance fit? Clarity? Simplicity? Joie de Vivre?
Arnaud Poulain: Rigorous exigency, maximum quality, high precision, intemporality, meticulous craftmanship, the hidden beauty of brutal structures like in industrial architecture, the duality between the softness of the fragrance and the harshness of the packaging, a strong taste for paradox, be it in names or in the mix of unexpected materials.
Sergey Borisov: You mentioned business development – how about your own brand?
Aromas of Les Eaux Primordiales in London Les Senteurs
Arnaud Poulain: Well, we are at L`Eclaireur, Liquides and Les Suites (Paris) now, also at Les Senteurs (London), Place Vendome (Belgium) and Harald Lubner (Germany). We`ll have a meeting with Russian distributors as well in days, so we`ll be expanding our distribution.
Sergey Borisov: Thank you, Arnaud, for the interview, and the best luck to you and your brand!
Arnaud Poulain: Thank you! And best wishes to all Fragrantica team and readers!

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