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Women's Fashion / Olfaction

Serge Lutens on Botanical Inspirations

In this column, Laura Bradley explores the world of fragrance, from scent reviews to conversations with leading perfumers

Serge Lutens
Serge Lutens Photography Francesco Brigida

Legendary perfumer Serge Lutens talks about botanical inspirations, his dislike of Eau de Cologne and the theme behind his latest fragrance L'Eau Froide...

"My garden is one of my favourite places in Marrakech," explains legendary perfumer Serge Lutens who resides in an impressive home in the Ben Youssel quarter of the city The main patio is planted with brigmansia, tuberose, datura and tall, well-established palm trees. Botanical influences are prominent through the design of the house and can be found in Lutens' perfume creations. With all of his fine olfactory creations, the starting point is always a story rather than the scent. Strong themes carry through the rest of Lutens' world: the strong Japanese influence resonant in his campaigns for Shiseido in the 1980s; the colour black key to the packaging of his striking make-up line and the Moroccan-inspired architectural features in his home.

When asked about the ideas behind his latest fragrance – L'Eau Froide which translates as "cold water" – it transpires the inspiration can be traced back to a tree. Lutens is a fantastic storyteller, lacing his anecdotes with vivid metaphors and philosophical thoughts: "This fragrance is very personal to me. It's interesting to think about the differences between 'hot' and 'cold'. Whenever one is frightened, they may break out into a cold sweat, but sweat is akin to heat."

"Plants are very intelligent. The natural world is incredible"

"I wanted a fragrance that was clean, pure and cold. I don’t like cologne, because it has a false freshness. Everyone will tell you that when you apply Eau de Cologne, because of the alcohol in it, it feels cold straight away. But once you’ve lost that initial impact, all you’re left with is lemon and orange zest. That doesn’t sit comfortably with me so with this particular fragrance I wanted to create something that was excruciatingly cold."

"The incense that I’ve used is Somalian incense," reveals Lutens. This particular incense is the dried, rich, golden brown sap of the Boswellia Sacra tree, located in the hottest regions in the world, where it very rarely rains. "The sap of the tree is like the blood of a human, but cold; you could even go as far to say its a cold blooded creature. It’s almost like a punishment the tree is suffering there – it’s in a place, which is extremely arid. It only survives because of its sap; the tree has to generate something ice cold to sustain itself. It's almost like the first example of air conditioning. Plants are very intelligent. The natural world is incredible!"

Read more about Serge Lutens' Morrocan destiny in the latest issue of AnOther Magazine. Serge Lutens latest fragrance, L'Eau Froide, is available now.

Laura Bradley is the Editor of anothermag.com. She is a writer specialising in fashion, fragrance, arts and culture and contributes to NOWNESS, Dazed & Confused and The Gourmand.

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